Dear Lily June,
There are whole branches of philosophy, religion, ethics and psychology devoted to what makes a person happy. Heck, even one of our country’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, declared as an inalienable right of American citizens “the pursuit of happiness.” (Of course, it’s interesting that “happiness” itself is not a right. Rather, it’s your right to attempt to find it.) Of course, there is some overlap in the findings, some commonalities that researchers mostly agree on.
Abraham Maslow, the founder of humanistic psychology, adhered, for instance, in the 1930s to what he called The Hierarchy of Needs, a visual aid of all that a human being requires for happiness. Those, he found, that were the most content with their lives had not only reached the top of the pyramid, they had eventually transcended even themselves, collecting peak experiences of love and a sense of belonging to humanity as a whole.
Maslow’s ideas aren’t all that different from findings “discovered” in our own century. For instance, psychologist Martin Seligman has almost the exact same five point plan to joy encapsulated by the acronym PERMA. He claims that humans seem happiest when they have all of the following:
- Pleasure (aka Maslow’s bottom “food groups”)
- Engagement (i.e. participation in challenging activities, like fighting zombies)
- Relationships (aka the yellow “food group”),
- Meaning (i.e. a perceived sense of belonging to something bigger, like it was your quest to hack-slash zombies), and
- Accomplishments (aka the blue “food group”).
All of these seem like fine theories to me, and who am I to contradict the experts?
On the surface, it would seem I’m actually the worst possible person to address the topic, being a relatively unhealthy overweight smoker on anti-depressants who’s been diagnosed with both depression and anxiety. And yet, on this, the second of our much celebrated (at least in this apartment, by me) PJ Days, if you were to ask me right now, at this point in my life, am I happy? You’d be met with a resounding affirmative, little Lily. And why? Because I’ve absolutely taken my eyes off the self-actualization/accomplishments prize to just focus on the littler, simpler pleasures in life like each small indulgence you and I share together.
As a(n) (auto)biographical record of what was “doing it for us” in October of the year 2015, here are the ten things that each of us enjoy most at this moment in our history. (Forgive me if I’m inaccurate in notating yours, as you don’t do much speaking at this point in your life.) Thanks to loveyates for the idea of a happy list in the first place.
The Top Ten Things that (Currently) Make You, Lily June (at Four Months Old), Happiest:
1) Your “Fishy Seat”
A Fisher Price cradle swing circa late 90’s/early 00’s purchased for you at a yard sale by your Granny Gramma Alison, this is your throne. It even provides subjects for you to lord over in the form of plush “fishies” who circle your head via mobile while you, I kid you not, shout “Hey” at them (or something closely resembling the word, “Hey.”)
No idea why a band that hits its heyday before I was even born is what rocks your adorable little socks off. Remind me to tell you the story of the friend of a friend who was sure that the chorus of “Dirty Deeds” wasn’t “Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap” but “Hercules and the Thunder Chief.” That might have been the whole story, actually.
3) Surveying the Landscape
Whether it’s sitting on my knees to inspect your kingdom like Simba (you know, the way you own everything the light touches) or staring out our patio window like you’re just inspecting the grounds to see if they’re up to snuff, you, Lily, love looking over the planet like you own the joint. And you may as well.
No baby has loved four in the morning like you do, Lily. You reserve all your widest smiles for the witching hour, and it makes each sunrise yours–in your heart and in my eyes.
5) Your Own Feet
I should’ve known from the moment I saw you sucking on those toes on the ultrasound screen that you were beginning a life long love affair with your own feet. I can’t say I haven’t also wanted to kiss them obsessively. Can we share, Lily? Please? Joint custody at least?
6) Wiping Your Own Mouth
It must be a self-actualization/accomplishments thing. You grin like you’ve hit the top of the Maslow mountain when you’re able to dab away excess formula from your face. You are four months old, Lily. How will you feel when you someday get to chow down with lemon-scented wet naps and a lobster bib, I wonder?
