In search of happiness

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 1, 2011 10:16 PM

My friend Bobbi and I have this discussion quite often: what is happy and how is it qualified? I don’t mean happy during every minute of every day; that’s simply not normal. But overall. What does it mean to be happy, and if you’re not happy, is it possible to become happy?

It’s such an odd word, happy. It has a flat sound for what it means, unlike joyous which has a lovely, melodic note to it. Happy is to be delighted, pleased or glad. It’s characterized by pleasure and comfort; it can feel fortunate and lucky. It actually came to us from Middle English – not Middle Earth, which was decidedly unhappy – around the mid-14 century and was derived from haphazard, chance and fortune. The Greeks and Irish used it to mean luck, the Welsh to mean wise. I like it to mean contentedness.

Happiness is feeling good about work or a job. It’s about enjoying life, about embracing possibilities. Happiness can be found in spending time with friends and family. It’s a feeling that washes over a situation and a person, leaving behind a feeling that’s calm, sustained, joyous.

Everyone in the world wants to be happy, but if you’re unclear about what you’re looking for, it can be impossible to find. It’s not a particular thing, it’s a feeling, a state of being. It can be exhilarating and peaceful, short term gained from external things and inner happiness that comes from acceptance of self, of living with purpose. Inner happiness is the hardest to find and the one Bobbi and I have spent our conversations discussing because it’s not about what so many think it’s about. It doesn’t matter if one has the newest electronics or car, or all the money in the world. There’s a reason why the saying “money can’t buy happiness” exists. It’s not even about having no worries at all, or lazing around all day in front of the television, or the computer. It’s deeper than that.

What I’ve found is that happiness means waking up every morning to enjoy the day, being grateful for the opportunity to explore that day. I love loving what I do and I like to think that maybe some of it makes a difference. I find happiness in having direction, and purpose, a goal. I find happiness in the way Kevin and I live our lives, together, with laughter and yes, joy. The smallest butterfly alighting a flower can make me happy because it fills me with peace, two squirrels fighting in the trees makes me laugh because it’s real; it’s an honest existence.

I find that the truest form of happiness comes from the soul, not the mind, and it is both a constant search and the exquisite feeling of not needing to search. It comes from choice and change, of finding strength in the positive. It’s satisfaction of self rather than material goods. It is at its core about being happy. It’s not something that can be described; it’s more nebulous. It simply is and when you have it, you know it.

I have great joy in my life, not every minute, but most often. And I choose to live it out loud by celebrating the little happiness-wrapped presents that arrive every day. A cool breeze at night, a great glass of wine, a talk with a friend, a phenomenal book, a tear-stained laugh; the sound of my husband’s voice, his laugh, Justin’s ‘Hi, mom!;” the smell of my dog’s fur. A good conversation with a client, a strong paragraph of writing; Saturdays. If you look and listen and open yourself up, you can find happiness where you left it. Deep inside. That’s where I found mine and where it continues to reside.

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