Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pursuing "Happy"

I have a pretty controversial opinion to voice.

People often talk about how obtaining Things or achieving Success won't make you happy, that being happy has to come from inside you, blah blah blah.


Happiness is not a Life Goal, like buying a house or raising children to be good people. It's not something you Achieve and then Have. And no one has a right to say what should or should not make you happy.

Happiness is an emotion. ALL emotions, not just bad ones, are transient. They don't last. It's against their nature to be ongoing. So it's foolish of anyone to think there's a status to be achieved, and that once we do, we're all set.

If my happiness is contingent solely upon what's inside me, I'll commit suicide. I'll be so freakin' BORED I won't be able to avoid it. Here are some things that make me happy (in no order at all):

1. A warm cat on my lap and a good book in my hand.

2. New, fun gadgets, like my iPod or a new laptop.

3. When my kids display maturity or responsibility or compassion or intelligence or just say "I love you, Mom."

4. Time with my husband, sharing things we both enjoy.

5. A really kick-ass, emotional TV show or movie. With hot guys who are also tremendous actors.

6. Spending a day with my closest friends.

7. Finding an item of clothing that I think actually looks good on me (a rarity nowadays).

8. Writing an awesome scene or passage that evokes emotion, either in myself or someone else.

9. Getting a great review by someone I don't know.

10. Having a kick-ass agent (and she doesn't read this blog, so I'm not kissing up) on my side.

11. Spending an entire day writing.

12. Popcorn. With real butter and lots of salt.

13. Sunshine.

14. Lots of money in my bank account (relatively speaking).

15. The beach, with big waves in the ocean.

16. Speed (the fast kind, not the drug kind).

87.5% of those things are external. Some things that don't make me happy (or that I don't care about) include religion, politics, fashion magazines, designer labels, purses, shoes, being popular, having perfect makeup, having a big house and fancy car, having a high-paying job (I want to make a lot of money, but won't do a particular job just for that reason). However, those things make lots of other people happy, and I say, good for them.

Yes, getting a new iPod made me super-happy for a day. Its use beyond that is mostly functional or moderate enjoyment, but that doesn't invalidate the moments when I had joy.

Similarly, I am married to a fabulous guy, my kids are awesome, and I have the best friends I could ever ask for. That doesn't mean I'm not sometimes pissed off at any one of them, or need space from them, or are made sad by them.

I'm reading Jim Butcher's new book, Small Favor. It's making me extremely happy to be doing so. I'm laughing my way through it, and really hate not being able to read it nonstop. Once I'm done, it will stop making me happy. But that doesn't invalidate the happiness it makes me feel right now.

Happiness is worth striving for, possibly the whole point of living these lives we live. I don't think anyone has to apologize for what things make them happy, nor should anyone judge others for being happy with things the other person thinks aren't worthy. In that sense, yes, it's entirely personal and internal.

Popcorn, anyone?


Trish Milburn said...

Can I just say I totally agree with you? I think happiness is kind of like the gas in a car. You have to refill it every so often.

Natalie Damschroder said...

Thanks, Trish! And I like the analogy!