The view from the top

Happiness may be found not be found on mountaintops, but there is always a good view.

I think the country's forefathers had it wrong. Happiness is not a creature you can chase down. It is too wily an emotion to capture by force, too evanescent to retain when hunted down.

I've sought balance my entire adult life — some magical equation where career, personal life, relationships all swing into perfect harmony. It’s been something I’ve worked toward relentlessly, believing that if I only tried hard enough, it would all come into balance.

It was early this year while slowly climbing a mountain in Africa that something shifted in my trajectory of thought. It wasn’t that there was some moment of crystalline realization; in fact, it has taken months to fully understand what changed.

The days I spent on the mountain weren't all that many, but it was perhaps the longest period of time I've gone in my entire life without distraction. There were no phones, no emails, nowhere else to be, and nothing else to do other than set one foot slowly in front of the next for mile upon mile.

Eventually, even thoughts fell away, and it was simply movement and breath and the path that lay before me.

I hadn't gone to the mountain seeking happiness so much as growth in new experiences, yet I found both and somehow carried both halfway around the world to this place I call home.

For months, I mulled over the experience, which seemed far more than simply a trek up a mountain. When I returned home and saw the barrage of daily distractions that keep us always running after some new goal, I began to understand.

Happiness is not a product of the future; it is a reaction to the present. If we pursue a potential future in which we will find contentment, we will always be in pursuit.

The moments I have felt most happy have been when I've stopped the relentless pursuit to catch my breath — hands on hips, lungs expanding and contracting — and the world has come sharply into focus.

I have never felt more myself than when standing in some place that is utterly foreign to me. I have found just as many, if not more, moments of clarity in the seemingly commonplace. Yet it is in that doorway of possibility and uncertainty that I am best able to see the moment I'm inhabiting.

What matters are these tiny moments — whether found on a mountain halfway around the world or in my own backyard — when all the distractions fall away and we see the light a bit more brightly, the stars more clearly, inhale more deeply.

In the end, it never matters what we have or where we’re going. What matters are these tiny fleeting moments when we step beyond the complacency of our lives, open our eyes, and truly see.

I am astounded every time I do.

“Now and then, it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” —Guillaume Apollinaire

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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