Anticipating happiness: planning versus surprise…

So I’m cultivating a theory about happiness, which sounds poncy and above my station but I’m hopeful that it’s neither. It’s just that it has been occurring to me for some time that anticipation is half of what makes whatever you’re anticipating worth it, and the bad that precedes or follows the good is part of what makes us recognise the good for what it is.

Sometimes anticipation is the entirety of the payoff – the reality never measures up. Like when you look forward to a day off in the middle of an endless cycle of busy, and yet feel bored and slovenly when it finally arrives. Sometimes you anticipate something that is never realised, because you didn’t know what you actually wanted, and when you get there you choose different. Like how on the second day of our annual beach holiday as a kid my Dad would pack us into the car to go strawberry picking or historic village exploring or giant fruit admiring… and now why my idea of a holiday involves driving and looking and visiting much more than lounging.

Case in point: Holiday in 02. Parents and youngest sis posing with a giant bird…

We’re in the middle of pre-exams at college, and my every spare hour in the next 3 weeks has been plotted and allocated and excel spreadsheet sorted, by a slightly nervous me. Now the folly of journalism as a degree is taunting me – I haven’t done an exam since high school! 11 years! Hence the lists and columns and crazy.

Anyway, life happens and it happened today and I found myself needing to drive to castle hill, which is perilously close to where my Sis and favourite nephews and niece are, which means I completely thwarted my plans and spent the afternoon with them. You know what? It was glorious. Gloriously, marvellously, shiningly brilliant. And the 2 unexpected hours I spent there holding my rice-cereal eating, babygro wearing nephew, drinking coffee and chatting to Hails were so much richer for comparing them to the day I thought I would have.

Mr B and me

In 3 weeks I will be back there, for a whole week of Aunty time. I can’t wait, am seriously counting down, but I also think that unless I am careful it will be unlikely to contain quite the same unique triumph and joy of today, because that joy came from out of the alternative of Greek paradigms and yet another garden salad. And that’s life, isn’t it? The contrasts separate it all from melding into grey and just ok.


Put another way, there are 2 roads in the world that I am so excited to drive down I can barely remember to brake, and both of them are the roads to my family. One to my sister & co, one to my folks. I think about walking in those two very different doors for the last few kilometres of driving, so that by the time I arrive I practically leap out of the car. The anticipatory excitement is a self-fulfilling prophecy: I feel excited to be there equals those places are exciting. There are tangible reasons I love arriving at either place – hugs and howling dingoes and excited ‘Aunty Lolly’ shouts – but imagining those things before they happen makes the fulfilment of them the cherry on top, instead of the first spoonful. Does any of this make sense?

A perfect Autumn afternoon in Hails backyard…

It just occurred to me today when I feel engulfed by busyness and the thought of having a whole week off (let alone 3) seems like an impossible, glimmering dream, that now is the time to reflect and be thankful. Now is the time to identify the ok and the hard and the bad and the delightful and the ordinary nuances of this lovely place, and really feel them, so that in a few weeks when life is different I will properly appreciate the other. I don’t want to be someone who always wants different, greener grass, who can become used to staggering blessing. I want, so much, to feel the weight of now and understand the composition of happiness as a culmination of happy and not happy and longing to be and remembering was.

In summary, I am so thankful for little unexpected blessings in what I thought was a mapped out day, and for the reminder that life in all its nuance and complication is better unplanned, by this little p planner.


3 thoughts on “Anticipating happiness: planning versus surprise…

  1. Lovely to read and thought provoking at the same time Laura. Reminds me also of thoughts our perceptive, youngest son expressed to me many years ago when he was a teenager, though not in such a poet fashion. Love, Angela

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