The Key to Happiness in 1,000 words or less

I am happy.

This is a pretty trivial statement.

It is also a most profound statement.

And I guess I could just leave it that. I have found the key to happiness, thanks for stopping by. The end.

But instead, like the man on the mountain I shall share the key to happiness, or at least, what worked for me. Plus, I’m verbose so why keep it short, especially when readers often come for gems of wisdom, or an opportunity to roll their eyes and say what a waste of 3 minutes that was. So I shall try to explain how I came to this mundane/profound conclusion.

It happened recently one CSA delivery morning as I was washing lettuce. I know, not a particularly profound activity to be engaged in when this bolt of spiritual inspiration hit. I was not meditating on a mountain. I was not jumping off cliffs opening my parachute just before hitting the ground. Nope, just washing lettuce.

I believe I have generally been a happy soul, but like everyone I go through ups and downs. It’s hard to be well versed in climate change trends and not get down sometimes.

I have been much happier since moving to our 150 acres of paradise in the woods 16 years ago. And much less angry. People miss ‘Angry Cam.’

On the particular morning of my realization the loons were being quite chatty, with one on 6th Depot Lake north of our place calling out to one on West Lake near our house. It’s like “You come here… no you come here…” There was no sound, no wind, just the trees and the call of the loon.

And then a vehicle drove by around 6:30 am. And I wondered where my neighbor worked and how long their commute would be. I wondered if they watched the clock until quitting time when they could finally start to live their life. I wondered if they had to drive on Highway 401, which seems to be in a constant state of closure from accidents recently.

I recalled maintaining our electronic publishing customers in the Greater Toronto Area for many years after we moved here and the stress involved with the periodic commute back to the big city to visit them. We gave most of these clients up in 2007 to go full time into book publishing, just about the same time the book industry collapsed in 2008. I recalled the scramble to replace our income from books, which now has tapered off completely.

There I was, up to my elbows in water, washing leaf lettuce which requires a great deal of time right now to remove all of the brown leaves caused by all of the moisture earlier this season. I am happy to painstakingly try and make each weeks lettuce as pretty as possible because I am infinitely grateful to our CSA members whose support allows us to earn a modest income from this little outcrop of marginal soil amongst the rocks of the Canadian Shield. And I am grateful to have a wife who was prepared to leave suburgatory and take a flying leap of faith going off the grid at a time when there was no book you could read on how it was supposed to work. I’m grateful we met Bill Kemp and convinced him to write that book.

Every day I am in awe of the wonder of living a lifestyle that is similar to everyone else in North America except that ours is powered by the sun and wind. I do not flip on a light switch or turn on a tap and watch water come out that I don’t wonder at the miracle of it all.

I am grateful to have healthy children and a healthy wife. I am grateful to live in a country where you can actually have Green Party candidates get elected and where 50 years ago the United Auto Workers and others decided to fight for a universal healthcare system, rather than one that just benefited their members.

I am grateful for every morning that I stretch my body ready for the marathon of gardening that awaits me, and am still relatively pain free.

I am grateful for the incredible luxury that is my one cup of coffee at breakfast, which accompanies the eggs our happy, happy (happy!) chickens provide us with.

As I wash lettuce I am very aware of the fact that there is absolutely nowhere else on earth I would rather be. I am also very aware that there is absolutely nothing else on earth I would rather be doing. There are times where the 12-hour days that I am now working, 7 days a week, seem a bit much. But I’ll spend 20 minutes with a book on a Sunday morning only to realize that keeping the beans weeded gives me more pleasure right now. Reading is becoming a wintertime activity.

To be happy I think you need to be in the place you were meant to be, doing what you meant to do. And it should have meaning.

And you should be grateful for the peculiar set of circumstances that lead you to be where you are at that moment.

I have no real retirement plant, no real idea of how much longer I can keep up this pace, no real idea of how much the population of the planet can keep growing and how much more carbon our oceans and atmosphere can handle.

And many days I just don’t care. I’m here this morning doing what I love and doing my best to have a marginal impact on the planet.

The asteroid that the scientists missed may be about to impact and I have no regrets. I have done everything in my life I hoped to do, and right now every day I do what I love. I am grateful. I am fulfilled. I am happy.

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Michelle’s Note: As I edited this blog post, I couldn’t help but hear this. Warning! It gets stuck in your head on a continuous loop!