Are you smiling?

Are you happy? Are you smiling? Are you doing exactly what you’d want to be doing right now?

My time off to relax into the end of 2015 was exactly what I needed, a few days in Connecticut over Christmas to celebrate time with the family and our new puppy brother, followed by a full 8 days back in the city to enjoy. The week was almost a blur of relaxing, wandering the city to catch up with G and E on Tuesday, E and I binge-watching Netflix and putting together furniture on Wednesday, and then a lazy New Year’s Eve day, ahead of a fancy dinner with M&N&E&me in Mount Kisco, ending the year by celebrating in sweatpants at home, champagne in hand and a kiss at midnight to start 2016 on a great foot.

I spent the last Saturday night of the vacation in Queens, of all places, and as I was gearing up for the long trek home, I decided to download a TED talk podcast on happiness. After a segment on an app that helps track your happiness, which will periodically text you something akin to the three questions above, I started to get distracted by the time, in a valiant effort to get to my apartment before the (eventually terrible) Jets game kick-off, and put music into my headphones instead to calm down. Wait by NF immediately came up in Spotify; the lyrics include “Are you happy?” and “Are you smiling?,” also noted above. Being asked these questions in two different mediums led to some interesting internal dialogue, as I tried to answer the three questions above on the long journey home.

On the one hand, HELL no, I was not happy, nor smiling, nor doing what I’d like to be doing. I had been stuck with a local train out of Forest Hills to Midtown, and then stuck with ANOTHER local train from Midtown to the Heights, which cinched my missing part of the first quarter of the game. It was cold outside which I strongly dislike, it was Day 2 of my third Whole30 so I had carb flu (IT’S REAL AND TERRIBLE), and I was less than 24 hours from returning to the office after an extremely-needed 10 day break. Also there was a weird ringing in my ears that wasn’t due to my headphones? Basically if I took a look at that exact moment, and the circumstances around me, I was not happy at all.

Taking a step back is something that’s not generally associated with the new year. Come January 1, we’re expected to step into resolutions with enthusiasm and fervor, this is the year I’ll get healthier and cancel cable and shop less and love more. Then, of course, most of these are swiftly abandoned after a few weeks or days, depending on how much champagne we’d had prior to making them. This year I took a different approach to the new year, in that my whole goal leading up to 2016, even the night leading into 2016, was to dial down my normal enthusiasm and enjoy a moment to step back and reflect. I don’t do that enough, I’ve realized, step back and appreciate or reevaluate for a moment, but with everything coming up in a few short weeks, taking moments to appreciate the little bits of the new year is something I want to prioritize.

Because if I look back to the moment above, the cranky attitude on a slow subway uptown; if I take a step back and look at the bigger picture, the answer to those questions is a resounding hell yes. It came after the perfect vacation with friends and family and love, and it came after a night with friends where I stuck to seltzer and still managed to stay out till 3am. It came after a lazy morning on the couch, bundled in t-shirts and coffee in hands while laughing along to Parks and Rec; and it came before NFL Sunday and a yoga class by candlelight to end the weekend. So yes, world. I am happy, and I am smiling, and I am exactly where I want to be right now. As with all things in life I’m sure that will change, but if I can hold onto my 2016 intention to step back a little and appreciate the big picture, then I predict I’ll have another wild yet wonderful year ahead.

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