Virtue: Happiness

I have been reading a ton recently about happiness, what it is and how to get it.  Seems that it has taken me down the minimalism path, if in text only.  One of these days I will act on what I’ve learned on all the blogs about getting rid of your stuff, but that’s not today.  It started a few weeks ago with an article about Happiness in the New York Times.  I’ve since followed Tammy Strobel on her Rowdy Kittens blog which led me to other people discussing happiness and limited stuff and living for today.  All those things I would like to believe that I live, but my hypercritical self says I have a long way to go.

I can hardly believe that it was only seven years ago that all my belongings fit in my Jetta and I took off across country.  One car’s worth of stuff has now turned into a house filled with stuff.  What happened in those short seven years?  And in looking back, living poorly with Sins and Shins in K-town was probably the happiest time in my life.  I had nothing, made nothing (financially at least) and still lived the dream.  My sister lived nearby, I was meeting my new best friends and creating memories in grad school and loved exploring the west coast.  I was absolutely happy, but still missing the east coast, which I realize now is just a way of saying that I loved the east coast as much as I loved the west coast.

Happiness to me is being surrounded by friends.  That’s what I have and that’s what I cherish.  I depend on my friends more than most people.  These last two weekends have been so great because I’ve spent quality time with people I love.  I keep talking about “returning to reality” and how sad I am about leaving these fun memories in the past, however, it occurred to me one morning that I still have these friends everywhere…they just aren’t sharing a cabin with me!  I grew up in a houseful of people and had frequent visitors after school.  I like to think that we have built that same spirit in our home now with our friends with weekly SubCo practices and drop bys to watch the game.  I also know that I’m happiest around people because I get lonely easily.  I’m a baby when I’m alone!  Not that I can’t entertain myself or enjoy quiet time.  But having friends around makes life so much sweeter.  I can enjoy their happiness, too.  I love that.

Is happiness a moment in time or is it a lifestyle?  And do I really mean enjoyment instead of happiness?  We’re seeking happiness, doing what we think will make us happy, but do we really know?  What are we chasing?  Ultimately, happiness is being honest with yourself and doing what’s best for you, even if it hurts in the short term.

Some people make happiness look easy.  They beam.  I’m thinking of a particular friend who is so freakin’ happy in love that she just glows.  But I think about what she had to do to get there.  She has taken some risks, she’s not necessarily been honest with her family (understandably) and it isn’t something she’s ready to share outside her inner circle of friends.  However, in my presence, she is genuinely happy to the core.  The crap she’s been through is not the stuff that is advertised though.  Facebook and “update emails”  and Christmas cards and – gasp! even this blog- give you the good stuff.  They announce marriages, babies, job promotions, etc.  No one sends the bad stuff.  I don’t get divorce announcements or termination emails.  Not happy stuff to spread.

With all these good things going around it’s tough to see that people struggle.  I don’t hear about fights and people sleeping on couches (quite frankly, I’d be happy to hear from some of you about ANYTHING because the communication can tend to get one-sided with this blog, ahem).  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in projecting such a happy image (everyone’s doing it, what’s wrong with you?) that we forget it’s okay to feel otherwise.  For example, I was in a crappy mood this morning.  Just icky all over and over-thinking very simple things on my walk to work.  Couldn’t get it out of my system and I needed an attitude adjustment, stat.  Friends to the rescue!!  I have surrounded myself with some awesome people, and I know when to communicate to those specific people that I need help.  And they respond because they are awesome.  They listen, talk me through it or take me on a bike ride to clear my head.  Hopefully they know I would do the same for them.  That’s part of the friendship deal.

A piece of advice I got this morning was that it was okay to feel icky.  Accept it for what it is.  It’s telling me something and I should listen and really feel it.  Quit trying so hard to get rid of it and just be.  Once I was, it left.  So now I’m back to happy.  Or rather content.  Content is where we should be most of the time, saving happy for special occasions like bike rides.  Happy is to “!” as content is to “.” and we should stay in the “.” zone most of the time.

What’s the takeaway here?  Call your friends.  Ask for love and attention if you need it.  Feel and be icky if you gotta.  Listen to Poker Face on repeat.  Not everyone is always happy, and if they are, they are not being genuine with you.

Thank you, Mood!!

  1. #1 by Dad on October 1, 2010 - 5:19 pm

    I believe you nailed it! You can be happy by yourself but when you are happy with friends they will remind you of the good times so the “happiness” goes farther (or is it further?)

    anyway, “nobody is in charge of your happiness but you”.

    Don’t Worry – Be Happy!

  2. #2 by Jason on October 16, 2010 - 11:07 am

    Feel and be icky if you gotta. Listen to Poker Face on repeat. Not everyone is always happy, and if they are, they are not being genuine with you.

    Don’t you remember the lovely Carol Cox discussing the Elect though? Thanks to Calvin, we suffer in silence and we reveal our “rewards” in public. An effort to appear elected to grace makes us strive to hide, and we are mimicking animals who are all playing Poker, and all holding a Jack and a 2 of different suits. I was in a car accident. I put much of the recovery, from hospital to home traction unit, up on Facebook. Not because I wanted sympathy, but because I wanted to find a way to avoid the phone calls, and the crimp in my neck from holding the phone.

    I think you hit on the right themes here, that the sorrows are just as important a status update as the joys, but we are still all suffering from our circles of Elect, knowing it is a sin to gossip or even to judge poor Hester Prynne, but we do it. Because of you at our reunion, I am getting my moles checked out. Because of Jessica Griffith sending Forest off to war, I sent an anonymous care package to Afghanistan. I have two sets of friends going through a divorce, in public on Facebook, and 3 more who have settled it. It wasn’t pretty, it looked childish, but they know that, and the ugliness wasn’t worth it.

    I’m smart and honestly apologetic enough to stay off the couch, have fights like anyone else, we each take space, and we’re coming to Jon Stewart and Colbert’s rally dressed as Futurama characters. We’d love to see you on the Mall if you’re going. I don’t think you realize that your stats don’t include the feed I read from your site. You’re an amazing person Megan, and I still chuckle that I used your “everybody move to the left, everybody move to the left trick in a board meeting when I was managing a huge pile of programmers. Your influence and impact have been huge, and my mildly Asperger’s attention to detail without any instinctual social grace gives you the nod for it.

  3. #3 by Megan on October 18, 2010 - 1:18 am

    Jason, this is one of the best comments I have ever received, either on this blog, via email or in person. I’m so in awe that all I can think to say is Thank You. No other words come to me now but Thank You.
    (And yes, let’s meet up on the Mall for the Stewart/Colbert rally. I’ll be there for sure.)

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