Our beloved dog Otis has started to show his age. With his 12th birthday coming up next month, he has taken on the attributes of a true senior. He wants to eat dinner at 4:30, go to bed by 8, and is slow to get up from a resting position.
Over the past year, his appetite has diminished significantly. One day I opened a piece of string cheese, Sargento Colby Jack, and he didn’t care enough to bolt to my feet with those begging brown eyes. That’s when I knew we had a problem. The next day, the vet confirmed our fears: Otis is sick. He had a tumor the size of lemon in his spleen, and after much discussion, our family opted for surgery in hopes we can extend his life a little longer. A week later, when the veterinarian was sharing the results of the pathology report, she made a profound statement that may become my new personal motto. When I asked if there was anything else we could do for him, she replied, “Yes. Don’t be stingy with the treats.”
Of course, that was her polite way of confirming what we already knew: Otis Campbell Guest is in his sunset years of life. I jokingly said to a friend, I wish someone would give ME that instruction when my time comes! That’s when it occurred to me that the word “treats” can mean so much more than sweet calories. A treat is anything that makes us as happy as a Milk-Bone makes Otis.
My first book, Wrapped in Stillness: A personal retreat guide, has a chapter on figuring out what makes you happy. It includes an exercise to help you identify the things that bring you joy and asks a few probing questions to wake you up a bit. For example, when is the last time you did “that thing” that makes you happy? Over the years as a professional speaker, I have talked with a lot of people side-stage. That’s the moment right after a speech while the room is clearing out and a few people come up to the platform to share a private thought or tell me a tale they know I will enjoy. I cannot tell you how many times a person will share a story of being unhappy in some way— with their job, their boss, even their own actions. I can see it in their eyes, each one is hoping I have a special piece of advice that will make it better.
Here is what I know for sure: Happy doesn’t come and knock on your door and say, “Hi, I’m here!” We must go and seek it.
Seeking happy might mean setting stronger boundaries in your personal life. Do you need to stop saying yes to every request made of you?
Happy might mean a controlled calendar. Who can have a slice of your time and who can’t?
Happy might mean planning special events or meet-ups you had to postpone over the past year. Are you ready to take the first step to make that happen?
For me, the happy moments are found in quiet times. After several decades of a hectic balancing act of family life versus a career on the road, I realized I’m tired! The silver lining of 2020 was having the chance to rest guilt-free. I took up a new hobby that I love. I’ve completed tasks that have been patiently waiting on my to-do list for years! And, most importantly, I’ve had quiet time to think and plan on what the next phase of life looks like at the Guest House.
What’s your definition of a treat? Whatever it is, give yourself permission to be generous in consumption. Now is not the time to be stingy.