Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happy if you want to be

For the past week or two (or month or two) I have been thinking a lot about happiness, and what makes different people happy. I've been watching a lot of couples, families, and singles, and people as individuals inside those groupings, and watching to see who appears to be happy.

If there is one thing I have learned from my observations it is that we all have different criteria for happiness. I have a feeling this will be an on-going thought process of mine, but I'd like to share what I have observed in batches.

1. I watched one woman who appears to be able to have it all. But what makes her happy is having her essential needs met. She doesn't "have it all" in my personal opinion. In fact, I think she sells herself short, and she knows it, but tells herself she is happy because her essential needs are met. I feel truly sorry for this person. I wish she cared enough about herself to want better for herself, because she could have it. I honestly think she tells herself she's not worth it, so she doesn't care, and she's happy as is. I could be wrong. But I doubt it.

2. One woman has what I consider to be a very difficult life. She has to work harder than pretty much everyone I know. I can't describe her life too much because I don't want to break what little anonymity I want to provide here. Her essential needs are barely met each week. If she were to just break down sobbing and say she can't take it anymore, and would somebody please help her, I wouldn't blame her at all. I hope she knows I'd be there for her, and that I try to be there for her. But here's the thing, she's happy. And I think it is because she has to work so hard that she can enjoy what she has more.

3. One woman revels in problems. She just attracts the crap of life. She couldn't see a silver lining if you put it in her hand. She always seems surprised to be happy or when good things happen. Overall, she seems to be a happy person. But the closer you get to her, the more you realize she's hurting all of the time.

4. Another woman is a lot like the first woman. Her needs are met and then some. She has big goals and plans. She is the opposite of the first woman in the sense that she never stops trying and reaching. She is one of the most positive, friendliest, happiest people I know, even when she's had trials thrown at her. She's also one of the few people who's advice I actually listen to.

So here's what I've concluded from my observations. People who have to work at happiness, are happier. The people who are willing to say "this isn't actually what i want, but i'm afraid of what i might want" are never truly happy. I would venture a guess that half of you reading this thing that is a no-brainer. At least, I hope half of you feel that way. I hope happiness is that obvious to half the population. But I fear it isn't.

And this is one of the reasons I want to go into foster parenting and a few other activities. It's a little related to the old saying, "idle hands are the devil's workshop." My essential needs are met. I can take care of myself with little effort. And that brings me no happiness. it is working and doing more, trying for more, reaching further than before, that brings happiness. It isn't settling for the simplest options. To me, happiness will never be found by accepting the simple basics as good enough.

A really bad analogy.

A ham sandwich made from my refrigerator meets my basic hunger needs.
A ham sandwich from La Madeleine's Cafe makes me happy.

But when I am in financial straits and money and food are hard to come by, and I have to struggle to afford the ham sandwich from my refrigerator, I am happy to have a ham sandwich. La Madeleine's is not even on my radar. It is something other people need and want. But when my bank account is full, Oscar Mayer doesn't taste anywhere near as good.

The real question is how much do you need in life, (basic needs to be met), to be happy?

This isn't actually about money. So I'm going to keep rambling on. Also, I hate ham. I will never like Oscar Mayer. The only way I will ever eat ham is if it is fancy ham that has never been date stamped and put on a grocer's shelf.

For some women, all they need is a man who can provide A, B, C. It isn't about finding a man who excites them and they can't wait to be with him. It is about having their essential needs met. (without making this a Pride and Prejudice discussion, this woman would best be described as Charlotte Lucas). But for other women, it is about A, B, C, and love. They want to be excited by their man. (Elizabeth Bennett) And now we have a new type of woman in this world (yes, I'm one of them) that says, I can give myself A, B, and C. All I want is D. Why would I settle for essential provisions, when I can do that for myself? And I guess, what I am wondering tonight, is about those women who wanted just A,B,C. Do they stay happy forever? Or do they just stay in their routine because they were never "reachers" to begin with? I personally can't imagine being happy like that. But I accept that there are some people who might.

And yes, I do realize, and we can skip right over this discussion, that there are many women who went for "D," and lost it in divorce. I'm not looking for a discussion on whether or not it is right. I'm looking for a discussion on happiness without goals or expectations, and whether or not that is possible.

I hope that makes some sense.



  1. Life can change so quickly. Overall happiness shouldn't depend on needs being met or what you have or don't have. I believe it is a state of being that one chooses daily. Temporary happiness can come from things going your way one day, or a ham sandwich (ham doesn't make me happy under any circumstances).

