Are you happy?
Last evening I thought about the state of being we call happiness. I realized that I don’t ask myself often if I’m happy. I never have. But I’ve always recognized (and been grateful for) moments of happiness, and I’ve had my share.
For most of us, loved ones are part of the picture. Many of my happiest moments involve my children. Some, a man. Others, friends. Many happy moments have been entirely about my own accomplishments or experiences. A piece of writing I felt good about. Time spent with magnificent works of art. An unexpected encounter with a fascinating mind. Beautiful shoes. Yes, even a great hat.
Are you happy? Do you think about it?
When is the last time you were happy?
I remember nine days when I was smitten-and-not-quite-in-love. In Paris. Writing daily, seeing art, walking. Staying by myself in a studio apartment. No one to worry about except me. Rare. So rare, that time to myself. I was completely happy.
I can still recreate the shape of that feeling, if not its mass or its temperature. It is greater than a summation of happy moments. More intricate than ingredients to be listed. It is alchemy, a state of wholly-owned self, full capacity in a pleasurable process of expansion. It is a burrowing inward where light flourishes, alone, as well as in the company of another.
Contentment is more familiar; it is warm bread, the face of your child, sleeping. The stack of bills on the kitchen table, paid. If contentment is warmth, happiness is fire.
How often are you happy?
In the Sex and the City Movie, there was an exchange I’ll never forget, as Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is assessing her relationship of five years.
“How long has it been since you were happy?” one of her friends asks. “Six months,” she replies.
Then she asks Charlotte: “How often are you happy?”
Her answer: “Every day. Maybe not all day every day, but everyday.”
What a response. Can you imagine what it would be like to feel happiness every day? Even a little?
What makes you happy?
Sometimes, we dwell on what makes us unhappy. It seems easier, though it shouldn’t be. Do you ever find yourself doing that?
I know what makes me happy:
- My children, laughing.
- Fewer money worries.
- Work that matters, and pays my bills.
- Someone to love, and love me back.
- Writing well.
- Speaking French.
It seems strange, looking at my list and the sequence of items. What makes us happy shifts and shuffles the longer we live; putting it into words is illuminating. Writing well and speaking French are the easiest to attain (which does not make them easy). They are also the only pieces of my personal happiness puzzle in which I have a major hand. Is the absence of happiness linked to lack of control?
Must we control our environment in order to be happy? Or just our fair share?
Then there is passion. To pursue what I love. Sexual passion. Intellectual passion. Ah. Now, now I see.
Nine days in Paris. The intersection of everything I love, with the exception being that my sons were not there, but they were on holiday and well. Yes. Intellectual spark, sensual play with a man who understood my most private selves. Speaking French. Writing well.
I remember marveling at the time, rolling the words around on my tongue, in two languages. Aloud. Je suis heureuse. I am happy. This is happiness.
How do you define happiness?
- How do you define your happiness?
- How has it changed?
- Where do you seek it?