Am I happy, what is happiness anyway, and how the hell do I know?

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.
Happy? (AND cute)


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.


  1. Oh dear! I’m going to have to think on this. I think at present, according to your happiness meter, i’m probably feeling fine with bouts [sort of] unhappiness.

    I’m just so HIGH STRUNG. My [sort of] unhappiness comes out in episodes of Head Explosions … not very tranquil. So the balance is missing … a nice, steady ooooohhhhhhhmmmmmmm. Know what i mean?

    Sorry about the trigeminal neuralgia. HORRIBLE! I don’t think i’d take a pill though.

    See, Rose, there’s something REALLY resilient about me. My misery level can hit astronomical levels of OH, I DON’T WANT THIS … and still i want to go on!

    Maybe to pester other people!!

    OK, this is good … i have a light day at work. Maybe i can put together a bi-post.

    I really want some chocolate ganache on a triple chocolate cupcake!!!! 🙂

    1. Yeah, well, sometimes I’m like that too – Blissed Out, and then suddenly Miserable. usually because of some throw away line or some small thing gone wrong that day. But resilience is something great to have. See, your icecream is pestering people! About the Trigeminal neuralgia, I’ve only had it once since the first diagnosis, and it wasn’t nearly so bad. Triple choc cupcake! IS there such a thing???

  2. Oh, and THAT GUY! He sort of looks like Chris Martin. He is DELICIOUS … skip the chocolate … bring me the man! (Sorry D).

  3. I LOVED this post, Beautiful! So honest. I truly agree with (a) – the Past….so many people I know can’t seem to let go and move on – they choose to stay stuck in the past and live in it – which is no good.

    1. Thanks. That’s true about the Past – but then, my past has been generally ok, so to move on has been sometimes a struggle, but not a huge one. I appreciate that some people have such awful things in their past that it’s extremely difficult. For instance, if I lost one of my adored children, I think I’d feel like just giving up.

    1. Yeah, that’s another thing – feeling beautiful. Pretty random, really, but in my book having a lot to do with recent compliments and kisses. Will have to look that one up. I’m glad you’re ok-blissed, El Guapo!

  4. Really fabulous post. Hello WordPress? Are you there? This one should be Freshly Pressed.

    I think you spelled it out beautifully, and I found myself nodding throughout. That making “peace with the past” part is so critical. Holding onto anger or hurt will eat away at the soul, and who can be happy like that?

    Thanks, Rose, for a great piece.

    1. Thank you Carrie. I think you’re right, holding on to that nasty stuff does eat at your soul. But I appreciate that not all troubles can be easily shrugged off and forgotten – say, a long term disability like Manic Mouse’s, or ongoing troubles with money and immigration status. Life is really a bowl of cherries for me, usually, but I do realise that for lots of other people, it’s a bowl of shit that has to be waded through.

      1. Ah, now you see, back in Baltimore, we don’t call ’em Oreoes, we call ’em Berger cookies.

        The OriOLES, though, have not had a winning season for 13 years, but this year might, might just sneak one in. Oh! Frabjuous day t’would be!

  5. This is a fantastic break down! Hahaha! I love the comments too!
    I am as happy as my least happy child. Even though they are 20 and 22, I still worry about them!
    Most of my stress comes from things I can’t do anything about, so I write and escape and then the better days come! I am an optimist which helps too… 🙂

    1. Yeah, I’m an optimist too, Susie. You must be a very good parent, to be so attuned to the happiness of your kids. I don’t worry about mine that much – well, sometimes, but continuous worry is hard for me to do. Writing’s a great escape, isn’t it!

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