After a while - a poem by Veronica Shoffstall. Written in black ink on beige paper beside an ink drawing of a leafless tree. After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t mean security. And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child And you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight. After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much. So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure that you really are strong and that you really do have worth And you learn and you learn with every goodbye you learn...

2024 Grateful 41: Happiness

Happiness, or the pursuit of happiness, seems to be the end goal for so many.

Advertisers are all too willing to sell us that one thing we’re missing, the one thing that will make us happy – anything from an automatic garage door opener (How much happier would you be if you didn’t have to brave the elements to park your car?) to the perfect body spray (designed, of course, to attract the perfect mate).

It’s laughable really, if you stop to think about it.

I’ve often wondered if advertisers fall for other people’s advertisements.

I stopped buying stuff advertised on FB after three strikes – badly made goods that looked nothing like what it said in the picture and refund/return conditions that made it too much bother to even try to get my money back (and of course, this is what the sellers are depending on).

That doesn’t mean I’m not tempted to give it one more go – I am – and often. But so far, my resolve has been stronger than the temptation. Unless I know someone who has bought the product, I’m not going there.

But back to happiness.

I had a wake-up call several years ago when I read a line from a later addition to the Serenity Prayer.

That I may be reasonably happy in this life.

There’s a lot of debate around Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer from the early 1930s. For many, it’s known as the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

And while I’m all for serenity, courage, and wisdom, it was the later line about being reasonably happy in this life that gave me pause for thought.

Reasonably happy. Not ecstatic. Not continually happy. Not even continuously happy. But reasonably happy.

Suddenly the pressure was off; pressure I hadn’t acknowledged was even there.

I stopped trying to be happy all the time. I stopped comparing myself to others who seemed to be living charmed, happy lives, making much more money than me, living in fancier houses, staying in five-star hotels, and carrying designer handbags. I slowed down. I stopped doing things I was doing because they were expected of me rather than because I wanted to do them.

I began to say no.

Rather than trying to hang on to friendships that had run their course, I stopped being the one who wrote, the one who messaged, the one who called. Effort is a two-way thing. And I was tired.

I took stock of my life and the people in it. I identified the tensions, the pressure points, and I let go.

Am I reasonably happy now?

Yes. I am.

Not always. But most of the time.

Do I think there’s someone or something out there that could make me happier?

No.

To be even happier, what I need to do is to drop something.

I was reminded of this recently by a post from Mark Hofreiter from the 24th chapter of Anthony de Mello’s book Awareness:

Happiness is our natural state. Happiness is the natural state of little children, to whom the kingdom belongs until they have been polluted and contaminated by the stupidity of society and culture. To acquire happiness you don’t have to do anything, because happiness cannot be acquired. Does anybody know why? Because we have it already. How can you acquire what you already have? Then why don’t you experience it? Because you’ve got to drop something. You’ve got to drop illusions. You don’t have to add anything in order to be happy; you’ve got to drop something. Life is easy, life is delightful. It’s only hard on your illusions, your ambitions, your greed, your cravings. Do you know where these things come from? From having identified with all kinds of labels!

Thanks, Mark. A timely reminder.

 

4 Responses

  1. Love this! Always nice to be reminded that happiness is not the end goal. Also nice to know that I have always had it❤️

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