The Pursuit of Happiness

Following an interesting comments discussion resulting from a rather intriguing post over at: http://retiredeagle.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/the-myth-of-happiness/

 And not to mention a conversation last night on the phone with J, I began to think about happiness.

What makes me happy? Actually, nothing. You can’t make (ie force) someone to be happy. It’s a spontaneous response to something and that something can be physical(ie material) or something emotional or even spiritual. And it’s a fleeting thing; you often notice afterwards that you have been happy. It’s often the absence of it that triggers the awareness of the state.

To chase happiness through material gains is futile and well documented. No amount of wealth and material goods will do the trick. To chase happiness through a relationship is equally  doomed; how often do you hear someone say, “I’d be so happy if I met Mr/Miss/Ms Right!” That sort of happiness, bound up in the being of another person is at huge risk of vanishing.

But there’s another chase that is somehow far more seductive.

Success.

I’m guilty as charged, M’lud. I’ve been chasing success as a means of making me happy for far longer than I dreamed I might and it was partly something J asked me last night that meant my thoughts on it finally crystalised and I woke up.

The previous post to this has been about the publication of my first novel. This is something I’ve fought, wept, battled, given up, beaten myself up over for decades. It’s meant everything to me.

But when J asked me what I really enjoyed doing, what made me happiest, I said “Losing myself in writing.” He then(very gently, because that’s the sort of guy he is!) said, “Well, why have you struggled so hard to get published when what really makes you happy is the writing?”

Hmmm. Good question. Don’t get me wrong, I feel happy to have got this far, got the book out in the public domain, but now there’s a sense of restlessness, of incompleteness that is beginning to focus on sales. It’s not a bestseller yet by any means. The feedback I have had from readers blows my socks off, but it leaves me hungry.

This is where the chase for success comes in. It’s never ending. When you’ve climbed one mountain, there’s always another taunting you to conquer it.

This doesn’t mean you give up. Giving up dreams is not what I mean. But it is about giving up our ATTACHMENT to them, our blind hope that achieving this crucial thing will make us happy. It won’t, except for a short time; not as short as the time new material goods keep us happy for. You keep going because it’s what you do, because the goal has a greater meaning than simple personal happiness. Because whatever you are trying to do is part of your path and no more(and no less) than that.

Happiness comes out of nowhere sometimes, as a gift of grace if you like, and it comes most often when we are in alignment with so many things in our lives. When all our talents and our hopes and our loves and interests all come together at once, then often that happiness that seems to drive us  to chase it isn’t far away.

I’ve been happy writing this. I hope you’ve been happy reading it.

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17 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Happiness

  1. Hi Viv. I do understand what you mean when you talk about the chase, the pursuit of success. I, too, am guilty of this. But then again, this is what is required of us in the first half of life. Being able to continue to do work without needing the gratification of recognition, of fame, of success; perhaps this is the task of the second half.

    Write to write as in this blog post. It is the act of writing, of giving this time and energy that gifts one with meaning and purpose, not the payback from the public. You are a wise woman, Viv.

    • That’s high praise coming from you, Robert.
      The trick is to let be, now, to not get too fretted about the outcome.
      I had some weird dreams last night that have given me a starting point for a new story and I look forward to having the time to dream and write.
      xx

  2. Hi Viv,

    A thought-provoking post indeed.

    What makes us happy? Rather, when should we feel happy? Should we tie our happiness to our destination…or to our journey? I think that often it’s our choice. Sometimes we forget that each moment that we spend in our journey is as rare and expensive that any of the moments that we’d experience at the end of our journey…and it is this forgetfulness that makes our journey a burden. However, if we feel good about the journey – we’d have gained our share of happiness – irrespective of the outcome!

    I’m almost through with your book and have enjoyed it immensely:) You take care of that wonderful imagination of yours, and write another wonderful story for us.

    Regards,
    Shafali

  3. I’m happy to have come across your post today. as I have just been pondering this very issue.
    I love writing and have always written – ever since I learned to write.
    When I’m in the flow writing makes me happy and when I’m writing for the sake of writing it still makes me happy. Blogging is great for addressing this issue.

    • hello Karen,
      so nice to have you visit here. I’ve written for a long time; it’s a joy to me. I am glad I discovered blogging because it means I can write but also I can enter into dialogue too.
      thanks for stopping by; come back soon!!
      xx

  4. I have been pursuing happiness for longer than I care to remember and have so far failed miserably! Or have I? If the end result is to achieve a permanent state of happiness then yes, I have failed. But I really do not believe that anyone can ever achieve a permanent state of anything!! Feel free to correct me if I am wrong!

    I have often fallen into the trap of believing that I could only achieve happiness once I had a certain amount of money, social status, the right relationship etc. Now I’d like to think that perhaps I am a little less naive and in truth, the things I desperately wanted years ago mean very little to me now! That said, I still have dreams and desires and I still chase and search but I am also at ease with what I have. If I was given the option to swap my life with anyone of my choosing, I wouldn’t take it.

    I have however, been happy reading this 🙂

    • *hugs*
      For a permanent state of happiness find a source of Soma (drug of choice in Huxley’s Brave New World) and you’ll exist in a coccoon of candyfloss pink where everything is nice and sweet and BORING. Not to mention short; soma shortened lifespans dramatically…
      🙂 🙂 🙂 😀

  5. I think you are right on.

    Last year my friend adopted 2 sweet little girls.
    I made friends with them one day in between church services.
    I had not known them very long when I happened to be working near my friend’s house.
    The job was not going well and I was having a nervous kind of episode anyway.
    In addition I had to pee like a race horse and due to circumstances I could not.
    Did I mention it was cold. Did I mention I had to pee .

    Anyway, the older girl got off the bus right where I was working . She gave me a tiny wave and a quick smile and hurried home. I was sure her “mama “ had told her how to leave the bus ,so I took no offense. She walked home and had a conference with mama on the porch.
    She came back and gave me a great big hug.
    I don’t know that anything that has ever happened to me has ever made me any happier.

    • Funny you should say that…but getting to pee when you’ve been bursting is one of the world’s most underrated pleasures!!
      The trust and love of children is a precious gift that brings so much joy. I remember many years ago seeing my cousin(she is 7 years younger than me) for the first time in a few years and she hugged me as if she’d never let go. She was my bridesmaid when I got married but I haven’t seen her since then(which makes me sad) but her love for me as a child still makes me smile.
      peace and prayers with you at this difficult time.
      xx

      • One time Tom Campbell and I were experiencing one of those underrated pleasures by a ditch behind a house where we were working.
        I will not repeat the crude parralell Tom made between ….ugh certain things . I do however agree with you and Tom whole heartedly.
        You and Tom made me laugh this morning.

      • Haha, it’s good to laugh. Some mental health authorities play funny movies to depression patients.
        Just smiling for 30 seconds releases endorphins that make you feel better; maybe someone ought to invent the smilemaker, device for pulling the face into a smile….
        *goes off pondering*
        *returns*
        I have it! It’s called a joke!!!

  6. Pingback: Happiness is a clean windshield and a pack of Marlboros « Opoetoo's Blog

  7. I was happy last night. I’d had a hot bath, put on clean jammies, climbed between freshly laundered flannel sheets and two quilts, grabbed a book, and rearranged myself so that my little dog could sleep with her head on my leg. I remember thinking, Ivana Trump ain’t got it better than me. And the act of remembering that, has made me smile again. Tomorrow, it might be the daffodil buds finally opening. I loved your post — it made me happy. Pearl

    • Thanks Pearl. It’s nice when simple gentle things help us be happy. It has made me think though how much of our perecption of happiness are to do with our physical state of being at the time…

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