March 2, 2018 marked my six-year anniversary living in New Mexico. Reflecting upon my journey from Pittsburgh, to Denver, to Santa Fe, I realized much of my energy had been spent catering to the happiness of others. When my marriage emotionally ended in September of 2016, leading to my legal divorce a year later, I found myself physically and emotionally depleted. I had become so preoccupied with attending to my deteriorating marriage, my children, and my work, that I neglected my own needs. I became fixated on the idea of, “once I achieve x, y, and z, then I will be happy.” This train of thought treats happiness as a destination—somewhere that we will eventually arrive at if we just keep working towards it.
During the past year while going through my separation and divorce, I learned that happiness is not a milestone or destination, it is lived moment-by-moment. Once I let go of feeling responsible for the happiness of others, I became free to discover my own. I began to learn about myself, explore interests that I have previously abandoned, and try new things. One surprising source of happiness that I discovered over the last year is the pleasure I derive from cooking.
Previously, I had cooked merely out of necessity; I never felt comfortable experimenting with different recipes or exploring new cuisines. However, after moving into my own apartment almost a year ago, I have discovered that I love trying new dishes and experimenting in the kitchen. Preparing a meal is a tranquil activity, I get lost in the spices, the chopping of vegetables, the tactile nature of working with food. Adding to the aromatic pleasure, I often light a stick of incense and play some relaxing jazz or R & B music while I cook. I have found preparing a meal to be a therapeutic process that allows me to get out of my brain and into my body.
Living in a culture characterized by a 24-hour news feed, it is important to take time and reflect on the little, day-to-day things that contribute to our sense of happiness and well-being. For that reason, I have created a “happy list,” as a way of staying mindful about happiness in society that publicizes and promotes cynicism.
Devin’s Happy List:
I would love to hear from others about what contributes to their happiness and sense of well-being. Feel free to leave comments or stories about things that make you happy. In a world that would rather focus on what is wrong or lacking, we need courageous people to share stories about what provides happiness and meaning to their lives.
Thanks for taking the time to read and share!
Devin James Baldwin, M.A. Professional Writing