This post is part of a series of happiness interviews.
Amber Marlow is an inspiration. In fact, she inspired me to start this series of happiness interviews.
Amber and I are blogging friends, and I try to make a point of seeing her whenever I get to New York City. She lives in a hip Brooklyn neighborhood and is a freelance photographer specializing in elopements and same-sex weddings. She radiates joy, I think, and she is just so damn cool. I admire her.
I asked her if I could interview her because of her work – a thriving business she created from scratch – and because of the way I’ve watched her bounce back from a painful divorce. She’s let herself grieve, but has also leaned on her friends for support. Most importantly, she’s never stopped laughing or sharing her megawatt smile with the world. It is my absolute pleasure to introduce her to you.
What makes you happy?
There are a hundred answers to this question, but for me it all boils down to living without clutter and doing my best.
That meant clearing out every last bit of clutter from my apartment, having a place for everything and everything in its place, and having all of my finances and important documents in order. After a year and a half of pursuing a very neat life it is still a work in progress, but I’ve recently hit a point where it all works and just needs fine tuning and maintenance.
Without clutter, I have space to entertain friends at home, room to think about pursuing bigger and better things in my career, and “space” to breathe and think. These are the things that actually make me happy, and I just don’t have the energy to do them when there’s a bunch of stuff laying around.
Doing my best makes me happy, too. It’s one of the principles in The Four Agreements, a book that my friend Emily Cavalier shared with me recently. Out of the four, “Always Do Your Best” is the one that I needed to internalize the most. Several times per day I ask myself, “Are you doing your best, Amber Marlow?” and will look down to see I’m eating a mediocre lunch, not one that will give me the nutrition I need to feel excellent, or I’m checking Twitter instead of working.
And, the fluffy answer: wine with friends, making art for a living and meeting new people, walking my sweet dogs, the almost magical convenience of living in New York City, dancing, working out and getting stronger every day, throwing parties, and reading excellent books. These things make me happy.
How and when did you figure that out?
Recently. I went through a rough period about a year ago when my five-year marriage fell apart. It was the most brutal thing I’ve ever gone through, and I pursued getting as happy as humanly possible in reaction to that – I needed to distance myself from that emotional rock bottom. I went to therapy to deal with some issues in my past, too, which helped tremendously, and it’s amazing to say that right now, I’m happier right now than I ever have been before in my life. I’m really proud of myself.
Happiness for me isn’t a line I crossed, it’s been a process. I choose to be happy daily; some days, that takes a bit of effort.
Once you discovered what makes you happy, did you find it easy to make that part of your life more frequently? Why or why not?
Yes, so much easier. I also learned that being fit makes me happy and have started making exercise a regular part of my life, something that was unthinkable to me two years ago. Working out is part of “doing my best”.
I’m also very happy when I’m surrounded by friends – my close ones are like family – so my schedule has “dinner with Kathryn” or “Skype hangout with Gavin” in my calendar like they are doctor’s appointments. I take friendship seriously! With my life in order, I have time to make these very important connections that fill up my soul.
Are there any “shoulds” you’ve had to let go of in order to pursue your happiness?
For sure. The notion that I should be 100% self-sufficient had to go.
When I became single, it was difficult to go from having a life partner to being the only person in charge of remembering to get milk, worry about the dogs’ vet appointments, or have someone always there when you’re struggling with something emotional, but I thought that was the way it was now.
Now I usually don’t run out of milk, but I’m if I’m dealing with something tough, I have good friends I can turn to instead of trying to hold myself together when I’m having a terrible moment. For example: my friends Jesse and Johanna in particular are ace at being there when I reach out and say, “Here, just hold my hand right now.” – sometimes that’s literal! – and I’ve built up a wonderful network of folks I can lean on and talk to. I have yoga buddies, brunch pals, professional networks that are supportive of my dreams, and friends I can call at two am.
That saying “No man is and island” is really true.