The butterfly of happiness


Sometimes I need to stop and remind myself that I am, actually, happy.

This should seem like an easy thing to remember.  I have a loving family, my health, a place in which to live (so what if it is small and chronically cluttered?), enough food to eat.  I don’t live in a place torn by violence or persecution.  I have books; I have friends; I have my spiritual life.  That’s not bad, all told.

And yet, so often, I need a reminder.

About two summers ago, I wrote about how I started to notice a yellow butterfly in the backyard.  It was big and beautiful, and it would flutter about as I sat in the yard writing or gardening or watching the boys play with water toys on the lawn.  It was so large and unmissable and it always came so very close to us, just like a butterfly in a Disney movie,  that I began to see it not merely as a butterfly, but as a symbol of happiness.  I felt a connection to it.  For months afterwards, I’d see it, and think about my many blessings.

As the seasons changed, though, it was easy to forget about my little friend.  Autumn and winter are not good seasons for seeing butterflies.  And this has been a tough fall and winter, with some very big challenges at work which have been hard not to carry with me into all other areas of my life.

And then a few weeks ago, I was at Filoli admiring the lilacs.   Lilacs are like a religion to me; I was burying my face in them and inhaling deeply, trying to fill my lungs with enough scent to see me through the year until they bloom again next spring.  I happened to be carrying some brand-new work stress with me that day, and the purple smell of the lilacs was doing its part to mitigate it, but it was a particularly tenacious kind of stress.  I was having a hard time getting past it.

Then, all of a sudden, a yellow butterfly landed on the lilac blooms. It was the first butterfly I’ve seen this year.


And I started grinning, right there by the lilacs.  I couldn’t help it.  It was a graceful, yellow, airborne version of a smack upside the head.  You are happier than you realize, that butterfly reminded me.

It stayed for a long, long time on the lilacs.  It let me get very close.  And I won’t say the stress was entirely gone, but those lilacs and that butterfly did help me find a perspective I needed. They reminded me that God speaks to me in all kinds of ways, some of them small and delicate and beautiful.

 What is reminding you to be happy today?

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