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2024 Jan

Are You Happy?

Have we lost our connection with the natural world?

Recently a friend told me she was in a rut. While everything in her life was going smoothly, physically, emotionally, and spiritually she was not where she wanted to be. I told her we all go through cycles and not to worry. Knowing my perky friend, I’m sure she’ll be fired up about something before too long.

But her comments got me thinking about what we expect from life. How happy are we supposed to be and for how long? Sometimes I think people have unrealistic expectations about their emotional well being. As women we’re prone to mood swings—that’s a given. But I always think that feeling a little depressed on occasion makes the joyful times that much more pleasurable.

I’ll admit that I’m not the world’s happiest person. I probably fall somewhere in the middle: there are a lot of people who are generally happier than I am and plenty who are less so. I’ve never been inclined to see a doctor about depression, although I know it can be a very insidious problem and may require intervention to resolve. I have friends who taking anti-depression meds. They say it helps, and I’m happy they feel better.

Trends indicate that more and more people are finding it necessary to pop pills to get through their day. I wonder what it is about life in these modern times that causes folks to feel unfulfilled. Maybe it’s because we’ve gotten so involved in technology, and as a result we’ve lost that connection with the natural world.

Look at email for example. It’s a lonely form of communication, isn’t it? We sit at our desks pecking our hours away. OK, so we can be precise in what we want to say and ensure our grammar is correct. But where’s the warmth, the laughter, the tears? Picking up the phone and connecting on a human level is always more fulfilling, don’t you think? And often if a problem’s brewing, nothing takes the place of a calm phone call and a steady voice to resolve hurt feelings.

Of course, technology certainly has made the modern world easier to navigate. We accomplish many tasks faster and more efficiently. Just putting food on the table requires much less time and effort than it used to. But how fulfilling is opening a plastic bag of frozen food, heating it up, and serving it to your family? Where’s the love?

I watched a show recently about a bread baker in upstate New York who bakes bread as his forefathers did two hundred years ago. He visits the farmer, buys the wheat, takes it home and grinds it in a machine powered by hand, mixes the dough, lets it rise, and bakes it in an old-fashioned oven. If that’s not enough, he delivers the fresh bread to his customers in a horse-drawn wagon! Talk about love! Each loaf of crusty bread he delivers brings smiles and warmth and, for the baker, a deep sense of satisfaction.

It’s hard to find the time to slow down and do things the old-fashioned way, but I honestly think we’d all be better off if we try to fit in some activities each day that connect us with our world on a simpler basis. Whether it’s taking a long walk on the beach or through the woods, making an old-fashioned dinner for our family, or picking up the phone—better yet, making plans to visit a friend or colleague in person. Let’s resolve to be more human this year.

Best wishes to you and your families for a kinder, gentler 2024, one that involves more hugs and laughter and human connection!

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and publisher of Tidewater Family Plus magazine. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.


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