Last Thursday, I gave myself permission to take a hot bath. In the middle of the day. With piles of laundry yet to be washed, a dog that desperately wanted a walk, and a dinner plan yet to be determined. I ran a deep, hot bath, added a few drops of lavender essential oil, lit a candle, and stepped in.
The tub is set in the corner of the room with large windows framing two sides, frosted below for privacy, and open to the sky on top. Lying back, I could see a triangle of roof with the downspout attached, a few bare tree branches, and grey sky. We have enjoyed a lot of sunshine in the last week and temperatures in the upper 50s, but today was grey with spitting rain and that soft light that makes it impossible to tell what time of day it is without consulting a clock.
As I let my thoughts drift away a smile appeared on the right side of my lips. My nostrils flared slightly and the left side of my mouth followed until I was positively grinning. For no reason. I hadn’t just remembered something funny or sweet or thought about something exciting in the near future. I just smiled.
As I pondered this strange, unprompted grin, I recalled something my nine-year-old said to me once. And I finally understood what she meant.
When she said it, we were leaving the hospital after having just paid a visit to her favorite teacher. Mrs. H had suffered a severe bout of pain and dizziness the night before and was rushed to the ER and evaluated for a stroke. She was disoriented and confused and, at the time of our visit, still in some measure of discomfort. And the doctors had no real answers. Despite that, she was delighted to see Lola and I walk in to her room and she immediately squeezed us both tightly and began talking in her rushed, irreverent way. The three of us were laughing within minutes and Lola perched on the side of the hospital bed with Mrs. H’s arm draped over her. We bounced from topic to topic, dipping our toes in the waters of concern, but mostly skipping lightly around school, pets, and things we were looking forward to. When Mrs. H began to get tired, Lola and I left, promising to check back later in the day.
As we walked down the hospital corridor, I began to feel a bit melancholy. I caught glimpses of other patients, lying in bed asleep with mouths agape, struggling to get out of bed, pushing IV poles down the hallway as they steadied themselves against a nurse or a loved-one. I thought about Mrs. H and all she has meant to us and our family over the years and found myself sending an urgent wish out to the Universe that she heal quickly and completely. I was lost in my own thoughts until I felt Lola’s bouncing gait next to me and looked at her.
She was half-walking, half-skipping down the hall, bopping her head from shoulder to shoulder and singing a little song under her breath. Her eyes twinkled with mischief and she wore a huge grin.
“What are you so happy about, little one?” I asked, relieved. I had originally resisted bringing her, worried that it might upset her to see her beloved teacher sick or in pain.
Lola stopped mid-stride, cocked her head up at me in confusion and let out a laugh.
“Mom. You don’t need any reason at all to be happy. You need a reason to be sad or upset or angry, but you can be happy just because you’re happy.”
I laughed, too, thinking that it was such a “Lola” thing to say. She truly believes it. She lives it.
It wasn’t until today in the bathtub that it sank in for me. As the smile crept across my face, the first thought I had was, ‘what are you smiling about?’ The answer that came to me first was, ‘Nothing.
I don’t need a reason to be happy.’
*This essay is one of several that originally appeared in BuddhaChick Life Magazine. As the magazine is no longer available, I am reposting it here so readers can find it.