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Happy, happy, happy, All the time...

...Shock treatment -
I'm doing fine!

So saith the Ramones. ;-)

However, this is perhaps a rather drastic solution to the problem of Happiness and How to Get It.  Unless your neurons have really and truly given up their normal function, the chances are something simpler may help. ;-P

Something struck me just now as I was sitting here upon the sofa, listening to the spectral tappings of a plumber who is currently operating upon a stricken toilet upstairs (and no, what struck me was not falling plaster, or streams of water).  I was sitting here thinking about Happiness, and how human beings will insist upon pursuing it, dogged creatures that they are.  That is to say, I dislike having strangers in my house and feel rather scrutinised when forced to coexist in this way with persons unknown.  It gets to a point where I can't even tell whether I'm happy or annoyed or what.  I'm sort of... neutral, all through.  Only later on when I've thought about it do context, hindsight and all those other useful ruminative devices render this haze into any kind of legible image.  At the time, I'm just sitting here on the sofa, trying to do some embroidery, and meditating on the enormous amount of cleaning I'm going to have to do when the chap finally leaves.

But anyway... that's all just a preamble to the meat of this post.  What struck me, as I wondered whether I am (a) cross about the dust, noise, inconvenience, etc.; (b) glad that work is starting to our new, improved bathroom facilities; (c) not bothered either way and leaving the plumber to his toil; (e) Other/Don't Know, was that Happiness seems to have become the modern Be-All And End-All.  Perhaps it always was, but somehow it feels as though many folks nowadays (the latter phrase betraying my non-youth in all out flag waving fashion) view Happiness as something they can pursue, catch up to, grab, stuff in a bag and go home with.  Once they have wrestled it out of the bag, they will nail it to the wall, sit back and look at it, beaming.  After that, everything will be A-OK for ever and a day.

There are others who seem to think that Happiness is something to be achieved, like sales targets, summitting Everest, or a swimming badge.  They will, once they have achieved certain things - perhaps buying a house, marrying, publishing a novel, touching the end of their nose with their tongue - cross some invisible Finish Line of Happiness, and emerge, bemedalled and smiling, into the Winner's Enclosure.  Happy now!

The less said about those other people who think they can buy Happiness (like a car, or a Picasso, or an election) the better.

But hang on a minute.  Happiness isn't a Thing.  Happiness is a state of being.  (Mistaking states of being for things is a common mode of thought in today's world.  Think of all those poor unsuspecting nouns that have been forced into becoming verbs, for a start!)  It's something that happens to you.  A process - or an awareness of a process.  It's not a Thing that you can dangle from a chain.  The other point to remember is that often, states of being are beyond the control of the individual.  You can't phone 0800-HAPPY and order some.  It's the combination of many, many things that leads to Happiness, and part of the effect comes, I am sure, from the fact that as a rule you don't stand there expectantly, watching it all falling into place.  You don't get yourself all psyched up to feel happy.  Wait for it - here it comes - !  ...No; that wouldn't feel the same at all.  In fact, the clue is in the word.  The phrase 'by lucky hap' (that is, by chance) springs to mind.  Something 'happy' is something that just, well, happens.

Something else that strikes me (...yes, I'm having quite a little meteor shower, innit...) is that Happiness is not something you can cling on to.  You get it - or rather, it comes to you - you become aware of it (perhaps not so much even while it's actually Happening) - and that's grand, but it doesn't then stick around forever afterwards.  It's fleeting.  Further than this, though, I would make so bold as to suggest that feelings in general are (for me, not sure about anyone else) more of a mosaic than a wave, an ebb-and-flow.  I am happy and unhappy and a hundred and one other things several times an hour.  I'm not happy when I have to get out of bed early on a cold morning, but I am happy when I look out of the window and see that the world looks fine.  I am not happy when I trip over something on the way to the bathroom, but I am happy when the warm water hits me.  (As long as it doesn't hit me in the eye...)

In that case, if it's more of a mosaic, or patchwork, or a pointillistic artwork that builds up moment by moment throughout your day, and throughout your life, we can only measure Happiness when we look back.  And the results will vary, depending on how far back we are looking.  When you stand Here, Now, and look back over the past hour of your life, were you happy?  How about the past year?  How about the whole thing?  What's more, apparently Studies Have Shown that most people tend to view their past experiences though rose-tinted specs - the bad stuff doesn't seem as bad when we recall it, and we edit out most of the bad bits when remembering a largely good experience.  This in-built optimism apparently prevents hopelessness.  (The optimistic bias appears not to be present in depressives, interestingly.)

