Lady Lovin’ her Life: How much does it take to make you happy

By Paula O’Kray

“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has the power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.”

— Elenora Duse

As I sit at my little homemade desk this evening, listening to a recorded loop of a 40-minute thunderstorm and sipping piping hot lemon tea, I am happy. Little things like this make me very happy.

Instead of purchasing a fancy, expensive desk, I bought a large sheet of shelving and propped it up on two wicker stools. The simplicity and frugality of this makes me happy. Sipping the steaming, comforting, giant cup of hot tea is calming and satisfying. This also makes me happy. The sound of the thunderstorm, even though recorded, is like a lullaby from the universe. It relaxes me and helps me focus. And this makes me happy.

Many times, when I make what might seem like a whimsical and unnecessary purchase to some, I justify it by calculating the ratio of the dollars it cost to the amount of happiness that item will bring, and I am usually not regretful about it.

For instance, the year the pandemic hit, I filled my front porch with what must have been about $100 of flowering plants. I was sad about the state of the world and trying to fill my life with something that made me happy every day. I went way overboard, but did I regret it? Absolutely not. Every day, for the entire summer and then some, I came home from work to a welcoming riot of color, and it brought a lot of happiness for that investment.

I felt the same way about the two tins of “Emergency” Googly Eyes I purchased at a rummage sale recently. They always make me smile, and in my opinion, everything’s better with Googly Eyes on it. Everything. And considering I only spent a few bucks for them, that’s an incredible return on my humble investment!

Or silly looking sunglasses. I am a complete sucker for those, because they make people look twice and laugh, and that makes me happy, too. The best thing is that they are usually the ones on sale because no one wants them, so they are typically a great bargain! And hey, I don’t have to look at myself in them…you do!

And I don’t have enough space here to tell you how much fun I can have in a dollar store. They are a bit dangerous for me and my deviously creative mind. Sometimes that’s exactly how I spend my Saturday afternoons, though. Yes, I lead a wondrous, glamorous life, I do.

Often, though, I don’t even have to spend a cent to find something that makes me happy. Walking through a grocery store, I noticed a new mom cradling her newborn close and was filled with a warm, nostalgic memory and was so happy for her. Seeing people be kind to each other gives me a deep feeling of hope and community. If you just take the time to look, there are a lot of happy moments to find.

Sometimes they surprise you. Walking my dog, I notice so many things. The way drops of dew glisten on a freshly fallen leaf, the deep autumn colors of a neighbor’s grapevine-covered fence, the gnarled bark of a very old tree, or the way a group of bright Black-eyed Susans dance in the rain.

Last weekend, the fog was very thick, and I found myself at the dog park looking up at the sky. I could hear geese above my head, gently calling to each other. “Will I be able to see them as they pass over?” I thought. Then suddenly they appeared, less than a dozen geese materializing out of the mist, directly above me in asymmetrical formation. They magically disappeared in the same way, but as they did, I could actually hear the beating of their wings in flight beneath their soft calls to each other. It was just a magical moment, and I stood there stunned for a few seconds.

There is a great video making the rounds on social media. A musician referred to as “The Kiffness” has been taking unusual sounds, like the whine of a sad dog, the growling hiss of an angry cat, or the squeak of a glove compartment door, and making it into a song. It is both hilarious and fascinating. This man hears music everywhere, and his videos have taught me how to hear it as well.

The other day on our morning dog walk, a house-bound beagle began to bay at my pup and me as we strolled by. Instead of being annoyed with his wailing, I smiled and began to chuckle. “What would The Kiffness do with this sound?” I wondered.

Then I realized I’d been doing this visually most of my life. I see art everywhere—in nature, the cracks of the sidewalk, and in people’s faces. In fact, there is no place where there isn’t art, which means there’s no place where there isn’t music.

And that means there’s no place where there isn’t happiness, either. You just have to pay a little attention and tune into it.

Beauty in nature is among the things that make Paula happy.

Photos courtesy of Paula O’Kray! (Or, as she put it, all happy photos courtesy of yours truly.)

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