When I got onto the bus to go from Hoorn to Medemblik, I asked the driver to make sure I was on the correct bus. An older, white-haired man was driving the bus and took pity on me. In his meager English (hey way more than my Dutch!) he said I'm was on the correct bus and motioned for me to sit in the first seat next to him.
He asked me where I was from, and when I said "America," he said, "Do you know the singer John Denver?"
I said yes, and he said, "I don't know the words..." and he hummed the tune. For some reason, totally out of character, I burst into song.
"Country road, take me home, (and here he nodded and joined in!) to the place, I belong, West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country road."
I was singing out loud, in public, with a bus driver on a bus in the Netherlands. I felt a thrill of joy.
A few days later, on the train from Berlin to Prague, an Australian gentleman behind me on the train was talking to another passenger. This is what I overheard, "Do you know the song, "Country Road" by the American singer John Denver? He was an environmentalist and musician..."
I thought to myself this was the most astonishing coincidence and marveled at life. As I looked out at the beautiful countryside I thought about the purity of longing to go home and how that song's lyrics resonate with people from all over the world. This is the power of art. All I want in my life to create art that brings people joy. This brings me joy, but until I have a audience, I must find joy in other ways.
Despite being on this marvelous trip, I'm working so hard while traveling that I recently realized that I need to understand what makes me happy and do more of those things. Sure, driving a race car is pure bliss, but you can't do that every day.😜
Since I don't have a race car right now, it's important for me to figure out what brings me joy. You'd think it would be a simple question for most people to answer, and maybe you have a long list, but for some reason, since I stopped working, (and since I've been working so hard on things that have such a long timeline) it's been hard for me.
So much of fulfillment in our culture is wrapped up in a work equation; do a good job+make money=feel happy. That was my life until I hurt my knees at work and since then I've been trying to find a sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose that will lead to a meaningful and prosperous life.
It's a work in progress, my list, but for now, here's what I've got;
Feel gratitude. I sometimes forget how lucky I am and when I feel grateful it makes me feel happy to acknowledge the opportunities I have right now to reinvent myself.
Look for opportunities to be kind. Today in Prague I was walking up a long stairway from under the street and I saw a little frail old lady holding on to the handrail with one hand and in her other hand, a pair of arm-crutches. I motioned to the crutches and she gave them to me, so I could take her hand and help her down the rest of the stairs. Her hand was tiny and warm in mine. Love passed between us as she thanked me in Czech, and then when I said I am American, she thanked me in Russian. To have done a kindness for another human being brought me joy.
Look up and smile. Studies show that physics activity sends endorphins to the brain, which makes happiness happen. So I don't look like a loony, I stare at a building like a tourist while I'm doing this. If I'm going to look like a nut, better to look like a tourist nut I guess.
Right now everything I'm doing is so hard. Learning to draw well is hard. Learning French is hard. Trying to figure out a new career for myself is hard. Writing is hard. Editing is hard.
All these things are fun and can be joyful, but they're difficult too. It's important to find joy where I can and acknowledge it in the moment that I'm experiencing it. Especially when singing a duet on a bus in the Netherlands.