Children playing on the beach by Mary Cassatt
What do you do when you're happy? I tend to hum. A friend whistles.

I mentioned a few weeks before I went on vacation, that I was in search of playfulness, wanting to reconnect with the freedom and delight that comes in those moments when you're not trying to solve the world's problems, or even your own.

The energy of happiness, or the power of joy, is one that can take me a long way in my daily endeavors. While on vacation, I rediscovered the joy of playing the piano, painting and riding my bike. I found myself re-energized as I pedaled along the lake and up to the pool, smiling as I noticed vignettes that would make for good sketching, moved as my fingers flowed through DeBussy.

Coming home, I looked again at my kitchen and living room, waiting (as they have for the past several years) for a makeover that was "more me." At Christmas I had received two paintings from my eldest daughter, Aletheia, who has recently plunged into her artistic self. (You can find examples of her art work here). I loved the colors and movement in the pieces and had them framed and mounted on the wall between the kitchen and living room. Now the wall was dying for some color - the art needed a more suitable background.

I grabbed a friend to help with the multitude of cheery greens at Lowes, and came home with a can of paint. Two days later, the wall was pulsating with verditas (Hildegard of Bingen's favorite word), the power of spring, new birth, growth. Everytime I looked at the wall I smiled; some of that Florida sunshine seemed to have come north after all! Now tearing down the old wallpaper wasn't so daunting. The color suggested other options that I hadn't thought of before, and soon the kitchen project was taking shape in my mind.

We all live our lives from different centers. What works for me may not work for you, but then again, maybe it might. While in Florida I visited a long-time friend. "I'm remembering that one of my basic desires is to be happy," I said. "I like to have fun." She looked at me quizzically. "I know," she said, "I don't think about having fun much."  "Well," I said, "Maybe our ideas of fun are just different. If you were in charge of something big, coordinating a group of people to accomplish a meaningful objective, wouldn't that be fun?"  Her eyes lit up. "Yup," she said, "that would be fun." "Sounds like a lot of work to me," I said. "But you would be great."

Any personality test will help point out that we're wired differently. As someone certified with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, I know that some of us are happier when we're exploring new ideas, and others when we're getting things checked off a list. Intimate conversations will jazz some of us; large parties will get others stoked. And while a quiet walk, or an afternoon of music can be just what the doctor ordered, bungee jumping and white water rafting can make others feel alive. The important thing is to notice what we're doing when we feel the most "like ourselves."

So I'm paying attention to when I'm humming, choosing to do things that bring a smile. It may not seem like much, but I know that it's what makes life meaningful to me. And what energizes me to move forward with a sense of joy.

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