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You may only call me “Mrs Darcy”…when you are completely, and perfectly, and incandescently happy

-Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

I love the idea of being “incandescently happy”.  This quote from Pride and Prejudice struck me when I first heard it, and it has stayed with me ever since. I can’t help but wonder what “incandescent happiness” is. It must go beyond contentment, pleasant comfort, or just plain happy excitement. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is…joy. Pure joy.

I’ve been watching the Olympics pretty closely this past week. I always find myself getting wrapped up in the Games…whether Summer or Winter. I love seeing unusual sports like skeleton, curling, and ski jumping. I’m amazed by what the athletes are capable of…whether it’s twisting multiple times in the air and landing on a narrow blade on ice, or hurtling down a mountain at dizzying speeds. I enjoy hearing the stories of the faces behind the hockey masks and ski goggles. But most of all, I love seeing the unknown who comes out of obscurity to grab a medal.  They just shine with that joy, that incandescent happiness, in their Moment. It seems to me that the “favorites” often look hunted and haunted. If they do win gold, it’s often a look of relief more than joy on their faces. But the unknowns…I think they all have the dream and belief that they could do it, but it’s still a little bit unexpected, even to them. 

It got me thinking. My own Moments of incandescent happiness…they have almost all been the Unexpected Moments. Sometimes, the events I’ve most looked forward to (or tried to plan) have ended up being great, but not quite moments of joy. The same is true of attempting to recreate something that was magical the first time. Memorable, but not repeatable. No, it’s the little details that we can’t plan for, the events we never expected, or seeing the goal that we dreamt about but never really expected to achieve met, that can elevate even the simplest experience to “incandescence”.


I’m not talking about thrill seeking, adrenaline infused moments, or crazy things like winning the lottery. They can be unplanned and life altering, but…it can be so much simpler. Watching that summer storm move down the coastline and laughing as you run back to the car just before the skies open. Walking an empty beach and being the only one to see sea turtles tumbling over one another in the breakers. Having the horse you loved as a little girl lay her head, just for a moment, on your shoulder. Opening the letter that said that yes, after all those years of studying, you’ve been accepted into vet school.  Meeting friends you never knew you had, thousands of miles from home.

Few Moments have been as clearly incandescent for me as those spent in the company of whales. Despite being fascinated with them as a child, and even volunteering with a research program studying them, I had never actually seen a whale in close proximity until just a few years ago.  To be out on the water, on a silent, softly rolling sea, and then have a massive fluke rise beside the boat with almost no warning is an experience like no other. While it’s possible to maximize your chances of seeing whales by being familiar with their habits and habitats, there is still no guarantee that you will be brought together at the same moment. It’s a part of what makes a sighting so special. No guarantee. No expectation. No planning or promise…

Just the feeling of joy of sharing the Incandescent Happiness of the Unexpected