The Keys to Happiness

Song Dedication: Losing Keys by Jack Johnson

We live in a small town and we like it like that. I like knowing that for what we might lack in options for dinners out, shopping, and even health resources we make up for in high quality locally run places: Ginza Sushi, Barkerville Brewing Co., Rocky Peak Adventure Gear, Willis Harper Hardware and the health practitioners we do have (while small in number) are some of the highest quality healers and helpers I’ve come to know in my journey. Our community may be small but the hearts here are big and it feels like home to us.

Today, because my husband and I both needed to access health care providers that do not reside locally we both traveled the 1.5 hour north to Prince George, to see respectively surgeon and IMS Physiotherapist.

It was nice for the two of us to travel together with few distractions, including our son, who we undoubtedly love to the moon and back but who is also able to speak and produce all manner of consecutive bleeps, beeps, murmurs, snorts and chortles also to the moon and back (like he’s possessed by a synthesizer).  Thus presenting significant challenges when it comes to engaging in adult conversation. And yes, we could hold presence for each other after his bedtime but let’s be honest…no one wants to have face to face heart to hearts after all is said and done on a weeknight after 8pm!  That’s prime Netflix time.

Judge away, but if we were to force conversation at that time of night we’d likely be tapping into pain body time which means a mere poking of the bear can result in some difficult conversation that leads to burning crucial energy reserves that are needed for other things such as say, decoding the Shelby’s accents in Peaky Blinders to follow the story line and falling asleep peacefully if we even make it through one entire episode.

So we enjoyed each other’s company on the way to and from our appointments. I drove on the way there and once I got to the university where the Physio office is I hopped out, proudly remembering to give my husband the key fob so he could drive himself to see the surgeon at the hospital. He slipped into the drivers seat after zipping the keys in his jacket pocket driving off towards downtown.

After my appointment, which sucked because the inter muscular stimulation was fairly invasive (but it is helping overall pain symptoms), I bought a freshly pressed orange, carrot, apple, lime juice from the juicery bar in the foyer of the gymnasium and sat on a shitty, hard, vinyl couch by the two story windows that keep out the -20 temperature but still let in the warmth of the welcome sunshine. I felt like a spoilt house cat. I eagerly dove back into the book I had started the day before, digesting two chapters before he returned to collect me, content to stay there all day if I could.

He drove up and as I approached I could hear the thump of the base coming from the speakers. Kenny Loggins footloose blaring, I begged him through the glass to turn it down before I opened the passenger door to hop in hopefully unnoticed. In true Dad form, he smiled and refused, knowing I would relent to the cold and eventually open the door. Instead he turned it up a few as I hustled myself into my seat, a few skeptical students smirking at the embarrassed energy I was off gassing. He smiled triumphant as he played the tune, this time knowing it wouldn’t beat him but had become an affirmation of his ability to overcome this great challenge that snapped his reality back in November when he severed his Achilles’ tendon dancing to this very song at his company Christmas party. Eleven weeks post op and he had been given the green light to begin weening off the air cast that he lovingly dubbed “leg prison”.

We enjoyed more conversation about random things while he drove the return leg (ha no pun intended) of our journey. When we got to his office we again switched seats. He grabbed his things and hobbled over the squeaky cold snow in his air cast. I reclaimed the  drivers seat to head home. I pressed play on my audiobook “a new Earth” and as Tolle was reading to me about presence I came to a stop while a construction crew worked on fixing a traffic light. I happened to look at my phone noticing suddenly in the 3 minutes I had left, I had missed two calls and a text message from my husband saying “I have your keys!!!!”

As I pulled through the roadblock and into the nearest parking lot, I called him to ask if his keys were at home. If they were this would solve our problem quickly. If they were not I would need to drive back to his office to get the keys so that I could start the car again to pick up our son from school. He thought hard and searched his backpack and said meekly “I think my fob is at home???” Then switching to, “…nope I have them here in my truck too, sorry”

I backtracked to get the keys and Tolle said, …being aware of your emotions helps release you from the negativity in the pain body…or something to that effect and I realized how present I was to this very moment. I didn’t feel resentful or frustrated or needing to blame him for forgetting to give me my keys back. All of those things would have triggered me in the past.  Let alone my own negative self-talk about how could I have forgotten to retrieve the keys…what a dummy! But I sat calmly and drove in the direction needed to address the problem. I drove up smiling and my husband tottered out smiling as well. We chuckled and he said something about how this is a 21st century problem (if we all had normal ignitions with keys this would never be an issue) and I drove away once more.

