Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Happiness

Travis asked "Can you define your happiest day?" Happiest. Perhaps no other culture has concerned itself with happiness as we have. My life has been punctuated with moments of pure joy - making eye contact with dh as I walked down the aisle, the birth of my children, the light of understanding in a child's eye, laughter shared. Happiness, however, isn't a moment or a day. Its a state of being, a collection of moments and days. Its a sense of direction.

One night, I was walking back from the barn. It was dark and beautiful stars lit the sky. My family was safely inside the house, healthy, fed, and the horses nickered softly. The night wasn't remarkable in any way, but I thought to myself, it doesn't get any better than this. As quickly as I admitted that sense of well-being, I wondered what would happen next? Surely something, as I couldn't believe that God would allow me to continue in such a state of happiness forever or I'd not grow and learn.

And sure enough, times changed and some were hard, but again I'd come to another day when I'd say, "It doesn't get any better than this". Helen Keller said, "True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." American culture teaches us to reach for individual happiness and orgasmic moments. "It's all about me." And this selfish search for those perfect moments and individual happiness, rather than a collective overall happiness of us all, is what is bringing down the American family.

7 comments:

Arby said...

Half way through the third paragraph of this blog I found my mind wandering to a conversation that I had with my wife back when we were first married. We were taking an evening stroll through the ground of our apartment complex. Our dog was on a leash in front of us and our cat trailed behind us by about 15 feet. She followed us on our nightly walks, just out of reach of the dog’s lead. My wife became very angry at me because she perceived my deeply ingrained “one day at a time” approach towards life as a fear of commitment. I told her that the only way I could prove my commitment to her was by racking up a looooong train of “one days.” I think it took a decade for her to realize that I wasn’t a flight risk. Happiness. It comes with waking up and realizing that you are breathing. It comes with waking up and realizing that God is with you, no matter how much you don’t deserve His attention. Happiness is opening one eye and finding the daughter nose-to-nose with you, chattering away, blissfully unaware that dawn hasn’t broken over the horizon. Happiness comes with one more day where I do not have to scrounge for food, fight for shelter, or fear my neighbor. How can we not be happy?

pita-woman said...

Despite what many perceive(sp?) as my constant negativity, grumpy attitude, and sometimes bitterness towards certain "things" in my life, I see those moments as "we all have bad days, let me grumble"... but I like to think I'm basically a happy person.
Ditto what Arby said: Happiness comes with one more day where I do not have to scrounge for food, fight for shelter, or fear my neighbor.
Sharing what we have, be it our time/energy, the fruits from our garden of tomatoes, talents/creativity, or our life experiences... these things make us happy!

Flock Fold Kids said...

AMEN to both Cathy's post and Arby's comment!

Kristina said...

I think happiness is a decision. No matter what our life circumstances, chances are, they could be worse. The fact that we have life is, in itself, reason for happiness. There is much in life to be unhappy about. But, the fact is, if we make the decision to be happy, we can accomplish it.

Travis Erwin said...

Nice post. So much more concise and articulate than mine.

whitetr6 said...

Good topic, C
Happiness for me slapped me right in the face this past April as I joined our small missions team for my first visit to Nicaragua. Matthew 25 Ministries (www.m25m.org) has been active in the country for nearly 15 years, and my wife and I have been part of the effort, but always from a distance (that is, not making the trips ourselves, but doing what work needed to be done here.)

As our team arrived in the country, I was full of expectations - getting photographs of the children, visiting the villages where M25 projects are in full swing.

Our first stop was the Managua city dump. We had heard that entire families live there in tin and cardboard shanties, walking around in bare feet, fighting wild dogs for territory. The heat was blistering. The children were heartbreaking. Picture the constant billowing smoke coming from piles of debris, as 5-year olds pick through it looking for plastic and cans to recycle. It's a national disgrace, and yet it continues.

Through the cool clear air-conditioned bus windows, I squinted to make out a small figure in a doorway. There stood a girl, about 4 years old, with huge dark eyes and coal black hair. She wore only soot covered underwear and a ripped pink Dora the Explorer t-shirt. It struck me how much she looked like Dora's cartoonish character, and I wondered if she saw a resemblence herself, not that she would have any idea who the little character was.

As we drove closer, the bus driver slowed down. The little girl stared. I raised my hand slightly and waved to her as I reached for my camera.

In an instant, her face turned from curiosity to surprise to sheer joy. Her whole expression beamed as she smiled and waved back at me. I was so startled, expecting nothing but dispair in her little face, I never got the picture. Yet I'll remember her face forever.

We drove as far as we could and turned around. I searched for her again as we passed her shack, but she was gone. I knew why I was there, and it seemed, so did she. Clarity of purpose, for me, brought unexpected happiness.

Junosmom said...

You know, I am coming to love the comments generated more than blogging. I should just blog to get y'all to write to me :-)

Arby, I agree. It the daily things and commitment that add up. Glad you were able to convince her of that. Hope the Boss is well.

And whitetr6, it's time to start that blog. I hope you continue to post these comments on my blog, adds to my blog! But you have a lot to write about - your mission, your first day of high school...You are a good writer.

PITA - your grumbles are similar to mine, a way to find humor in our daily trials, not a lack of happiness. Keep blogging it!

Kristina - I agree that happiness is also an attitude. I hope I am passing this along to my children.

Travis - no, no. Your blog encouraged me to write about this topic. I enjoy your writing enough to check daily. Thanks for the idea.

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