I mean really happy?
Can you think of a period of your life that you felt most contented?
Can you pin-point things that happen in a normal day that make you also feel that way?
That’s what I’m busy thinking about and researching at the moment. The science of happiness!
What has prompted this, is that my daughter, L, recently spent 5 months in school and now she is back home, we are re-evaluating what we do and why.
I thought it would be useful to discover what our individual optimum environment is for enjoyment. When am I most happy? When are they most happy? What kind of environment produces the ideal backdrop for the learning process for each child?
Sounds a bit ambitious I know, but unschoolers are always doing this! It’s one of the coolest things about home educating. With so much personal autonomy we have this amazing opportunity for each family member to fulfill their potential and to generally love their life.
So back to the question that started me thinking, and the best place to start of course is with yourself.
When was I most happy?
I felt the happiest when L was about 2 months old. I remember walking down our street to the library with her in a buggy and this amazing feeling of contentment swept over me. It was a state of pure bliss, nirvana. I was a new mother, I was on maternity leave and I had nothing to worry about except for this little person. I was so in love with her and the focus was on simple day to day jobs of taking care of a baby. It’s all I had to do, I could focus my entire being on it and I loved it.
So why did I stop feeling happy and contented?
When L was 6 months old, actually just before, I went back to work part-time. Everything about this frustrated me. I had previously loved my job, but I now had a child and I felt torn in two. I couldn’t do either job justice. I had a constant stream of phone-calls from the nursery because L wasn’t eating, wasn’t sleeping or was ill. I knew L was unhappy, but I felt trapped. My baby needed me, but we couldn’t pay the mortgage without my wage at that point in time.
By this point I was already pregnant with T. Life was just about to go crazy, a kind of crazy-wonderful, but I wouldn’t have time to even think about whether I was happy or not!
L and T are almost 10 and 11 now, and those years have been amazing. Often really hard, at times stressful and unenjoyable but overall they have been happy years. I know that life cannot be fun all the time, but I also know that these years when your children are young, are so precious. That this opportunity of unschooling is such a gift, and I want to maximise it as much as possible.
My theory is that if I can tap into our family ‘joy’ as much as possible we will not just be happier but will create the ideal learning environment for our children to grow through their teenage years because it’s looking likely that school won’t be playing any further part in our lives.
The next step is to discover when those moments of joy are occurring, or what might be interfering with them.
I guess when I analyse my own happiness over the years, the times when I’ve experienced joy have often been when I’ve been able to fully focus on the task in hand with no distractions.
That’s why holidays are so joyful. It’s not just the sun on your back or the refreshing post swim lazy drinks. It’s because all the distractions of life disappear for a while and you can truly be present in the moment.
Much of my life has great potential for joy, but I am constantly frustrated by competition for my attention. I don’t mean the kids either, I mean everything else: the mess, the telephone going, not being able to locate something we want, the emails I need to write, the to do list nagging my thoughts, the dog needing walking, the guinea pigs squeaking, worries and concerns piling up in my brain and sucking my energy.
Mental and physical clutter. That’s where I’m going to begin.
Wish me luck!