The Secret of Happiness

The Greek philosopher, Epicetus, once said:

“Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go well.”

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????It’s a bit like that old saying that the secret to happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have. Can we learn to live like that, I wonder? It’s not always easy, but I think I might be getting there at last!

When I started out on this writing journey I enjoyed the writing for itself, for the sheer escapism that creating whole worlds and casts of characters in my imagination gave me. But then I decided to get a bit more serious about it. I was told, and not just by my mum, that my first novel might have what it takes to find a publisher. That was when the fun started to ebb away. I wasn’t writing for the love of it anymore, I was writing to please someone else – an agent, a publisher, a reviewer – and, guess what, almost every single opinion was at odds. I wrote myself in knots and lost sight of what I wanted.

Then I went on holiday to a beautiful place in Western France with family and friends. I was ready to escape from everything, confused by the offers that had come in for my bookA holiday shot1 and beginning to question whether I wanted to be published at all. I was so scared of making the wrong decision, so scared of making a decision at all, that it was paralyzing me.

I didn’t write on that trip, but spent the time drinking, talking, kayaking down peaceful rivers and laughing hard – as though my life was going well. And slowly it all became clear; it really was. It might not have been as I’d mapped out in my head how my life would go, but it was perfect in its own completely unexpected way. I was with my family. Not a traditional one perhaps, but a modern ‘yours, mine and ours’ family. Three gorgeous children brought together by my husband and I, and the one we added together – my wonderful blended family who get on better than almost any other I know. I never expected this, never thought I’d have to marry twice to get it right, but I truly wouldn’t have it any other way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI didn’t want to get cancer, who would? But I did and it changed my life in all kinds of ways I would never have imagined. It showed me what really mattered and the people to whom I mattered too. It made me re-evaluate my life, giving up a job that was sucking the joy out of everything, and started me off on this writing journey of mine. Which, I guess, brings me back full circle. Could the tranquillity of Western France solve the writing dilemma for me too? I think it did.

Since coming home I’ve stopped worrying about what might be or what might happen if I make a certain choice. I’ve now signed a deal with a publisher who are making some of my dreams come true and instinctively know how to make it fun for their authors. I’ll be back with the details in September when I have a bit more to reveal, but for now I know Epicetus was right… want events to happen as they do and your life will go well.

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23 thoughts on “The Secret of Happiness

  1. So pleased for you, Jay. So well-deserved. I know the feeling of being paralysed into doing nothing because you don’t know which option to take. I also recognise the confusion when different people give their opinions and they all conflict and you just get more and more confused.
    Sometimes you just need to switch off and be still. Sounds like you’ve gone through a lot, but look how far you’ve come. You’ve achieved so much and it couldn’t happen to a nicer person. You’ve been so encouraging and supportive to me. I’m so proud of you and I know you’re going to be a big success. But you know what? You already are!
    Congratulations, Jay! xx

    • Thanks, Sharon 🙂 I definitely needed that time to switch off and remember what it was I really wanted. I know you have some big decisions to make too, but whichever way you decide to share your fabulous stories with the world, I know they will bring pleasure to whoever reads them. Your anthology story is wonderful too and that will be out in the big, wide world in ten weeks’ time! It’s an exciting time for us all and I am really grateful to be able to share it with other lovely writers like you xx

  2. This is very timely for me as we went to see Hector and the Search for Happiness at the cinema last night and it made me realise we can all be striving for future happiness and miss out on enjoying the happiness we have right now. Life may not be perfect but the future isn’t likely to be either so let’s be grateful for the blessings we already have!

    x

    • I haven’t heard of that film, Liz, but will have to check it out now. I think we can get so caught up worrying about what has happened in the past and, even more so, what might happen in the future, that we don’t enjoy the here and now. I know I am often guilty of that. I would love to crack that mindfulness thing and I am working on it! I think a night at the cinema is on the cards and what could be more perfect than that and a big, bag of popcorn 🙂 x

  3. What a beautiful, thought provoking post Jay. I’m so pleased you are happy and where you want to be. No-one deserves it more. “Remember what happened to the boy who got everything he wished for, he lived happily ever after” my favourite line from Willy Wonka 😉

    Helen xx

    • Thank you Helen, what a wonderful line, you’re right. Roald Dahl, now there’s a writer to aspire to and yet, by all accounts, he wasn’t a happy man. Success is great, but I really do think relationships mean so much more and you know that more than anyone. Here’s to the next time we meet for vanilla vodka and putting the world to rights xx

  4. Hi Jay,
    I love this post…it’s inspirational and makes us think in a different way. Only today I was telling my daughters that they should try to think of what they do have in life not what they don’t have. There’s a lot to be grateful for and your post really resonated with me.
    I’m so happy that your publishing journey is well on its way…can’t wait to read your book!
    Helen R x

    • Thanks Helen. I tell my children exactly the same all the time, but I think they have to come to that realisation for themselves. Although my son is always singing and, when I asked him why, he said “it’s because I have a wonderful life”. How fab is that? That’s not to say he doesn’t throw a strop from time to time, but somewhere deep, down, he already knows 🙂

      I know your writing journey is on the edge of changing in big ways too and that will give us even more reasons to celebrate what we’ve got xx

  5. Jay that is a really beautiful post and so true!!! I’ve just realised that is why I love that visual blog ‘The Murmuring Cottage’ cos it takes the ordinary and makes us look at them in a different way, it makes the ordinary special. We are indeed blessed and its nice to remember that rather than constantly hunt the next purchase.

  6. What a lovely post, Jo. It’s easy to become focused on something you really want to the detriment of things you already have. I appreciate my family and my life so much more as I’ve got older. Yes, being published is important to me and all of my writing friends, but at the end of the day, we are all very lucky people to have wonderful friends and family to share the journey. x

  7. Thanks Jackie, your response about the publication thing is spot on. The best thing about it has been sharing it with friends and family. My mum’s reaction, just as I knew it would be, has been the most special – tears in her eyes as she told me how proud my dad would have been. So, if I sell ten copies or ten thousand, it doesn’t really matter, because that moment’s mine to keep xx

  8. Really beautiful post, Jay. Loved it when I read it a couple of days ago and love it even more with the pictures and comments.

    I remember a Garfield poster someone bought me with “remember to stop and eat the flowers” on it. I didn’t get it. My dad explained it was a play on “remember to stop and smell the flowers”. I still didn’t get it until much later. But this is exactly what you describe. It’s so easy to get stressed with the what ifs and worries about wrong decisions but it’s pointless because you’ll never know where the other fork in the path could take you. Easier said than done, though!

    Delighted you’ve found your joy mojo. Hoping a week off next week will sort me out too.

    Jessica xxx

    • Thanks for pre-reading this for me and reassuring me it was okay to post. I hope you get you mojo too, Jessica, and you will have another lovely holiday to look forward to in a couple of months.

      I love Garfield, he shares my passion for lasagne, after all! I think you are right about the fork in the road, you can only choose the direction that feels right for you at the time. I can’t wait to hear about the next direction you choose and I know you will make it a success xx

  9. Great post, Jay. How true it is that we can become so involved in getting the next thing and the next that we forget the treasures we already hold in our hands. xx

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