Another Sunday, another chance to revisit my Happiness Project. It’s no secret that I haven’t felt I was happy much lately. It can be excused, I suppose, by life circumstances. After all, I’m dealing with some very hard things. Also, since I’m trying to mostly avoid the daily complaining I had found myself writing about before the blog move, I will add briefly that the weather changes have apparently caused a great exacerbation of my pain. I’m not sleeping much and I’m hurting and that makes me tremendously unhappy. Still, when I’m tempted to excuse all due to circumstances, I cannot help but remember that many people have it far, far worse. I also try to remember that there are many things in life, despite the current challenges, for which I am grateful.
Does being grateful make you happy? I remember my emphatic swearing that I would remain grateful when I was first able to get in and out of bed by myself, when I was able to walk again, when I was able to leave the hospitals and go home. I do remind myself of those things and when I find myself complaining how I cannot walk very far or how I cannot do something I want to do, that I can walk and I am independent. And I am grateful. I’m also grateful that Mom is in a good place with people who both care for her and care about her. It was a terribly hard decision but it was the right thing for Mom and I am grateful for the people who are committed to her care. I’m also grateful that Dad remains as independent as he is, still. For all my whining about the stress, I don’t have to do that much for him on a daily basis. For now, at least, it’s more a matter of making sure life revolves around him as simply as possible.
These aren’t the only things that I’m grateful for, but they are some of the most important. But does being grateful make me happy? Not really, to be honest, but it at least helps to remember to be grateful so as not to wallow in self-pity. I’m not opposed to self-pity in principle, it’s just not a place I think I can stay for any length of time.
What about things? Sometimes it seems that most of us – at least in the U.S. – are on an unending race for things. Witness the release of any new Apple product or quest for whatever the toy of the year is during the holidays. I am really enjoying my new Kindle – but does it make me happy? No. I think that I, like a lot of people, think that some thing I want is going to make me happy. Or some circumstance. I act as though some special food or treat is going to make me happy. But food and toys bring as much unhappiness, at least potentially, as they bring enjoyment. When I was younger I got into major financial trouble trying to chase happiness in things. I’m still idiot enough to try to chase some sort of happiness in food and treats and well, not a lot of discussion needed there.
Maybe the better question is What is happiness? A warm puppy? It’s supposed to be about the journey, not the destination. Happiness, I think, is in the moments. Sure, I’m not the first person to say this. It’s not even the first time I’ve said it. But it’s hard to remember. It is necessary to pause, take the deep breath, and be aware of the moment. It’s so much easier to chase that thing that I am so sure is the answer. If I could do this, have that, be the other – then I would be happy.
So, what makes me happy? The moment of warm snuggliness with Stasia before we get up in the morning. The surprise laugh, wherever it comes from (try the podcast, “Wait, wait, don’t tell me” for sudden laughs). Those moments when I’m lost in a book. Peaceful, quiet moments, mostly. It seems, at this time, mostly solitary moments.
I suppose those moments change in time and circumstances. Until I started writing this, I didn’t realize that so much of my “happiness” is found in the quiet, solitary moments. All the rest of the babbling in this post brings me to this one realization. Now, what to do with it?
Well, one thing. What if I stopped trying to chase happiness in things or food?