Thursday, October 2, 2008

Finding the Happy Place

I discovered a book the other day that I haven't read - so this is probably poor blogging etiquette - but its premise just fascinates me.  The title is Happiness is a Serious Problem.  And the author suggests that despite the fact that we're all always shouting from the rooftops that everyone has the right to be happy, very few of us actually are.  People are unhappy all the time because they are satisfied with nothing.  The author then says that we all have "an obligation" to our children, to our spouses, "and to society" to be happy.  

I haven't read the book, so I can't thoroughly argue with or back up his reasoning.  All I know is, it feels true.  

I do feel that I owe Michael a certain amount of contentedness.  I fail a LOT.  But I like to think that I jump back from the failures more quickly than I used to.  I feel that I need to love what I have - and in those things I'm still seeking, somehow find joy in the journey.  It doesn't seem far-fetched, right?

I laugh a lot more since the whole cancer scare.  That out loud, good medicine, uninhibited laugh that I used to give Michael all the time before we were dating and I thought every word out of his mouth was the most clever thing I'd ever heard.  When I laugh like that, there's no room for anything but happy.  And I like that feeling.  And I like the effect it has on the people around me.  

I hate it when I wake up one day and realize I've been in a bad mood for so long that I can't remember why it started.  I hate it when I complain to Michael about the same thing all the time - some circumstance of my life that I simply cannot change.  I hate it when someone says "how you doing" as their greeting and I don't know what to say because I can't imagine that they have an hour.   I know all those moments will still happen sometimes, but that's why I want to read that book.  So I can quote it to myself and remind myself what I owe.

I think it's possible.  Two-day vacations at the Holiday Inn?  Awesome.  Half-hour less on the time card because Jake has a cold and needs extra attention?  Irreplaceable.   And our small, really old house is a lovely place to build memories.  And potty training doesn't last forever.  And if we can't buy every single thing we want, we can sure buy more than we used to.   And who needs that other stuff anyway?

It's really not that awful of an obligation.  The author of the book says happy people are more generous.  On the society level I think it looks like feeding the widows and the orphans.  At home I think it means a laugh.  That no matter what reaction Michael gets at work, no matter what the boys experience at school, they can always count on me to get it.


Tracy said...

I love this topic. I have been on this quest for awhile myself... learning to be content with what I have. Maybe not even just content... more like learning to LOVE, REJOICE, BE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL and EXCITED about what I have. What I have is absolutely amazing. Why ruin it by thinking about what I don't have?

Matt Bowman said...

Your words remind of how the Buddhists would talk about this: in terms of being mindful of right now (the only moment that is real) and avoiding attachments (ie--not staking our happiness on things, expected outcomes, or people). In other words, contentment comes from within, not from without; and is a precursor to happiness, not a result of it!

Andrea said...

I have this discussion with my kids all the time, and I've been there, still am on some days. Until Mother died, and my house filled up with "stuff", and I still didn't have my mother-I didn't really get it. It took cancer for you. I'm always reminded of ITim. 6:6-8 when I get to feeling like I might want something I don't really need, cause I delude myself into thinking it will make me happy.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."

My cubbard is full, and so is my closet, maybe it is the godliness that I really want?

Anonymous said...

Seren this blog is one of my "happy places". The "island" Sara describes when my eyes glaze over and I'm no longer listening to her is another happy place. Unfortunately I never know when I go there. (lol) and of course it's not intentional. (hi Sara)
When I find myself in the middle of a "I would change NOTHING about this moment and I'm filled with joy" feeling, I'm reminded of what we're discussing here. I give this advice to so many people, try try try to be content within and you will not believe how wonderful things will become. Happy Friday!

serenity said...

Very cool thoughts so far. I worried that this post would sound trite and also that the moment I typed it, I would enter a level of grumpiness such as the world has never seen. It seems that can happen when you speak or write about something as lofty as happiness.

I like the idea that happiness is a precursor rather than a result. I think that is the point. But I'm afraid I almost always look outside a bit - to my children, the basics of food and comfort, to nature, things like that - in order to find my happiness.

Tracy said...

I think learning to be content is definitely a life-long journey. I love the feeling of being totally content with what I have. And yet, sometimes I put the whole thing on hold so I can get something I want.