Choosing Happiness

“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.” – Joseph Campbell

There have always been the eternal questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I come from? How did I get here? What is my purpose? And we pursue these questions throughout our lives, whether it’s through religion, science, philosophy, or simply by living and following a pattern or making a pattern of our own. There is a wealth of books and websites and everything in between that attempt to answer these questions or nurture you as you answer them yourself, and so many debates and suggestions and arguments and theories … Can anyone tell you what the meaning to life is? Is it really 42?

I remember having conversations in philosophy class many years ago and one person said quite gloomily that “the meaning of life is to die”. Quite boring, really. Surely there is something greater to the life we’ve been given?

Too deep for a Friday? These questions have been tip-toeing at the edge of my mind for some time now. I can question what it is I spend my time doing, who I spend my time with, and why I do and don’t do the things I do (and don’t). Cloaked by all this frustration is a fundamental question that, to me, is terrifying: What has to happen to make you happy?

This morning I found a blog post: The Responsibility of Happiness. With my makeup on and my mascara thick, it took every effort not to cry.

“The first responsibility is to be happy, the second to make everyone else happy.”

I’m healthy. I’m well-educated. I have a wardrobe full of clothes. I’m employed. There’s money in the bank to cover my bills and expenses, and my cat appears to be quite comfortable on the end of my bed right now. I went out for lunch today with my sister and my mother. I have a boyfriend who loves me. There is a pile of books beside my bed waiting to be read. I arrived back last night from a holiday with my dad, stepmum and sister. I am going out for dinner tonight with my boyfriend. There is nothing wrong with my life; why do I feel like it’s not right? Is it ungrateful to look at these things and still feel miserable?

I was recently asked: When were you the happiest you’ve ever been?

Open-mouthed and wide-eyed, I couldn’t answer. There are moments of happiness I cannot deny: the thrill of being offered a job I really want, the joy of spending time with special people, a phone call from a friend right when you need it, a book that leaves you feeling every kind of bliss. Single moments of happiness – but do they make me happy? Can life be one single moment of happiness, or can it only ever be moments of happiness within the broader experience?

I’m healthy, well-educated, supported by family and friends, and financially stable. I can teach. I can write. I can fit bras. I can travel. I can do anything I want to do. I have choices. Choices. No matter what choice I make, I’ll be fine. Maybe I’m not happy right now, but there are moments of happiness within the everyday. They brighten the misery, they warm the cold, they keep you moving when you simply want to give up.

… I don’t want to be fine, though. I want to make the choice that means I’ll be happy. Or, in choosing happiness, will life simply happen as it should?



6 comments on “Choosing Happiness

  1. Pingback: What do you want to do? « dodging commas

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  4. I love that phrase…Life will happen as it should…There is a lot of truth and insight to that. Reminds me of something my grandfather used to say: “We all end up where we should.”

    By the way, I gave you a Versatile Blogger award in my last post. I’ve always loved reading you!

    • Oh a Versatile Blogger award? Sounds exciting – I shall check it out =)

      It’s strange to think about the energy we put into “trying” to live and be happy, as opposed to the energy we put into actually living and being happy. Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, as John Lennon has said (or sung)!

  5. Ahh, happiness – one of my favourite subjects. Here is something that might be worth revisiting from the very workbook that you created for me :

    “It is necessary for our ongoing survival as a species to seek happiness. Through our endeavours to do things so we feel good, we each become more and more complex beings. Complexity may be the answer to the age old question ‘What is the meaning of life?’ the answer being ‘To decrease entropy – i.e. increase complexity – in the universe’. The arrow of progress and growth points in the direction increased complexity. It is not surprising, then, that we are genetically programmed to only be happy when we engage in activities that lead to increased complexity.

    Csikszentmihalyi in his book “Flow – the psychology of happiness” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1998, pp. 74-75.) describes activities that lead to happiness as flow activities. He believes there is a strong link between flow experiences and the increased complexity of consciousness.

    In our studies, we found that every flow activity, whether it involved competition, chance, or any other dimension of experience, had this in common: it provided a sense of self discovery, a creative feeling of transporting the person to higher levels of performance, and led to previously undreamed-of stated of consciousness. In short, it transformed the self by making it more complex. In this growth of self lies the key to flow activities.

    One cannot enjoy doing the same thing at the same level for long. We grow either bored or frustrated; and then the desire to enjoy ourselves again pushes us to stretch our skills, or to discover new opportunities for using them.
    – Csikszentmihalyi

    So darling – set yourself a new challenge and start learning how to meet it, or find a way to use the incredible bank of skills and talents you are already armed with.

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