“I just want to be happy!” How many times have you said or thought that? I know I have. What is this “happiness” we long for? Why does it seem so elusive and fickle?
Perhaps a place to start is to understand that “happy” is an emotion and not a state of being. Like any other emotion, it comes and goes depending on the situation. All people are capable of feeling it, but sometimes we don’t recognize it when it comes along. Knowing that it can exit as quickly as it arrived scares us. So the exclamation, “I just want to be happy!” may really mean, “I want to recognize “happy” when it comes, and be able to feel it.”
I think when most of us cry out for “happiness,” we mean a general state of being – contentment, peace, acceptance, safety. It is not about making all the bad stuff go away; it is something that says, “I will be OK regardless of the bad stuff.” Happiness originates from inside us. “If I just made more money…if I just could lose 20 pounds…if my partner could just talk to me and appreciate me… if I could just find a partner…if only someone would notice me… if only, if only, if only – then I would find happiness.” The pursuit of happiness from the outside always seems to fall just short. Who am I kidding – it often falls very short.
I wonder if the pursuit of happiness is really a pursuit of self. Imagine saying and believing, “ I am content with my strengths and stumbles. I am at peace with my choices. I accept myself for all of who I am. I am safe with my emotions.” The “happiest” person I ever knew embodied those qualities. I met her in her 60’s and knew her until she passed. This was a woman of modest means and many physical challenges throughout the years. She was content with her life because it included all she really needed. She accepted more than expected from herself and, in turn, from others. She found peace and safety in the world through her faith and life experience. That’s not to say she never felt depressed or angry or disappointed. She simply accepted those as parts of who she was.
And so I begin my blog with this entry. Am I “happy” with it? I am content to share some thoughts. These are just my thoughts and never answers or facts or recipes for success. My goal in this blog is to share thoughts, research, reactions, and stories as the opening of a conversation – I welcome your thoughts and responses. So…how do you define “happiness”?