How We Ambush Our Happiness


Ever been hurt in a relationship?  Or accused your partner for something you knew deep inside wasn’t their responsibility?  It seems customary in our world for people to pull back from that very person they may love and to feel betrayed by their partner’s failures or what we judge as failure. 

A great deal of dissatisfaction is socially inflicted from our beliefs in the guidelines and unwritten rules of society; we are conditioned to blame our partners for our unhappiness.  But is it really their responsibility to make us happy?  Or is it our right, and our obligation alone to make ourselves happy? 

We ought to accept that our partner is not ideal in every way although he/she is ideal in many ways.  When wishing your partner were different, why not remind yourself of all the ways they are the person you want to be with?  Focus on the positives to work out any negative feelings.  Somehow our  disappointment feels so “personal” we see no other possibility but to hunt for psychological reasons – that is, to blame our partner for our personal happiness. 

People work themselves up over the ordinary problems of relationships, for which they usually fail to see their own contributions.  They badger their partners to change and convince themselves nothing will shift or change and so they work their way out of a really good relationship.  More than ever we are paying attention to the most volatile elements of our emotional makeup – elements too reactive to fleeting events to give meaning to life. 

Ultimately how is anyone going to stack up against this perfect person who is out there somewhere just waiting to be found?  It creates doubt about the person you are with, someone you might be in love with, yet you keep thinking who knows what is possible out there?  What am I missing if I stay in my current relationship?  The grass is always greener theory never seems to prove itself does it …

Do you play the dissatisfaction or heartbreak game?  Heightened sensitivity to relationship problems that follow from constantly appraising our happiness only serves to encourage us to turn our dissatisfaction into our own personal heartbreak.  It’s a no win situation for us or our partner. 

Through the alchemy of desire, our wants become needs and unfulfilled needs become our personal tragedies.  Simple as that, sadly.  We take the everyday disappointments in our relationships and treat them as intolerable, and see them as demeaning, sort of the equivalent of alcoholism or abuse.  And, of course, we gauge that we want and must get out of that relationship and fast. 

Important as it is for us to choose the right partner, probably it is more important to actually be the right partner.  We often focus on changing the wrong person.  If anyone has to change in a relationship, isn’t it us – although preferably with the help of a partner?  We feel that we deserve better than we’re getting and tend to give up on the relationship in order to find the perfect Mr. or Ms. Right.

Life worth living, in my opinion, is a life worth having – one in which you and your partner are happy, focused and working just as hard on your relationship as you do playing sports, or working at your job/career.

I don’t believe that each current relationship is where those two partners should be.  But if you look at the stats for marriages, the breakdown and finality: the divorce rate is higher than 50%.  This is a staggering statistic. 

Happiness is holding on to your values, deciding who you are and who you want to be and being that person.  Use your talents, invest in yourself and others and most especially invest in your relationship. 

Simple Pleasures


Step back in time and enjoy a simpler era.  Remember growing up?  Some of the most treasured moments in life are those spent together outdoors.  Watching wildlife, hiking on a trail or playing at a park, nature seems to provide the perfect setting for fun.  A week doesn’t go by that I don’t hear, “remember the good ol’ days” and I transcend into visions of those days.  I remember healthy bike rides, walking along the beach exploring, hiking the trails at historic Ft. Barton in New England.  It was awesome looking out over Blueberry Hill to the panorama of sailboats in Mount Hope Bay, the Sakonnet River and around the Sakonnet River Lighthouse.  Indelible photos remain in my memory recounting the many smiles I wore back then. 

Whether together as a couple or with family, get away from ‘reality TV shows’ and start living reality.  Don’t disconnect with nature, reconnect and take your children, your spouse, or your friends along.  Experts claim that outdoor activity declines with age and thus your health with the decline.  But parents can help build lasting memories while reconnecting with their kids with the outdoors through outdoor family activities. 

Spring is a perfect time, after a sedentary and very cold winter last year, to burst onto the scene and explore nature.  One of life’s simple pleasures is watching wildlife in their natural habitat. 

photo by Joan Pyke

 Equip yourself with a camera, or binoculars and go out to your local parks and hiking trails and identify the array of birds and various animals you see there.  Or head out to a local nature preserve or wildlife habitat.  Bring a pen and notebook along to jot down animals and birds spotted during this adventure.  Turn this outdoor family activity into one done monthly, if you can, and ensure you build a scrapbook out of all the pictures, notes and discoveries made together while exploring nature. 


My husband Martin and I went to Sawgrass Lake Park, 400 acres in size, with one of the largest maple swamps on the Gulfcoast of Florida.   It was the ideal day with temperatures in the upper 70s, no humidity, full sunshine and a slight breeze – an absolutely picture perfect Florida day.   Sawgrass Lake Park has a mile long boardwalk, with sitting areas along the way and culminating with Overlook Tower.  Sawgrass is here in Pinellas County, one of the most densely populated counties in Florida and yet we saw birds such as egrets, wood storks, ibis, and an aningha drying out his wingspans in the sun. 

photo by Joan Pyke

We also photographed the most adorable turtles, a rather interesting  eight-foot long alligator and a few smaller ones, exquisite butterflies, mischievous raccoons and rascally squirrels.  


And did you know that Sawgrass Lake Park is mentioned by the National Audubon Society as one of the premier birding sites in Florida.  I’m in awe and so thankful that it’s a part of my life.  And guess what folks?  It’s free!  Uh huh, you won’t have to pay exorbitant fees (think the Florida theme parks) to enjoy a fun-filled, adventurous day. 

photo by Joan Pyke

Plan an electronic free day to embrace life’s simple pleasures as we did as children.  Those were the best of times that we can share again and include our own children in the pictures this time.  Head to a nearby park and fill your day with activities that past generations may have enjoyed when they were children.  Try skipping stones across a placid lake or pond or relearn how to fly a kite.  Build sand castles at the beach – what a wonderful ‘team’ building activity too.  Identify the types of trees and birds you find at the park.  Watch dragonflies dance across the water as I did.  I found myself glued to their sight … something so simple, yet magical and marvelous. 

Remember my friends, as parents you can help your children get outdoors again while rediscovering some of the simplest pleasures of life.  Nature serves as the world’s largest playground … my dad used to say that.  Oh my gosh, have I become my dad?  Well, it’s okay I suppose as I get it now. 

Best of all, most of these simple pleasures are free or very affordable, and making them ideal family activities to do together without spending a fortune.  The memories you’ll have and your kids will take with them into adulthood will be priceless treasures.  After all, some of the best things in life are still free!