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.