Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 14: In Pursuit Of Happy-ness

image via

Lately I've been thinking. Surprisingly, it didn't hurt.

I know being happy is an important factor in life. If asked what is important to most people, I am sure 'being happy' is in their top ten, if not top five. But when does seeking happy-ness turn into a futile search? And while people are seeking their happy-ness, do they factor in the hurt or stress they might be causing other people?

While washing the dishes, Matt and I discussed a seeming emerging trend of men leaving their partners and children because they 'don't want this lifestyle and they're not happy'. It frightens me how often I am hearing this. Is it an epidemic? Is it our society? The perpetual search and focus on being happy, rather than 'being' and 'loving' and 'living'.

Or it could even be happy-ness in the simple guise of buying, 'oh I just had to buy this because it made me happy.' Accumulating makes you happy? Uh HUH?!
But it's the messages we're receiving.

TV shows focus on being happy,they show happy families, or what happens to people when they're not happy. Commercials provide products as answers on how to become happy. Buying this that, and whatever else is apparently going to make me happy. But has our society lost the way and rather than focussing on all the good things, all the things we need to be grateful for, have we usurped all of the importance of family life, living and the simple things (for instance enjoying a special home cooked meal, really hearing a song for the first time, watching the light change in the day or seeing your children grow/learn/love - or maybe just being) - isn't this enough? Is happy-ness becoming a cumulative thing? Do I have to keep moving to be happy?

For me, the answer is no. I can experience the dives, the dips, the wallowing and the sadness, but still feel grateful, a glimmer of happiness lurking in the shadows of a grey day. I know I don't need to be happy all the time. I know I don't need to seek it out, because it seeks me out in the most curious of ways.

Family life isn't perfect. It has it's ups and downs. As does single life. Or partnered life. Or whatever life. There's no one lifestyle that flatlines at pure happiness. There are days when I am overcome with love and affection for my smalls, when I am astounded at them in awe. And then there are those (rare) days when I tell Matt 'let's switch and I'll go back to work' (and the next day I tell him I was kidding).

But it's something that really worries me. The condemnation of feeling sad, or lonely, or angry, because it seems there's a push to BE HAPPY! I know Bobby McFerrin sang about it all those years ago, but now it feels as though it's running rife. Like there's some crazed happy 'pusher' forcing us to feel the need to be happy. And I don't like it.

How do children ever learn to feel the full range of emotions when all they're hearing is that you should be happy?

I'm going to fight it. I'm going to let my children, myself, my husband run the gamut of emotions. I fear that if you don't, then you can't create, you can't relate, you can't empathise, and it is then that you really run the risk of not being happy. I want them to feel what it really is to feel sad, to feel angry. I'm not going to tell them 'don't worry, be happy' because sometimes you just can't. I don't want to feel bad for feeling angry, after all, the messages I am hearing are - you should be happy, as though I have a duty to that one emotion.

And then you have the question, what is happiness? It's about as airy as the question, what is art? And it's best discussed another day, when I'm off my high-horse.

25 comments:

Cath from chunkychooky said...

good high horsing! i agree how can our little ones understand happy when they aren't allowed to feel sad or crap or have a bad day- they need to at least be able to compare it to something. But they also need to learn as well as not being the centre of the world - that they will not be happy all the time, so don't expect to as long as they can understand that you will feel better agin??? I don't know...

...as for the blokes not ready for the "lifestyle" (WTF???!!!) - i live in a small town microcosim of this - see it all the time but sometimes i wonder- did you really think having a baby with that bloke was a good idea? did you not notice that he has 3 children from 3 other partners and he doesn't give a rats about them, I am not saying that men shouldn't be responsible for babies - nto at all but I also sometimes think the woman needs to take responsibility for the man she decided to breed with? When we werer thinking about having a baby so many people said to me "just get pregnant" = now why would i want to have a child if my partner isn't ready yet?? I am amazed though at how many couples I see break up that i thinki, couldn't you have just toughed it out a bit? yes, little babies are hard, but it does get easier???

lovely lindsay said...

"Family life isn't perfect. It has it's ups and downs. As does single life. Or partnered life. Or whatever life. There's no one lifestyle that flatlines at pure happiness."
++++
loved that. needed that. today.
our chaos is happy chaos. it is hard. it is loving. we're making it work.
thanks for this reminder, friend.
love, lindsay

Cas said...

Brilliant and awesome. Thanks.

CurlyPops said...

Crikey my head is hurting too. I'm single for the opposite reason - I thought we were both happy but apparently not. Now I don't really think about what makes me happy - I just live my life the way I want to live it and hope for the best.

Liesl (Hoppo Bumpo) said...

Full marks - I love this post and it message. An unwavering life of "happiness" is probably really one of indifference.

I want my children to feel and deal with emotions like sadness, disappointment and anger ... if they don't they won't have a clue how to be truly happy.

Tania said...

You are one HELL of a good high-horser. In fact, feel free to high horse any day of the week.

I'm with you on all points - not that I ever had any say in it. I have always worn my heart on my sleeve - much to my childhood calisthenics teacher's chagrin. No point telling Myrtleandeunice to smile if she damned well doesn't want to. I'm thinking the rest of the family has 'got' that (and hopefully HAPPY to live with it) by now.