To avert further blithering, may I simply state my feelings at the end of this philosophical ramble: pursuing Happiness seems like a daft notion to me.  How do you know when you've nailed it?  You can only really 'know' Happiness after the fact, by which time your rose-tinted lenses will have given the entire mosaic a pretty pink tinge (unless you are depressed, in which case Happiness may not be possible anyway...).  I think it might be easier and wiser simply to appreciate all those tiny little incidences that add up to our lifelong experience of Happiness, and try and remember that all feelings are fleeting, be they good, bad or indifferent.

And now: CLEANING, and lots of it.  From the airy-fairy to the down-'n'-dirty... don't say I'm not versatile. ;-)


( 7 confidences — Confide in me... )
Nov. 29th, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
Also happiness is seen as the optimum state of wellbeing, which rather shadows simply being: well, content, glad, okay, sweet, gay, thrilled etc. Why do we just want to be happy, can't we feel a spectrum of good feelings? At least that way we can scoot through them and perhaps have more of them by shade.
Nov. 30th, 2010 09:30 am (UTC)
I totally agree. :-) This must be why people find meditation such a helpful thing - 'just being' is something that has to be re-learned. Plus it's true, sometimes we tend to brush off feelings that don't meet the 'happy' grade, without really listening to them and honouring them.

Another thing is... making someone else happy. We often worry about that in terms of 'can I do the big enormous one-time thing that will guarantee this other person's happiness from that moment on?' Of course that's not possible. The little moment-to-moment stuff has far more impact than big fat grand gestures (preceded and followed by *nothing*).

Ah well, back to supervising the plumber... ;-)
Nov. 30th, 2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
Very true, and I figure that the moment to moment is more selfless and harder to sustain, but then if you keep at it, it rewards you deeper and gathers its own momentum. Enormous one-time things have a very short shelf life if you're not looking after the small stuff.
Nov. 30th, 2010 09:51 am (UTC)
You may have noticed that I'm a relentlessly cheerful person, and I think I achieve that through the merry acceptance that what I think, believe, and want is utterly meaningless. This is a tremendously liberating philosphy, and allows me to think, believe and want anything I like.
Nov. 30th, 2010 11:10 am (UTC)
I think guilt is a horrible thing, and mostly unnecessary (although I don't always manage to bat it away as much as I'd like!) - sounds like you're healthily free of it! :-) So much time and energy is wasted on agonising over silly things, and on that feeling of little mistakes being of universe-shaking importance when really, no-one has noticed and no-one cares...
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 30th, 2010 06:10 pm (UTC)
To be honest, I don't think I have that optimistic backwards glance, either. I have a really clear memory for the most part, esp. when it comes to feelings - good and bad. On the other hand, apparently those depressive people who lack the rosy tinted memories don't have an exaggeratedly pessimistic view - it is actually realistic. It's 'normal' for the brain to downgrade past hurts, rather than remember them accurately. So in a way that's comforting, right...? Well, maybe. ;-P

I'm with you on the no artificial mood enhancements, also. I can never quite get my mind round why people would want that, although it seems to be a pretty popular pastime. >_<

I think perhaps there is a trade-off between pinpoint awareness, which may mean you are too tuned-in to the 'now' to coast along on a warm, vague cloud of Happy, and the other extreme of bimbling along in life, contented enough but not experiencing the highs and lows or the fine detail. So your happiness might exist in brief bursts, but it may be more intense than the consistent okayness that some people manage to sustain.

Well anyway... enough words from me - glad you enjoyed reading my verbiage! XD
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 6th, 2010 11:07 am (UTC)
Hmm, do you ever get that annoying 'hyper awareness' thing when in a stressful situation? It tends to affect me especially if I'm in some sort of conflict with someone - I start noticing all sorts of stupid details (asymmetry in pattern on rug... weird spelling of author's name on book... wondering how TV stand was constructed... bizarre random nonsense!), despite also being fully focused on what the other person is saying, what I think about that, and what I'm going to say in response...! It's kind of exhausting, although it makes sense that any animal who is stressed (inc. humans!) could benefit from taking in as much info as possible. Could also make you remember traumatic things in more detail than neutral stuff, I guess.

I can't claim to speak for anyone who routinely uses alchohol/drugs to excess, but from my outside perspective it always looks like (a) latent masochism... because is it really 'fun' and 'enjoyable' to make yourself ill and expose yourself to risks ranging from basic embarrassment to serious injury, from a criminal record (if you punched someone) to hypothermia (if you fell asleep in some alley on a cold night or whatever) or (b) the feeling that one lacks something or has some fault that can only be put back or repaired by self-medicating.

It's interesting: I would consider myself to 'lack' the skill of making smalltalk, along with the inclination to do it, but my response to that is to... not go out much. ^_^ Much healthier than forcing yourself to do something you're not that keen on, and need to be drunk to do, and yet *I'd* be the one labelled as weird... >_<

End rant!! ;-)
( 7 confidences — Confide in me... )

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