People have been asking me lately if I’m happy living back on the farm. It has been about a year since I moved here so that’s also a question I’ve been asking myself, and in that asking I’ve made some interesting discoveries.
First of all, I now have a new perspective and definition of happiness. Over the last several years I’ve learned that being happy is a choice. It’s not dependent upon other people, circumstances, or anything outside of me. I have the power to choose to be happy. Simple? Maybe, but not necessarily easy — at least not in the beginning. There were a lot of old patterns and beliefs that needed to be broken down and sifted through. There still are those times when I think I might be happier “if…” But if I can’t simply BE happy, there is no person, condition or situation that can occur outside of that that could possibly “make” me happy, at least not in any lasting way. It has taken effort for me to create and tend my happiness, but the work is beginning to pay off and I find that I am now happy way more than I’m not, no matter what’s going on around me.
So, in that sense, my happiness isn’t determined by where I live. I now have the capacity to be happy anywhere. That said, I admit, after some serious pondering, I am indeed happy living on this farm. In fact, I’m rather amazed at how happy I am here. I never imagined I could move back to my childhood home and find such peace, comfort and joy. Honestly, I was quite anxious about making the move. This was my parents’ house. Not mine. My houses were in Lawrence, Ottawa, Chicago, Kansas City, California and a few other locations. This is where I grew up, but this wasn’t my house anymore. And yet I have always been able to get up in the middle of the night and walk from one end of this house to the other without stubbing any toes or running into any obstacles. I know this place. And it knows me. So even if this weren’t my house, it is and has always been my home. No matter where I lived or wandered, I always came back to this house, this farm.
I feel truly grateful to have that – to have a place in the world in which I feel deeply rooted and which has always felt like home. But moving back into the house I moved out of over 40 years ago when I was 17, often feels like living with an entire family of ghosts. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. I often bump into myself as a child around here. I walk by the old brooder house in the backyard and remember the summer my mother helped me clean it up, paint it and turn it into my playhouse. I hear the wind moving through the pine trees below the road and remember planting them when we were all only saplings. Even now, as I write this, I’m sitting at my desk looking out the same windows I dreamed out of when this was my bedroom and I was just learning to both dream and write.
And since my mother designed and my father built this house, everything about it is about them. I am constantly running into their ghosts here. At first it was unsettling and I would feel deeply sad, missing them. I still miss them, but it’s getting easier being here, living among the memories and dancing with the ghosts. With time, I seem to be learning to appreciate the past without it bogging down my present or adding a drab color to my future.
But am I happy here? Well, recently while sitting on my deck at the end of the day I watched a red-bellied woodpecker tapping on the top of a pole in my backyard. We were less than 15 feet apart and he could have cared less about his proximity to me. He stayed there, tapping away, non-deterred, for over 15 minutes. He was so close I was able to look into his eyes. How often do we get to do that? It was one of “those moments” when you feel your heart open and you are fully present and connected.
I have been having a lot of those moments lately. Almost every day I find myself stopping whatever I am doing to consciously witness the sunrise or sunset. There’s no big philosophical reason for this. I’m not marking the beginning or end of the day for any significance other than each sunrise and sunset is often more spectacular than the one before. It is simply awe inspiring to watch the sun rise or dip below the horizon creating splashes of golden light across the fertile valley, or pink and purple streaks across a sky that I never have to look up to see.
So, am I happy here? Why in the world wouldn’t I be? In fact, I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been. And, yes, I plan to stay here.
After all, where else would I go? I’m home.