Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Passed My Happiness Final Exam

I do not make New Year resolutions. Instead I pick a theme for each year and I try to focus and explore that area throughout the year. I've had The Year of Friendship, The Year of Simplicity, The Year of Organization, The Year of Autonomy, The Year of Education, The Year of Closure, and the list goes on. I've been doing this for over 15 years now and I come away each year with new insight and a better understanding of myself at the very least.

Last year my theme was: "2009 - The Year of Happiness." As my blog posts here illustrate, I've been quite focused on the topic of happiness this past year. I'm very "happy" with the progress I've made this year, pardon the pun. This year was the first year however where I've felt like I was put to the test at year end to evaluate my progress. Here's what happened:

Unbeknown to me, on the cusp of my long-awaited holiday vacation, I was walking into a pop quiz for my "2009-Year of Happiness" quest. Well, it was more like a final exam really. Year end and all.

When I say that happiness is a choice, I am serious, as serious as a heart attack. My pre-vacation events had all the ingredients for a major holiday disaster. With my newfound passion drummer though, everything worked out with top marks across the board. Okay, minus one ill-begotten Trivial Pursuit game, but let's not go there.

We had a 6am flight out of town to visit my boyfriend Jason's relatives. I calculated that we needed to leave the house by 4:30am to make it through the hectic holiday queue at the airport and check-in on time. Jason usually goes to bed around this time so he said he was just going to stay up and sleep on the plane. I had worked that day and had spent that evening installing and programming a new keypad deadbolt and locking handle-set on the front door (a mover had recently broken our deadbolt and it needed to be replaced before we headed out of town). I was tired so I told him I was going to take a nap and could he please wake me up at around 3am so I could have plenty of time to pack my bag and get ready. I didn't think to set a backup alarm (see where this is heading??)

Yep, I woke up shortly after 4:30am. I'm not exactly sure what woke me up, perhaps one of the dogs? I tore around the bedroom and bath like a lunatic on speed trying to get ready and packed as a single desperate and haphazard act. I figured Jason was upstairs, asleep in the Lazyboy, with his packed bag by his side. I was wrong, on both counts. He was upstairs playing Modern Warfare 2 and he appeared to have been there all night. That game rocks, don't get me wrong. But my first reaction was not to give him a kiss and say "No big deal." The "old" goal-oriented Tracy would have gone postal on his gameside, if you get my meaning.

Now I must admit my first reaction was to go off on him. I was tired and freaking out about missing our flight. I knew there was no possible way we were going to get him dressed, packed, and make the 45 minute drive to the airport in time to make that flight. Boarding started at 5:40am and it was already past 5am. I threw his clothes from the dryer into his back-pack while he got ready. We arrived at the airport at 6am on the dot. We probably heard the jets of our plane as it left the runway.

During the drive to the airport, I realized I had a decision to make. I could be upset and mad and anxious and stressed about the situation we were now in. I could analyze and point fingers and lecture until Jason's emotional state matched my own. In other words, I could do the same old thing I'd always done in similar situations. Or, I realized, I could listen to my passion drummer. I am fortunate that I'd already honed my skills at finding the elusive beat of the passion drummer that always, without fail, leads me to happiness. So I stopped for a moment and listened. I looked at Jason. I felt the love that I have for him. I chuckled at his at times irresponsible and boyish ways that landed us in an unfortunate game of stand-by at the airport two days before Christmas. I acknowledged that it was this very same pervasive focus on having fun of his that I'd fallen in love with, that had in a manner of speaking saved me from myself and a life of stress and self-imposed obligation and super-human responsibilities and ultimately an early grave. I realized I was extremely fortunate to be with him, living the new life I'd crafted for myself after much pain and turmoil, and that spending this holiday with him was more important than where we spent the holiday. It was Christmas time and I was in love. Who could ask for more than that? I thought about how happy I was. And, there it was, I was happy!

We got standby vouchers for the next flight out, which was heading to Denver. As luck would have it we got on that flight because it had been delayed for a few hours and several passengers had transferred to other flights so they could catch their connecting flights. We weren't sitting together but we didn't care. We were on our way.

When we got to Denver it was snowing and the airport was at capacity. All flights were booked. It was a mad house. But I was with Jason and we were having fun, even if we weren't quite sure if we would be spending the holiday in Denver or in Eugene, Oregon. When I told the airline rep that we were both on stand-by and that we wanted to be kept together, she looked stressed and said there was no way she could promise we would sit together. I quickly laughed and said "No, No! We don't care where we sit, we just want to be on the same plane!" She looked surprised and relieved for a split second before she reestablished the standard airline face. I was happy and nice and I guess that wasn't something she was used to in a stand-by passenger during the holidays. There were a lot of people holding standby vouchers, but she wasn't listing stand-by names on the overhead display. I was pretty certain we weren't getting on even with our having no checked luggage. The gate was standing room only. As the last group boarded she hadn't called a single stand-by passenger name. I walked up to her and asked what I needed to do to get on the next stand-by flight. As she grabbed passenger boarding passes and scanned them for Group 4, she said, "You automatically get put on the next stand-by list."  Then she looked up and said, wait, you're the couple right? I nodded. She said, "I want you to stick around. I'm going to try to get you on." And she did. Not only that, but we even got to sit together. Can you believe that?

When we arrived in Eugene, we found out that the rental car company had canceled our reservation when we didn't come in on the 10am flight, it was now around 5pm. We didn't get upset but instead just asked for her help. They didn't have any cars left, so she called down and found out there was a car that was just returned and was being cleaned. We waited 5 minutes or so for them to finish cleaning it and they even drove it up curbside for us, so we didn't even have to walk!

The rest of the vacation was delightful. I finally got to meet Jason's twin brother, Sean, along with a couple cousins, Jenny and Rufus, I had not yet met. It was simply an amazing time. Sean is extremely entertaining and he also makes one mean martini! And Jason, who hates his picture taken, even let me snap of picture of him with Santa Claus when he showed up to hand out presents to the kids on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, the kids missed seeing Santa take off from the roof with his sleigh and reindeer although they were all outside looking, and Sean reappeared shortly thereafter from upstairs after helping Santa prepare for his rooftop take off. Thanks Santa!! I can't wait to visit again. I also finally got to see Dinah's magnificent addition she made to her house and the meals were simply out of this world. Oh, and the wine!! Yummy.

Looking back at the holiday, we had a marvelous time, but I honestly think it was the passion drummer that made it happen. Had we been stressed and short with the travel professionals we encountered, I seriously doubt we'd have made those flights...particularly the Denver flight. You reap what you sow, as the saying goes. If you put out positive (happy) energy, and you have no set expectations, good things come. They may not always be what you wanted, or thought you needed, but you will get good things. In this case, it happened to be what we wanted too, but like I said, that isn't really the point. The point is that we followed our passion, we maintained happiness during an uncertain time and good things followed.

So it was, two days before Christmas, I was handed my final exam for the 2009 Year of Happiness quest, and I'm proud to announce that I passed with flying colors.

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