On Happiness

Nov 20, 2013
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The following story is about how I ended up living in my tent and found greater happiness....

Photo by Roger McKeever

There has been a lot of transition in my life over the past four months.  In August I moved out of the apartment where I had been living since moving to Portland.  At the time, my friend Tommy was off to Burning Man for two weeks.  So.  I figured I'd stay at his place while he was gone, and I'd use that time to find my own apartment.  Instead, I ended up on his couch for three months because, unbeknownst to me, the rental market here is super tight and highly competitive.

I searched daily for an apartment.  I searched and I searched and I searched, but to no avail.  On good days, I struggled; other days, I suffered.  I found moments of joy, but they were random and fleeting.  I found myself saying: Once I find a place to live I will be so happy.  My life was, in a strange way, on hold.

After three months I was approved for an apartment.  It was everything that I was looking for-- close to where I wanted to be, easy access to public transportation, quiet, affordable, and a lot more space than I ever expected-- 2 bedrooms!  Ahhh, a place just for myself.  Happiness, right?

I was sitting on the couch with Tommy when the call came in that I was approved for the apartment.  After three months of struggling to find a place and telling myself that I'd be happy once I found an apartment, guess what happened?  I went right into anxiety and fear.  I immediately started questioning if I could actually afford it. I started listing all the things that were now a struggle and the things that possibly might be a struggle.  This went on for a couple days.

Then it hit me that for three months I had been struggling and placing my happiness on something in the future.  When that thing finally arrived, I immediately bypassed joy, and I continued with struggle and complaint.

I literally laughed out loud when I realized what had happened.

I moved into my spacious two bedroom apartment two weeks ago without a lick of furniture.  I didn't even have a fork or spoon.  I collected a few necesary things from thrift stores, and friends have been generous with helping me out.  My living room has remained empty, and the futon mattress I bought from a friend seemed awkward on the bedroom floor.  In a moment of inspiration, I set up my camping tent in the living room and dragged my futon mattress inside it.  I strung some lights around the top to represent the night sky.  And it's there in my spacious tent with the night sky that I've slept soundly for the past five nights.

This simple and spontaneous act has brought me more happiness than anything else.  I am reminded of the Omar Khayam quote, "Be happy for this moment.  This moment is your life."  I am reminded, once again, that happiness is never something out in the future.  Over the past few days I've started taking inventory of all the ways in which I place my happiness and contentment on some x factor out in the future.  I'm seeing that there are, beyond the obvious, subtle voices keeping that false dream alive.   I've made it my goal to stop listening to those voices and to start finding happiness in this moment, which is all there is anyway.