August 5, 2021

Happiness is Overrated. What we Need is This. 

I am not sure where I read this, maybe in the myriad of Facebook posts dealing with life and its joys and successes.

It was an advisory to kids who were being coached on what to say if someone asks them what they want to become when they grow up. Apparently, they should respond with, “I want to be happy!”

I thought that would be a pretty cool response until I started to apply that to my situation. What was the state of my mind now, after walking out on my husband of two decades? Was I happy?

Well, I would say not. Had I been happy with him in those 20 years? Yes. There were times when I was genuinely happy with him.

How did I feel now? Well, maybe not happy, but I felt a sense of peace and contentment.

Yes, there was no one to hold me close, no one to shower me with kisses and massage my aches and pains away. But there was no one to hold me accountable for those kindnesses either. I could hug myself, fix myself a cup of coffee to feel better, and use a massager to wipe the niggles away.

The best part? I did not have to feel obligated to another entity for feeling happy.

True, I did not feel the same ecstatic happiness I felt when I hugged myself or made my cuppa. But I feel so at peace, so in harmony with myself as I did those things for myself.

I feel like I would rather be in this state of nirvana than subject myself to the vagaries of another human being. I no longer had to feel the gnawing uneasiness eat away at me when I would be happily chatting with him because I wasn’t quite sure when the good times would end.

The pursuit of happiness has been the major theme of my life. I thought that if I fell in love with a handsome man who had a great sense of humor, and if he loved me back and asked me to marry him, then I could live happily ever after with him. Yes, the pursuit of happily ever after caused me to quite ignore the reality of my emotions, ignore the ache in my heart to write, put aside the urge to travel, and kick out the stubborn wannabe athlete in me to get married to this man of my dreams and make a life with him.

Nothing gave me as much happiness as being with him on a good day. But nothing gave me more grief than being with him on a bad day either. Somehow I was never able to balance out the good with the bad. I would give in to the good days with abandon, loving, and being loved passionately. I would dissolve into tears on the bad ones.

One fine day, I decided I’d had enough. I walked out of the only life I had known. Suddenly, the promise of happiness on another day did not appeal to me that much. I did not want to experience the zenith of joy one minute only to descend into the pit of sadness the next. It was so not worth it.

Today I live each day as it comes.

I sleep on the sleeper sofa in my living room by a sliding glass door that opens onto a balcony and overlooks a brook. I watch birds, geese, and squirrels going about their business. Somehow that brings unbridled joy to me. I can experience happiness without having to worry about it being interrupted. I feel a sense of peace that overtakes my happiness.

I am not sure what tomorrow will bring. Yes, I do find myself scouring the pits of discontent sometimes where I try to determine if the decision I made was the right one or not. But I also realize that I can open up my laptop and start adding another chapter of my first novella, or think about writing in my Elephant Journal, or take a run in the forest preserve next to my house. Doing these, I can feel the pits disappearing into oblivion, much like my thoughts.

The power to control what I feel, how I feel, and when I feel is in my hands. When living with another person whom I looked to for happiness, I did not have that luxury. It felt like the remote control was in his hands.

I walked out because I did not want to wait for a happy tomorrow. I wanted to be content today.

I walked out of his house into my home. A one bedroom apartment with a view to die for. I don’t feel comfortable sleeping by myself in my bedroom so I started to sleep in the open living room and I can’t understand why anyone would not. I watch the sunset over the brook and I feel a sense of peace in my solitude that no togetherness can rival. This moment of tranquility is all me, pure, and unadulterated. I wouldn’t trade that with all the happiness in the world.

Happiness requires continuous work, making peace with your situation, no matter what it is, does not. So instead of wishing happiness on people, which is dependent on someone else, I wish them personal contentment that is unattached. This is how I feel now in my new place with a new life, all by myself.

I am content. I am home!

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