Ok, so what if happiness is a state of mind? What if it is just more than a feeling that comes and goes each time we get what we want or when things go exactly the way we want them to? What if we could stay happy at some deeper emotional level even when things have gone to shit and nothing, nothing is going the way it should?
That, I think, would be pretty damn good.
contentment: happiness at the next level
For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
For the past couple of years I admit to having been a rather miserable sod and definitely one who did not ‘let it rain.’
It would be easy to blame it on depression (the depression post can be read here) but I think that would be just taking the safest option without having a long, hard look at other factors that had an effect.
In part one of this post I discussed whether or not happiness is just a feeling that occurs when everything is sitting in that perfect groove and how, for the most part, we will do all that we can to maintain this groove, thereby trying as hard as we can to maintain our happiness.
but then again, neither do the bad
If ever there were two sides to the one coin then this is it. Yeah, it’s shit that the good times don’t last. And why can’t they just go on forever? Good after good after good. How happy would we all be then!
Well a damn lot happier I expect than if the bad times just kept on coming. Which of course, they don’t, which is probably why some smart bugger came up with the saying ‘take the good with the bad’, just to help us all understand and make us sound wise and Yoda like when we palm off this bit of hard earned wisdom as our own.
and this, it seems, is where I went horribly wrong
Because I chased the good times. Not the womanising, beer-swilling, world at my feet good times of my twenties. No, because that would have just been f*****g stupid.
No. What I chased was feeling good. Feeling happy. Which of course meant that I wanted everything my own way and everything to be exactly the way that I wanted.
I’ll say that bit again. Exactly the way that I WANTED.
Which basically made me not only a selfish prick but also on a hiding to nothing. Because if you can find me someone, anyone who lives in a groundhog day of happiness and good times and who gets everything that they want then I want to meet them. Then I want to be them. And then everything will be perfect because I will have everything I ever wanted, over and over and over.
but this ain’t happening, and here’s why
Because life just isn’t made that way.
Shit fact, but true.
And it’s something that as intelligent, fifty-something’s that we should know by now. With all of our wisdom and considerable life experience it really is one of life’s lessons that should well and truly be learnt.
But often-times it isn’t.
We should know that life is not always pretty. We get angry and we get sad. We suffer illness and drop a lazy hundred on that horse that is still running. We don’t get promoted. The car breaks down. It floods. People starve. Wars happen and so do accidents that steal the lives of innocents for no other reason than because shit like that happens.
so how the f**k can I be happy with all this shit going on?
Quite simply, by accepting that all this shit goes on.
And if this sounds trite and all hippy and Woodstock and ‘don’t sweat it man’, it’s not.
It’s wisdom. And it’s where contentment starts to play its part.
And as much as I would like to claim being the worldly philosopher and ageless fountain of good advice, i’m not. This acceptance thing is something that I’ve had to learn and then keep learning over and over again.
learning to accept that things happen is a little difficult
But it was either learn it, or end up in God only knows what state of mind when things started to unravel.
One of the most useful techniques I’ve been taught to learn to deal with depression is learning to accept that I can’t, never will and never have been able to control everything that happens. And this includes getting (if depression is something you ‘get’) and suffering with depression.
Naturally, depression was not high on my list of must have’s. But then again neither was arthritis or diminished sex drive. Yet all of these things, plus countless others that I dare not admit did in fact, happen.
- Could they have been prevented? Maybe.
- Did I have trouble accepting that they occurred? Hell yes.
- Do I have trouble accepting them now? Nowhere near as much.
- Am I ‘happier’ because of this? Yes, absolutely.
of course i’m not saying i’ll never be unhappy again
Because I think most probably that this would be damn near impossible. We are human. We have emotions. Things affect us. We are not automatons and nor are we those robot things from Westworld reciting a script for the sole pleasure of paying customers wearing ten-gallon hats.
But by learning to accept that I don’t have total control, that life events and rainy weekends will happen regardless of whether I want them to, I am beginning to find that I am more content with where I stand in the world. More accepting of my weaknesses and far more content with where things are right now.
Which in turn makes me happy.
But if, in an hour, something rubbish happens, or at least something I perceive to be rubbish happens I will probably be angry, sad, jealous or whatever. But it won’t last. Nothing does. I’ve learnt that.
And this most definitely makes me happy.
(This post is adapted from numerous works on the subject of happiness and I have tried my best to be as non idealistic and ‘preachy’ as possible. The subject of happiness and its attainment could never be broached in a thousand or so words but the seed for thought most definitely can. Please feel free to add a comment or thought as opinion is most definitely welcomed. I encourage anyone to read the work of Matthieu Ricard on the subject of happiness).