On my second departure from his office parking lot, my phone sent me my regular check-in (from the advice of my therapist when I was still grappling hard with my anxiety) and it said “how are you feeling right now” and I thought happy. I feel happy.

I knew that because of the state of my present awareness.

I got home and ran to the bathroom because along with my full happy heart was a full bladder after a long drive, a fresh pressed juice and my regular lunchtime smoothie.

With only a 20 minute turn around before needing to pick up my son from school….another text from my husband….

“You have my truck keys!!! I left them in the passenger door.”

OMFG! You have got to be kidding me. He wasn’t.

I smiled again, feeling amused by the universe and its will to test me.

At this point, the old me would have completely freaked out or at the very least had some nasty dig to give out, but there was nothing negative in me for this situation or for my husband.  Although I was becoming quite a slave to this whole key swapping débâcle, I felt freedom in my ability to choose my reactions which came very organically. Still a bit gun shy with the old Sarah, he was already apologizing profusely and coming up with alternate solutions as to not put me out. And yes, we do live in a small town, but our house and his work are at opposite ends with a 15 minute drive between them. I simply told him I would deliver his truck keys after I picked up our son. I simply was unbothered by the whole thing.

When I arrived at the parking lot for the third time in the last 2 hours, our son wanted to go in and see his Dad at work.  He usually struggles with this a bit as there are a lot of people on the floor and he gets nervous.  He verbalized that feeling again, but this time added, “…but I still want to go in and give Dad his keys and I know I’ll be okay because you’re with me and I trust you.”

Huh?! I wasn’t expecting that lovely self-reflection from my 7-year-old and thanked him for telling me and trusting me.  It reminded me of when I was a kid with a giant bag of anxieties and struggled with the same issues but was never able to articulate them plainly like this, rather using my emotional reactions as an outlet acting all weird and shit.  And because I never felt like I could own those feelings, instead feeling ashamed of myself and these social inadequacies, I held them in my body and the tension compounded causing all manner of vices and triggers into my adult life.  I am only just now learning how to be aware of this anxiety and accept it, which in turn dissipates like a morning fog with the sun rise.

Although this all felt like an examination of my emotional mastery by the masters of the universe, I had this precious insight.  The key to happiness (at least my own happiness) is when we are able to give ourselves authentic awareness in the present moment we can be objective enough to deal with whatever challenges, big or small, are thrown our way.  In my presence today, I found happiness in all the in-betweenness, the clear sky and warm sun, a car with enough gas to get me from point A to point B and back again…and again once more, a few extra moments to listen to my audiobook, a good sense of humour, my son finding a tiny pinch of greater courage for and because of his parents, I could go on but I think you (and I) get it.  It is pretty powerful  when we discover the inner peace within ourselves that gives us the space to not only choose, but choose wisely.  These are the keys to my happiness, and even if I loose them, forget them or mix them up and leave them with someone else, it’s only a temporary situation that with presence can be found again, and again, and again.



  1. Never got that much out of Tolle, but I seem to have discovered much the same truth – at least as you describe it, which, to me, is much more grounded in everyday life than those books.

    It *is* true, at least as I understand it (and again: much like you describe it). It *is* very powerful and very restoring to be able to just let go and go be with, for example, what you sense and, yeah, enjoy it for what it is: the sight of the new snow along the road, the warm coffee, etc.

    I was never very good at that, always had a million projects I had to realize – in the future. And then, of course, I became a parent.

    That forced me to put theory into practice in this case, and work on being more present every day, despite whatever problems and projects I would still have. Still not always easy, but definitely easier than before!

    Liked by 1 person

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