Maybe we are going after the wrong goal, with all of our happiness searching.

I mean, who ever said that a full life involved a self-reported state of “happiness” most of the time? Weren’t there Holocaust survivors who ended up living full lives, even though they had a huge horrific event punctuating their time on this planet? Weren’t there artists who created astonishing oeuvres, all drawn from the suffering and isolation of their existence? What about the political activists who spent large portions of their lives in prison, just for the nature of the ideas they expressed out loud?

I look at my life and ask two things:

– What will all the people who have ever known and loved me think when they see what I have done with my life?

– How do I summon the right kind of emotion – courage, whatever you want to call it – to allow it all to fall apart and see what comes of it?

In other words, surrender. Maybe that’s the appropriate feeling I’m after. All of my searching, yearning, working, exploring, wondering…maybe all of it could simply be an unexpressed need to surrender.

Happiness feels confining to me because it is tied up with what you report yourself to be. I feel happy whenever I am absolutely still and silent in yoga class. Is that normal? Is that reportable? If I give myself a dose of that on most days of the week, does that make me happy?

If I know how to make myself happy, isn’t that enough? Trying to construct a whole life that encompasses happiness in every corner, and looks happy every time I step back from it, sounds overwhelming to me. But finding little moments of happiness and peace, and more importantly, noticing when they happen, seem to be the ingredients of a life well-lived.

Back to the article by Woodward on middle-aged women and happiness, it’s about “sweating the small stuff” – finding the details about your activities and surroundings that bring you happiness.

Surrender also means giving up the need to do things only if they make you happy. For instance, I am embarking on a list of new commitments over the next nine months that I have NO IDEA whether or not will make me happy or happier. I don’t know if they’ll make me happy while I’m doing them, or if they’ll make me happy after I’m done.

We beat ourselves over the head with this question in relationships too. Is a relationship only valuable if it makes you happy? Can we find a way to accept the toxic, tension-filled, difficult relationships as part of our lives, without them taking away our happiness?

Maybe the problem is equating happiness with pleasure. Happiness is probably closer to satisfaction or fulfillment than to a state of constant pleasure.

I like the word fullness more than happiness. I’d like to live a full life, full of the things that I choose, things that are brought upon me, things that I change, things that I adapt to, things that I accept, things that I create. For that, I first need to learn to surrender.

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