    "Men are, that they might have joy." or "I am, that I might have joy." Or, if Jesus Christ is "I am", then "Jesus Christ IS that I might have Joy."

    Which brings me to my last grand point. Deep lasting happiness and my daily application of it in my life stems from my belief and recognition that there is someone far greater than myself who loves me and taught me who and, most importantly, HOW to be.

    Jesus Christ had far greater trials than I could ever have and partaking of His bitter cup without becoming bitter is my way of telling Him that I believe Him. (quoting Elder Neal A. Maxwell there)

  2. Great topic. And very well-written despite your fear of 'rambling'.

    I just watched Pride & Prejudice three times this week! Yes. 3times! So yes, your Charolette/ Lizzy example is right on.

    And also, you are right about the modern woman. I can do A,B & C, I'm looking for D!

    I must point out though, in your first example - the woman who is content with A,B & C ... and may even be satisfied with a,b & c - may have a completely different background. Perhaps throughout her childhood she was only provided a, and B but no C or even c. So having A, B & C is akin to the lap of luxury.

    I grew up with A,B,C and pretty much d. Today, all I want in addition to what I can provide myself is D!!!
    I think I am happy for the most part. I'm just missing something. It makes me sad at times, but not unhappy. I'm longing for more - and I'm not sure if that's selfish or ungrateful. But that's how it is.

    Despite all my frustrations, I do believe it is possible.
    My moment by moment mood - in which my belief about whether the Lord even has D on Deck or even in the hole for me - changes and I am either happy or sad, but never truly unhappy. I think.

  3. My first thought - I certainly hope most people see me as woman #4 in your example!

    The other thought - I don't think happiness is contingent on love, or needs being met or the right kind of sandwich. Happiness is internal. It's attitude and perspective.

    You could be perfectly happy and content with none of the basics being met. With no food on the table - IF you chose to be.

    To continue on your P&P analogy (ahhh, I love literature!) Charlotte COULD have been truly happy and not just content if she had chosen to be. If she had said - "Love is more of an action and attitude than it is passion and flash-pan burn. I can love this man and this life for what it is and be very happy with it!"

    Or - she could have chosen to say, "Well, this is the best I could get. I'm horrible and frumpy and no one else would have had me. Oh, woe is me." She did neither of those, and chose to say "Eh - it is what it is. I'll be content."

    And for all her talk, Lizzie would NOT have been "happy" w/o A, B & C even if she had the most wonderful D in the world. At least, not the way she had been written in that book.

    Now who's rambling? lol I'll shut up now.

  4. What I know for SURE is that "happiness" is what you make it. Good feelings breed good feelings. If you revel in happiness, you will attract more of it. Elder Wirthlin's talk about "Come what may and love it" was right on the money. Every time we complain and moan we affect not only ourselves, but the feelings of everyone around us... and in marriage it is a slippery slope. If you are in a marriage where you have to "reach" because you can't make ends meet or whatever, you can either let it strain your marriage or you can learn to appreciate what you DO have, as you suggest. But the easiest and probably most natural route is to feel negatively. We're still human.

    As others have previously said, and I have learned from personal experience, it has to come from within. Nothing external will ever bring you true happiness. If someone is unhappy in singlehood, no amount of passion will make that person happy. Trust.

  5. Loved your post! I'm having a weepy day for many reasons, but this was a good remember to keep facing the day.

    I feel like I re-define happiness all the time. It comes in so many flavors (enjoying a sunrise, laughing with a friend till I cry, finishing a difficult project, or reflecting on different life events).

    It is true that when life gets tough, I do revert more to the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid. Perhaps it's good to have to go through those trying times to appreciate the difference between the good and the hard. I know that I've had a lot of personal inspiration and blessings that have all told me the same thing - you will have much joy and happiness in this life, but not without hardship and failure. Just great. I have to have it all.

    My latest mechanism for dealing with the hard stuff ...and not always being chipper and happy is reminding myself about good movies and books. The most amazing are about people that DIDN'T have things go well and didn't always stay upbeat, but somehow became immensely interesting, deep, well-rounded and endearing characters regardless of whether their life ended up as a "happy ever after."

    I'd better quit now or this will be longer than your post. (-:

    Thanks again for sharing.

  6. You know what? I'm happy. I'm just a little bored. And lonely.

    But still happy - in general

    And I also think that Charolette more or less chose contentment. It wasn't a bad life that she got -not by any means. And Mr. Collins isn't so bad - if he grows out that unfortunate haircut and you don't compare him to other men!! (Keira Knightly version - Haven't seen BBC)


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