When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses. ~Joyce Brothers
In the issue of Parade Magazine that came with the Sunday paper there is a little quiz entitled "Sunny Side Up" by Colleen Oakley. One of the most intriguing questions is this:
"Research shows that vacation-goers feel happiest: a) a month before they take off for their destination b) in the middle of the vacation c) right after they get back"
It seemed obvious to me that c was not the right answer. But I had to think a little about a and b. I thought there should have been another choice: d) both a and b.
According to the article, the correct answer is a - the happiest part of vacation for many is the anticipation. Dutch researchers found that "planning a vacation can improve your mood for up to two months before the actual trip". The question sadly assumes that your vacation isn't likely to live up to your anticipation of it. My vacations have generally been just as happy as the anticipation, but in a different way - a less fretful, calmer, more relaxing way.
The happiness that comes from anticipation seems to contradict one of the other questions in the quiz:
"True or false? Optimists are happier than pessimists." The answer is "false" and the reason is "lowered expectations mean less disappointment in life." I do believe that having realistic expectations of life and especially of people contributes to happiness. But I don't think that having realistic expectations makes me a pessimist.
|Vacationing at the beach with my family|
Back to the first question on happiness and vacations. Vacationing with family makes me happy - the anticipation of it, the vacation itself, and the memories of it. Most members of our family - our children and our sisters and brothers, live so far away that a visit usually involves an overnight stay. When we vacation together what I want most - and the only real expectation I have - is that we enjoy each other's company. I want us all to be together without expectation of anything greater than loving each other and strengthening the bond that is already there. It helps that our vacation spots have always been places where relaxation is the primary activity and that we are aware and understanding of each other's idiosyncrasies. I can't think of a time when the happiness of the anticipation outweighed the happiness of the time together.
|The Tarleton siblings and spouses|
And here is the essential happiness ingredient that is not even mentioned in the Parade quiz: love of family.
You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them. ~Desmond Tutu