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Happiness is a dangerous subject.

I’ve spent so much of my life wishing to either a) be someone else or b) have different circumstances and possessions that would make me happier. I’ve had very dark days, where I thought I would never feel happy again. And I’ve tried to engineer the circumstances so that happiness would take its assigned place at the perfectly laid table and stay awhile. Far too often, it hasn’t shown up at all. Or, even worse, the dreaded “should” looms over me when everything is a success, and logically, I should be feeling joyous, but all that registers is despair, anxiety or emptiness.

I always remember walking home from school one day, the twin honours of top student and valedictorian jostling for a place amongst the popularity and winning basketball team accolades, all the while feeling completely grey.

I’ve also spent a lot of money and time chasing happiness. If only I had (fill in the blank here), then I would actually be happy.

But as a warm, subtle Vancouver summer walks softly beside me, I realise that days like today, infused with happiness, have very little to do with my list of ideals or perfect conditions of existence.

I slipped into the salty water off Dundarave Beach, fully dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, decidedly out of shape from a month of fine dining and vacationing, and slipped further into a happiness that hasn’t stopped flowing since last month when we stepped on a plane to England.

I swam out to sea with my brother, past the self-conscious, constantly readjusting, bikini-clad beach goers and a man talking urgently on his cell phone about business while knee-deep in water.  Immersed in the warm, salty, wetness of lucky Vancouver’s very own ocean, my thoughts ran along the same lines as my nephew’s.

He’d been chanting, in his adorable three-year old voice, “Beach, bucket, water,” since we loaded the car with picnic supplies and sunblock. As I lingered in the waves, I could see him sitting in the sand, filling his blue plastic bucket with a cupful of ocean and beach at a time.

That’s all I need, really. A cupful of happiness at a time. And today, it came in the form of a simple song: ocean, family, freedom.  I’m soaked through and through.