Tag Archives: Friends

On Happiness

I’m teaching the culture part of a unit on sociocultural psychology. We talk about values and norms and the ways that people in different cultures remember, learn, and express what they know. We talk about learning how to behave in our own cultures and becoming part of new cultures. We talk about expectations. We talk about what it means to be happy.

Most of the time, happiness for me actually means contentment. It means feeling okay with and good about what’s happening immediately around me. Less “Wow, how awesome!” and more “This is really nice.” In the book How Emotions Are Made Lisa Feldman Barrett explains that there’s a difference between North American “happy happy joy joy” and East Asian tranquility and equanimity. We don’t all conceive of happiness in the same way and those differences are very important for the way we view the world. I was in the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown back in high school and the closing number, “Happiness,” got me every time.

Though we sometimes forget it in the age of Instagram, Buzzfeed Top Ten lists, and selfie sticks, happiness is in simplicity.


I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. Several times over the last few weeks, a conversation from half a year ago has returned to mind. I was with a friend who I’ve only seen once or twice since, neither of us speaking much that day. We were both concerned with and unsettled by the future. We were uncertain. Jobs, choices, change, moving, moving on. After some moments of silence, my friend asked, “What makes you happy?”

I remember it took me several seconds to respond. I remember the knot in my stomach and how I had to acknowledge it, experience it, and admit to it before I could let it go. I was not feeling happy in that moment and answering the question took time.

“Lots of things,” I replied, intellectually knowing this was the right answer even if I couldn’t quite feel it.

“Like what?”

“Oh, you know, things.” It took a moment, but there’s a lot to be said for state-dependent memory (and learning). Once the ideas came, they came quickly. “The smell of coffee. Sunny mornings with a breeze. Being outside. Books. Writing. Taking pictures. Being with friends and family. Intimate moments. Traveling. Learning new things. Delicious vegetables. Making food for people.”


That conversation has come back to me strangely often in the last few weeks. I’ve been experiencing a sort of mental shift, I think, one that started when I was in Europe at the beginning of April. Over the last month, I’ve grown more accustomed to the calm and quiet that my mind has found. Sometimes I find myself feeling okay in a situation or with thoughts that would have bothered me just weeks ago. This is good.

Maybe this is what it means to grow up. Maybe there’s wisdom in letting go, in observing, and in accepting today without judgment. There certainly seems to be freedom there. The only thing I know for sure is that a better version of myself is one who sees happiness in all the small moments that occur every day, and I’m glad to be there right now.

 

Silent Disco Asia

Ever been overwhelmed at a party? Lights are too bright, music is too loud (or just plain bad), and there are too many people? Ever caught between wanting to join your friends for the night and wanting to DJ on your own?

As I learned last weekend, Silent Disco Asia has a solution!

Three DJs curate three different radio channels and one simply flicks a switch on wireless headphones to choose the channel and adjust the volume to their heart’s content. If the dance floor itself gets too crowded, the headphones reach outside and upstairs to the rooftop for more breathing room and beautiful views of Marina Bay. From there, you can see the light installations that are part of the iLight Festival and on view until the end of the month.

Me to my roommate: Take a picture of the back of my head for blog purposes.

In addition to being a lot of fun and a great way to literally dance the night away, silent disco allowed for excellent people watching. Headphones seemed to reduce many inhibitions that people feel sometimes on the dance floor; there was a great array of big moves and loud singing with a boldness that is far less common. The most hilarious part by far was taking off the headphones for a moment and listening to all the truly awful singing from people with huge smiles on their faces. Every so often, I’d make eye contact with someone else and we’d laugh, sharing our delight.

That’s what I enjoyed most about silent disco. People were there to spend time with their friends, sing as loudly as they were dancing, and just enjoy the music. When my friends frantically pointed to their headphones in obvious excitement, I’d change channels until I found what they were listening to (as I have trouble with spatial things, I could not for the life of me keep track of the three possible positions for the switch). Sometimes, I’d stick with my friends’ songs and we’d sing together, though other times I’d shake my head and flip back through the channels, laughing at the way our dancing did or did not line up.

It was a happy evening during which social awkwardness or anxiety didn’t seem to play a role for anyone. Maybe it takes a certain type of person to even consider silent disco, or maybe having your own space (and therefore the explicit freedom to do your own thing) in the midst of a crowd provided enough individualism and autonomy to make it easy to do just that – be an individual.

Interested? Silent Disco Asia will be here for the next two weekends and they’re advertising an upcoming Bollywood night. $25 gets you admission, a beverage, and guaranteed great music. Have a wonderful time!

On Being Loved

If you have as many true friends as you can count on one hand, that’s a lot.

I can’t remember where I first heard it, but it’s stayed with me for years. It has held me up when I’ve been alone, afraid, and unconvinced that there was such a thing as feeling better. It’s what keeps me holding my friends close and trying to be to others who they are to me.

Since friends are special and since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I wanted to say a few things about friends, about the people who have come to be my people. February 14 is the day we’re supposed to remind our people that we love them, though I try not to let mine forget.

True friends are the people who have stopped what they were doing to be happy or sad with me, who tell me when I’m wrong and cheerfully admit when I’m right, who have welcomed me into their arms and homes and lives all over the world, who have seen me grow, who want for me what I want and don’t mind how often that changes. These are the people who I turn to at any time for any reason because they’re always glad to have me. These are the people who I can (and have) called at odd hours with laughter and with tears. These are the people who witness my life the way that I witness theirs.

Like any relationship, that with friends ebbs and flows. The people who immediately come to mind when I think of counting on one hand (which, admittedly, is a very rare occurrence) have remained largely static for some time, but I always find it interesting to observe how, why, and when that changes. Life changes. People change.

But what doesn’t change is the warmth and love that all of these people make me feel. Being reminded, flooded, with all of that love augments my desire to bring warmth and love to everyone else. I’ve found loving-kindness meditation to be particularly helpful in guiding me to let go of frustrations, irritations, and anger that get in the way of the compassion and caring that I prefer to feel. It’s also a good reminder of everyone who loves me – and I admit that sometimes I do need a reminder.

Valentine’s Day can be difficult for people who don’t feel like they have people. The circle of people in loving-kindness meditation ultimately extends to all humanity, so I can assure you that you’ve got me.

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Made by Hmong women in Sapa, Vietnam

To all of my people, thank you for everything. Love you now, love you always.