It’s come to my attention, embarrassingly late in the game, that I am living with a real-life spiritual master. Forget running off to India, to study, cross-legged, at the feet of a maddeningly serene yogi. No need to attend a silent retreat run by a wise and beatific elderly nun. Here, in my home, I have discovered a soul who seems to have unlocked the secrets to eternal happiness and oddly enough, this soul resides in the body of a thirteen year old girl.

It must be the inner turmoil brought on by the past few years that finally opened my eyes to what was right in front of me. Closing my business, ushering Miss Teen Wonder off to college, losing my much loved Grandmother, the looming realization that -to paraphrase Meg Ryan- I’m going to be fifty…someday; all these have left me, wandering in an internal funk, constantly asking the question, “What the hell am I doing with my life anyway?” And there, dancing, most often literally, around the periphery was my daughter. Let’s call her “Sunshine.”

Sunshine is half of the amazing duo– the twin girls– in the middle of our family. She is tiny, but sturdy, with a laugh that seems far too big for the bitty body she inhabits. She has a thousand watt smile and hair as big as her heart. She is up for anything, always. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

Born this way.

I’m not sure how she has managed to amass such an affinity for happiness and contentment at such a young age. She is, as I mentioned, a twin. Perhaps rather than splitting the DNA down the middle, each girl received total possession of a few gifts. Her sister is fiercely competitive (a trait Sunshine has not a trace of) and if she stopped rolling her eyes at me for even a second, I suspect the resulting lack of equilibrium would cause her head to wobble right off the stalk, so perhaps there is something to this theory. Or maybe it is because her mind is unencumbered with tedious minutia…for example, the practical application of volume. That, perhaps, when one is trying to put a sizable amount of left-over soup into the refrigerator, one might choose to use, say, a large container, rather than roughly twenty-seven half-pint mason jars. When I open the refrigerator doors and spy a sea of tiny glass bottles, all containing the same, exact substance I feel as if my brain might explode. It doesn’t bother Sunshine one whit. She’ll cheerfully rummage through the lot, looking for the mustard or the last bit of salami, happy as a clam. I don’t think she has an idea that there is any other way to be in the world. And that is my new directive as her mother– to make sure that she never does.

My other goal is to study her like a lab rat. To learn what she so effortlessly knows. Here is what I’ve sussed out so far:

The Sunshine Rules

1) Happiness isn’t (or shouldn’t be) dependent on your circumstances. The fact that you are awake and breathing is cause enough to break into song. Sunshine wakes up happy. Is she headed to school? To run errands with her dad? Spending the day cleaning her room? It’s all good. Happiness for me is much more conditional. The answers to the questions “What do I have to do today?” “Do these jeans still fit?” or “Are we out of coffee?” affect me far more than they should.

2) Music is magic. Sunshine is never NOT singing, hence she moves through the house, not with the determined head-down, goose-stepping march of her mother (I’ve got things to DO, people!) but with a perpetual shimmy. If you are accompanied by your own soundtrack every waking moment is a dance party. Plenty of spiritual traditions give credence to the uplifting power of certain audio vibrations– I just didn’t imagine that the Demi Lovato songbook was, in fact, a hymnal of sorts.

3) Be a cheerleader. Now this is something Sunshine and her sister share. They are unflaggingly, unceasingly, unerringly supportive. They are never –listen to me, now– never, not ever, jealous. If something good happens to the folks around them, they are as happy as if it was happening to themselves. Check out Sunshine’s Facebook page. If you post any good news, any at all, “My baby just turned one!” or “Loved this movie!” or “Delicious lunch with friends.” Sunshine will not just “like” your post, you are getting a string of emojis, the likes of which you have never before seen. Who doesn’t feel on top of the world when she responds to your new profile pic with, “You are GORGEOUS!!!!!! (kissy face, kissy face, heart, heart, winking cat,  heart, high five, cat high five, thumbs up)” It is my favorite thing in the world, and one I have already started using, my own self. The fact that you do not have such enthusiastic cheerleaders in your life, well, I just feel plain sorry for you.

I don’t know if any of this is helpful to you, but I feel as if my own life gets dramatically better when I remember to follow The Sunshine Rules. I’ve read literally hundreds of books dedicated to unlocking the secret of a happy and contented life and none of them have been as effective as Sunshine’s effortless wisdom; Be happy where you are, sing a little song and encourage the people around you. Enlightenment in three, easy steps. Use them if you’d like– we’ll be here, cheering you on.


The Rise & Fall of a Momocracy

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