Happiness is Hindsight
Happiness was an elusive emotion for me much of my life. I floundered while fighting the slippery image I thought perhaps had been created exclusively for greeting card companies, and company morale boosters.
Forms of the word "happiness" are thrown around like pieces of cottony fluff to chase in flight. I would find myself running around trying to grasp onto it while trying not to let it slip through my fingers.
There are more definitions of happiness than I can name. I commonly hear the following floating around in conversations:
"I'm so happy: I’m in love!"
"Happy is as Happy Does"
"Happiness is a conscious decision", "money can't buy happiness, but it sure helps!"
"I'd be happy if I made enough money to pay my bills and help others in need" and on it goes. Maybe you read the book "Be Joyful, it Beats Being Happy". Say what????
If someone receives an accolade you think you were deserving of, you may politely say, "I'm so happy for you." as you grit your teeth between your tightly pursed lips.
Perhaps you or someone you know suffers from depression and jokes about needing their "happy" pills.
Reading this back, you would think happiness was enough money, false sense of pride for someone else, sayings no one can comprehend, better living through chemicals, or title ticklers to entice a reader.
Believe it or not, I think I do know what happiness is. It is the gift of hindsight: a clear gaze back at what was and what could have been. Life situations where we thought happiness did not exist which were in actuality infused with happiness.
I have a friend who was newly married, struggling to put her husband through college, and living in a seedy cockroach infested apartment. They were horrified that each time a crumb was on their counter, a cockroach would run out, grab the crumb, and scurry back to its hiding place.
The homeless slept outside by their dumpsters, and occasionally they would hear gunshots in the near distance. How in the world could a couple newly engaged in marital bliss find happiness in this situation?
My words to them were that someday they would look back at those times as some of the happiest in their lives. The look I received in return could have burned holes into my brain, but I persisted.
Now a decade later with thriving medical practices, two beautiful children, a home nearly paid for, and their student loans wiped out, they understand. Their life was simple back then. Our friends appreciate what they have now, because they did not have a lot back when they were the proverbial starving students. Their struggle was the happiness. A sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, and the ability to fit in with an environment they were at odds in.
They learned to have compassion for low income patients in their practices. They remembered the dirty, disheveled, hot and hungry homeless who were thankful for but a scrap of fresh food that may have been disposed of. The homeless were not concerned about cockroaches and crumbs. Survival was happiness for them. My friends didn’t realize how happy it made them when they gave one of these people a lift to a soup kitchen, brought a plate of leftovers out to them, or shared a coat they really didn’t wear.
For me, happiness is formed by the simplest things in life. A shared look with my husband that only we understand, once in awhile a dinner I don’t have to cook, the look of pride my kids have on their face when they conquer new territory, watching people I mentor grow, and taking walks.
Walks when the fall leaves are crunching under my feet, or walking on new snow that puffs out from under my boots while frosted air wisps out of my breath, a sting to the cheeks from the cold air, reminding me I am alive and moving; that all fills me with happiness: paying attention to the senses.
When I lived in the desert, I enjoyed watching the mountains, naming each peak in my mind. In the absence of leaves, I crunched gravel and learned to enjoy that sound. If it newly rained in the desert, I was happiest when I could smell the pungent aroma of creosote that would fill the air. The creosote is not my favorite smell, but what it represents; newly washed air, makes me happy.
Simplicity: living in the moment, and not borrowing trouble. Appreciating what I have and understanding each day is a gift brings me happiness!
Happiness is Hindsight