7) Your Rice Cereal Feeding
Encouraged by our pediatrician to start this early since you’ve demonstrated such a keen curiosity about eating, your dad and I, on Sundays once a week, prop you up in your high-chair and spoon rice cereal into your face like we’re shoveling coal in to make the happy train go. And you light up, Lily. It combines all of your greatest pleasures: the rare ability to see both your parents in the same place at the same time (assuring you I’m not the Clark Kent to his Superman), making messes, and jamming things into your mouth with a vengeance.
8) Sophie the Giraffe
Sophie, for the film fanatics amongst you, comes from France but achieved American superstardom as a teething toy when it featured prominently in the 1987 classic Three Men and a Baby. You enjoy a nice taste of its rubber butt at least 10,000 times per day. She’s definitely your favorite toy.
9) Tugging huge hanks of hair from my head
An acceptable substitute is pulling the short curlies from your dad’s aching beard. But you grip it, and rip it, Lily. And you love every minute of it.
10) Petting the cat
You and Sandy (who I’ll talk about surely in another letter) have formed an alarming alliance. She lets you tug her ears like they’re detachable, but what, I wonder, will she want in return. I picture her coming to you, one day, to ask for a favor. A favor you can’t refuse…
The Top Ten Things About You That Currently Make Me, Your Mother Alyssa Moore (at 30 Years Old), Happiest:
1) The way you’ve reinvigorated the holidays for me. Your dad and I got you tiny flags for the Fourth, and we have an adorable Halloween costume for you and plans to watch Hocus Pocus “with” you over candy you can only smell at the end of this month.
2) The way your whole body still mostly fits in the crook of my arm. I’ve been guilty of fetching you from your bassinet while you’re still in a sound sleep just to tuck your particular brand of warmth under my wing.
3) The way you’ve given me the gift of so many moons. When you’re up too late or early, it gives me the opportunity to step out onto the patio to witness a Joe vs. the Volcano style lunar spectacle. Yup, we’re watching this for PJ Day today.
4) The way you still look so confused when we give you a bath. What must you think we’re doing to you, I wonder? (And that sweet smell afterwards. And those obnoxiously adorable towels.)
5) The way you smile on the changing table like smiles are going out of style. It makes moments like the other day when you stuck your hand in your poopy diaper only to then directly insert those same fingers into your mouth while I desperately wiped at every soiled spot I could find in a wet chicken panic about bacteria worth it.
6) The way you shake your head back and forth vigorously when you’re sleepy. It’s like you’re saying, No, world, no. I can’t go on. I can’t stay awake, no matter how much you protest.
7) Then, once you’ve fallen asleep, the way your lips still sometimes do a phantom suck, as if you’re dreaming of drinking the warmest, sweetest bottles of nipple nectar the world’s ever invented.
8) The way you feel my face like a blind man would, all the while looking up at me in wonder. Sure, sometimes the claws come out, but the blind scratch heartily at peoples’ cheeks to show affection too, right?
9) The way you, so generously, let me read to you. M is for Monkey is your current favorite, and it’s no The Brothers Karamazov, but I’ll give you a few years to get into Dostoevsky.
10) The way you indulge me with our matching PJs for Mommy Daughter Pajama Day. I won’t ever pierce your ears or paint your fingers. I ain’t that kind of lady, Lily. But I’ll be damned if we aren’t the cutest Mama Bear/Baby Bear pajama’d dynamic duo.
In all fairness, I got this early birthday gift for your Daddy (“from” you):
All of which is to say, Thank You, Lily, for all that you do to enrich my life and make me truly, indescribably happy. Now wake up from your nap so we can get back to the business of PJ Day!
- “MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds” by FireflySixtySeven – work using Inkscape, based on Maslow’s paper, A Theory of Human Motivation.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svg#/media/File:MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svg
- “Cloud in the sunlight” by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives – hey son, get out of the clouds. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cloud_in_the_sunlight.jpg#/media/File:Cloud_in_the_sunlight.jpg