Friday, December 20, 2013

The Formula For Happiness

Hint: It's not this complicated...
By Terri Lively

It seems that I have discovered the formula for happiness. It became apparent to me when I was composing an email to a former neighbor of mine.  I figured I would share it with all of you.

Dear XX,

You asked what the move has been like. But what can I say? Should I tell you that moving has felt like both a good and bad move depending on the day?

There are times when I wonder if we didn’t just make the worst move of our lives coming up here, especially when I hear a couple of neighbors discuss bow-hunting deer at my kid’s music assembly at school.

 Or when a mother tells me that my daughter can join the 4H and raise chickens (!) and I literally call on every acting skill I have ever learned not to show the look of incredulity in my eyes and the sinking feeling of dismay that just gripped my stomach.

Or of course the times when I drive 30+ minutes up to Target.  In fact, I usually just do without because seriously, who drives 30 minutes to get to Target?

And let’s not forget the times when they have western wear day at school and my kid has to go with a pink bandanna tied around her neck because that’s the only thing that even resembles “western wear” in my home.

And please don’t ask me where the Starbucks is because I will probably break down and cry when I explain that it’s 40 miles away because apparently the local coffee cartel doesn’t allow any corporate coffee here.

So would I say that we are strangers in a strange land? Yes. Undoubtedly.

But there are the good days too. Like when the clouds are low and stretched across the tops of the mountains like misty fingers, resembling earthen sentries for our town, standing guard over our valley and protecting the families and grapes that grow here.

Or when my husband and I walk, practically in a straight line, to the winery where we are members and get to go to the “wall of wine” resplendent with the best of the Valley’s offerings for tastings, half-pours or full pours, after which we walk back in a slightly less-straight line.

Or when the stars fill the sky at night in multitudes that I didn’t know were possible before I moved here so far from the blare of city lights.

Or when you experience the absolute terror and thrill of feeding an ostrich.

Or looking out the window while I am driving through country that most people have to come on vacation to see when I am simply on my way to the gym.

There are always pros and cons to everything. I guess the difference between being miserable or happy where you are is to celebrate the pros and learn to live with the cons.

So as an example, yes it’s a pain to have to plan a half-day trip just to go to Costco but it’s also nice to take in the central coast’s spectacular drive along the ocean on the way there, all grassy meadows that drop off into cliffs that descend in jagged dark stone down into the churning surf below.

Yes, driving through Solvang at 10 miles an hour pretty much any time of day, any time of the year really can cause me to pop a vein in my eye. But on the off chance that the vein holds, it does give me a chance to enjoy the quaint architecture of a town that looks like it belongs on a Christmas card.

While I am not a huge fan of Wranglers and boots on a man, I do like when he tips his cowboy (or should I say vaquero) hat toward me when he holds the door open as I pass.

So my move here is good and bad.  Like all things it has its plusses and minuses. But since life is balance sheet of plusses and minuses, the formula for happiness requires a focus on positives to balance the negatives. So is it perfect here? No. But are we happy? Absolutely.

Love to your family and Happy Holidays!

Your friend and neighbor,


P.S. Be sure stop by if you are coming by here. We would love to show you around, especially to feed the ostriches. Once you meet one up close and stare into its maniacal eyes, you’ll never feel bad when you hear that a restaurant serves them on a menu again.