“If only we’d stop trying to be happy we’d have a pretty good time.” ~Edith Wharton
hap·pi·ness ˈhapēnəs noun 1. the state of being happy. So how do you know you’ve arrived?
Earlier this year I did a big purge of old books that I didn’t intend to read again, or in some cases read in the first place. One that couldn’t be parted with and holds a key spot on the top shelf was a book called Centenarians by Bernard Edelman. It’s the story of 20th century by the Americans who lived it. Its quotes and stories of these men and women who did something most could only dream of: reached the age of 100. It addresses the great depression, prohibition, the world wars, modern technology, woman in the workforce and various other topics of interest. There is a common theme of contentment through these stories. Joseph talked about being married to his dear wife for seventy-one years. Albert remembers the first gas range they ever bought and how it never got used because his grandmother was afraid it would blow up. Lucy wanted to remind us to make friends and have good manners where as Geneva said to flirt whenever you get the chance. And the formula for longevity? Seems to be garlic, or love, or God, or as Samuel put it ” I simply didn’t have time to die. I was too busy. Every day I was too busy.”
I’m picturing what Samuel’s busy looked like. It appears that he was a businessman and philanthropist who remained active in the business he founded even during the writing of this book. I appears that he may have been too busy to keep up with the Jones’ or too unconcerned if he was maintaining the perfect work-life balance while incorporating cardio and strength training, date nights, family game nights, lunches with his friends, tracking his macro-nutrients and contemplating his level of happiness in his career and relationships. It sounds completely ridiculous when look at it like this. He clearly, as he looked back on his life was contented.
Bi-polar disorder is a condition of going from a manic state to a deep depression. Although this is a more extreme condition I feel that many people today are searching for the moments of manic “happiness” followed by sliding back into discontent. Happiness is sold to us on a daily basis in every ad that passes our eyes so we try and buy happiness. This consumer driven happiness is a drug that has fleeting positive effects, so we need to buy more to get that high back. It’s why we have houses with three car garages and the storage industry is worth billions. It’s why we job hop and go into relationships with high standards of the other person bringing rom-com levels of euphoria, and then we split when our expectations were not met. We are told that if we just follow the Pinterest cookie cutter model of a perfect balanced life than we will be happy.
Happiness is not an adrenaline rush.
Perpetual happiness is an unattainable.
You need the downs to appreciate the ups.
I challenge you, instead of chasing happiness as an end goal to live within your values and believes to avoid discontentment. I challenge you to raise your standards but lower your expectations. I challenge you to be too busy for social media. I challenge you to take care of what you have and buy less. I challenge you to show gratitude. I challenge you to make an effort to make more sound logical decisions instead of emotional ones.