Monday, October 17, 2011

Happiness Is...

When Finian came home from school today, I just finished listening to (yet another) particularly gloomy news report about the economy.  The wind was howling, the rain was lashing fiercely against the windows and all in the world seemed grey and hopeless.  I was feeling scared, angry and helpless when in bounced Finian.
He zoomed around the house, squealing with excitement, practically pinging off the walls with joy.
Instantly, my day grew brighter and I could see that there was good stuff in the world worth living for.

So I got to thinking about happiness, and it seems that it's all about expectation.

Back when life was nasty, brutish and short, I imagine that happiness was surviving til tea-time, free of bubonic plague, with a full complement of limbs.
In times of famine, happiness is a full belly.
In times of war, the possession of a beating heart and functioning lungs is as good as it gets.

But it seems that the further removed we become from the simple act of living, the further removed we are from what it means to be  truly happy.
The satisfaction achieved from putting food on the table, and protecting your family from imminent death,  has been replaced by a nagging emptiness that will only be filled by an iPhone 4.

It seems that humans eternally strive for happiness but are incapable of achieving it, or at least of holding onto that slippery emotion when we do experience it.
Yet, why do we constantly search for it when it is just another emotion to be experienced and enjoyed?
All emotions are transient, and I think that's a good thing.
Happiness feels good, so of course we want more of it.  But it's a tall order to expect 24/7, thousand watt Happiness in a life filled with the colour of failure, hope, disappointment, excitement, anger and a whole stew of other emotions that are equally valuable.  Experiencing a thousand different emotions every day is normal and makes us richer, more interesting people. 

                                                           "Maybe I like the misery!"

If we lived in a permanently chilled state of Utopia, we would never experience the niggling doubts that urge us to challenge, create and improve.  Being slightly unhappy needles us into action that can have wonderful consequences.
If Thomas Edison was happy to sit in the dark, we'd still be reading by candle-light.
A vaguely unsettled feeling of unhappiness gives us a creative itch that has filled the world with art, books and technological advances.

Striving to achieve happiness is big business, and there is a market thriving on our desire for it.
Businesses create a need for eternal youth, beauty, thinness, sexiness, achievements and  wealth (which most of us, most of the time, manage pretty well without), if we spend enough money and buy enough of their product.  But regardless of what the product is, the underlying message is that you're unfulfilled without this...this will make you happy.

Oh really???  A face cream filled with bat-shit and horse-piss (patent pending) will render me prostrate with bliss??
An architecturally  perfect house built with custard and rolled-up newspapers will have me writhing in ecstasy?
A malnourished  figure that has me demented with hunger and crumbling with osteoporosis will have me bursting with joy?
I don't think so.

Happiness comes and goes, like any other equally valuable, if less comfortable, emotion.

Finian's happiness is not dictated by the possession of an iPad, or a healthy bank balance, or  back-slapping popularity.
He's happy because he's here.

It's humbling, and wonderful, that a gorgeous autie kid reminded me of that.


  1. Great post!

    Was having pretty much the same type of day here myself when in 'bounced Murray' - so happy to be home and so full of smiles and you know - my whole day changed too!

    It's wonderful, as you said, how our kids remind us of what's important!

  2. I loved this Jean :) Though I do think that his happiness is built on a foundation based on the love, comfort, support, and structure that you and the rest of the family provide for him. And as for possessions, they say that money doesn't make you happy, but the lack of it can make people pretty miserable xx

  3. always enjoy your writing! has warmed me up on a cold night xx

  4. True words so very well put Jean. Life would be boring if we were happy all the time and sometimes the simplest of things, like our child's demeanor, can provide us with the most happiness. You're right, thanks for reminding us:-)

    xx Jazzy

  5. Thanks girls. I do agree that we need a certain base-line of possessions to make us happy. I guess I'm saying that it's OK not to be happy all the time. Thanks so much for your comments XXX

  6. Happiness is highly over-rated anyway, and I think we have an inbuilt capacity for it which is simply different for different people. One of my children is a Tigger and the other one is an Eeyore, and they were born that way. I understand what you mean - "the pursuit of happiness" makes us blind to the other, more subtle shades of life, thus becoming self-defeating.

  7. Wonderful post. :-) And as my girls grumble and growl through their morning rituals, a perfect antidote to growling back at them!

  8. Well said. You know I get pretty fed up with the pressure to be happy and anyhow what is happiness. I see happiness as being different things for different people. For me today, I would be happy if I got a good nights sleep but tomorrow my happiness may be found in a box of chocolates. As you say, happiness is not a permanent emotion; it comes and goes and in any case if we were happy all the time, we would never have the motivation to improve our lives. Deb x

  9. What a great post. I really needed to be reminded of this today. Thanks!

  10. I had a crushing disappointment recently. Something I had worked so hard for did not come to pass and I was notified by phone less than 1 hour before the kids got home. I sat in her bedroom (where i had taken the call) and cried a bit until Gracie bounced in in flying form and snuggled with me. I pretended to be t-rex, she giggled and rahhed back and the world brightened up. I know people say that pets lower your blood pressure and while my daughter is not a pet, when she is in good form; she is very healing.