Katy said...

Good topic! It drives me nuts when people say ' oh isn't she grumpy' or 'oh she is such a sook' about my almost 3 year old daughter - I always thought everyone had the right to have all the emotions not just the good ones! I am a little the opposite - I am surrounded by women leaving their partners because they have the house, kids,etc and then 'feel like they aren't happy with their life' and leave the kids with the man in pursuit of happiness. I think if life was perfectly happy I would be bored to tears !

willywagtail said...

I think happiness is closely linked to spiritual awareness. It is definitely an overused word. You can be a basically happy person while still experiencing other very strong emotions because overall your view on life is positive. And it has nothing to do with possesions. Cherrie

Melanie said...

Definitely we need to learn how to weather life's ups and downs, and not spit the dummy during the downs. That said, I'm not against the pursuit of happiness as a goal per se - as long as other things (such as constant acquisition of 'stuff') are not mistaken for happiness. I was taken aback recently when an acquaintance complained of not wanting her husband to cut back on work (which he wanted to do because his happiness and seeing his kids is important to him) because she thinks everyone needs to work in order to 'live in a nice house and drive a nice car'. I felt for her husband, because why *shouldn't* his happiness be as valid a life goal as that other 'stuff'?!

Leonie Guld said...

Great post....brilliant post...you are right on the mark in my book!! I think the chicks above have said the rest!!

Mookah said...

Oh you're in your element when you're on your high horse aren't you? You have certainly struck a chord here with me, and judging by the response you have had, you have with many others as well.

All emotions exist because if you are to lead a fulfilled life then you need to experience the full range of emotions, both good and bad. Living in search of happiness....well all one can really do is keep trying to move towards living the life you want to live!

Cathy (tinniegirl) said...

Fabulous post. Good on you for getting on your high-horse. It's good stuff.

Laura Jane said...

Well said!

The good thing about being on a high horse, and in a secure saddle, is that you have a terrific sense of perspective.
Go riding that high horse any time you want.

Amber said...

yeah i am so with you. I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago, very similar. I think part of the issue is poeple need to be happy with what life is not. I have seen a lot of this partner leaving and causing so much pain and saying i was just not happy??? i am not sure how i feel about this. anyway thanks for this..xx

Christina Lowry said...

My mum always told us that with out the 'downs' we wouldn't appreciate the 'ups'. And of course that 'everything happens for a reason'. Those two sayings have gotten me through the toughest of times.

You would love a book by modern philosopher Alain De Botton "The consolations of philosophy". Provides interesting answers to what is happiness and why do we all think that is all we are here for. I am not biased at all though, ok... just cause I have a book crush on him... :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_de_Botton

Kirsty said...

Great post PMM!

You have summed up how I feel about things at the moment so well. The pursuit of happiness is a little over rated I feel. It's good to have sadness and anger - they're really feelings.

Also, sometimes having everything that you think you wanted just doesn't make you happy.

Julia said...

I have to agree with what you've said. I think you can pick the people that have lived monotone lives, with no real dips into hurt or despair. I find that they can tend to be judgemental or lack compassion. I think it's not until you've been brought to your knees by life and stood up again that you can live with empathy and deep compassion for others in similar situations. My pain has made me a better person in that way. I also enjoy my happiness immensely because I know that as with pain, this too shall pass.

peppermintpatcher said...

It's immediate gratification that we have confused with happiness. I want xxx in my life so I gratify that want. With that philosophy there is no responsibility.

I guess like all things balance is the key.

Swirlyarts said...

Maybe 'contentedness' is a better word. Maybe being content with what you have is better than constantly striving for happiness - whatever that may mean to you.

Tina - Melbourne Vintage said...

I loved that post - funnily enough I've met a few peeps who were seemingly insanely over the top happy and they've all turned out to be angst-ridden miserable messes. Sometimes that 'happy happy happy' thing is a need to cover up terrible sadness i think. I agree with you - best to just live through it. Warts and all is a good thing.

Kirsty said...

Superb post PMM.

I like the rollercoaster. Surely the highs don't feel so thrilling if you're up there all the time!

Thank you for this timely reminder. xxx

Cindy said...

I have to admit Glen is one to embrace his feelings and loves to have a grumble. I have actually said "if you aren't happy move on". And he gives me the "are you kidding, I love my family more than anything in the world" look and it has taken me a long time to understand that being enraptured in happiness with us 24 hours a day and loving us to peices are not exclusive of each other.
Should I add in here that I am not a ray of sunshine and on my second marriage so I did think that there was more out there but I think from a different angle. There is a difference between undefined 'happiness' and wanting more for yourself I think. This is right about the time where I feel like I should delete that whole comment so I will publish now.

Two Tuesdays said...

Hear Hear!

Anna Bartlett said...

Coincidences are amazing. Today was not a 'happy' day for me, altho the children are wonderful and the weather was nice and all could look good on the surface, relationships are hard and I'm trying to get my head around being able to have an argument without wanting to run away and get divorced. So it was lovely to read your post today. I can go to bed now knowing it's ok to be sad and annoyed. I need reminding sometimes.

Alexis said...

Oh, I love this post!