My lovely blog friend Iamnotshe wants to know, am I happy, what is happiness anyway, and how the hell do you know you’re happy?
First, a warning. The following is going to seem kind of twee to people who have serious difficulties. I’m very lucky – my life, taken all in all, has been more enjoyable than not. So I’m happy. (First question answered) It’s nothing I did, no particular credit to me. For people who struggle against enormous odds to be happy, I have great respect and admiration. But, having said that – these are my thoughts.
This is my ‘happiness-o-meter’:
- Misery. That’s when everything seems so awful and grey, if someone came up and said ‘Take this red pill and you’ll die painlessly straight away’ you’d seriously consider it. That happened to me when I went to hospital with trigeminal neuralgia (worse than childbirth, and that’s saying something) and the doctor said ‘there isn’t a cure, you’re going to have this thing at unpredictable intervals for the rest of your life’. Thankfully, she seems to have been wrong. But at the time, I went home and thought, ‘Life? I don’t want it. Take it away, ewwww!’.
- Sort of unhappyish. That’s when things aren’t going right at work, or you aren’t dating anyone but want to, or you look fat in the mirror. Not throw-yourself-off-a-cliff miserable, but not great either.
- Contentment. When you’re just trucking along, everything is ok, alright you haven’t won the lottery yet or met the perfect man, but hey, it’s just life. It’s not so bad – and there’s something good on tv tonight.
- Feeling Fine. It’s a sunny day, your boss has said ‘good job’, your partner’s had a raise, your kids got Bs and Cs in their last report…it’s all good. But – you still haven’t won the lottery, and this means you may have to work till you’re 75 to pay the mortgage.
- Blissed Out. You’ve just had sex with the most amazing guy, and you’re in love, and you’re on holiday, and the tax office has just given you a HUGE refund! The garden of life is full of roses and you’re prancing about in the middle of it in a white dress while your true knight kneels adoringly at your pristine feet.
Personally, I mostly hover between Content and Feeling Fine, with occasional forays into Blissed Out. How do I know? I just..know.
So what is it?
Seems to me happiness is a sort of compact between the Past, the Present and the Future. To be more or less happy (which is all most of us can hope to be, most of the time), you need:
a) to have made your peace with the Past. Maybe your ex was a creep. Maybe your parents were psychopaths. Maybe you lost your kids to Welfare. But to be happy, you have to have somehow accepted all that, and moved on to…
b) the Present. Have you ever stopped and thought, right now, what would I LIKE to be doing? And then done it? Eat that raisin bun. Paint that picture. Read that novel. Have a nap. Be yourself, like where you are, or if not, make the best of it. It’s raining? Watch the drops run down the window. Feel sick? Stay home and read something trashy. Depressed and in pain? Write something meaningful for posterity. BUT, if you really can’t enjoy the moment, or do what you’d really like to do, or like where you are – that’s where…wait for it….
c) THE FUTURE comes in! The Future is where you keep the lollies, for when The Present makes you cry. In The Future, you will lie around with your feet up/travel the world. You will learn how to be an astronaut/Certified Practising Accountant/feature writer. You will be famous. You will be a good mother. All those lovely things that you can’t be or do right now, but are waiting to reward you for effort (or lack of) later on. Every good Present has a big dollop of Future on top of it, like chocolate sauce on the ice cream of life.
That, according to me, right now, is how to be happy. Over to you, Mel.