pursue something else.

Americans like the idea of happy.
of pursuing happiness.
It is even one of our inalienable rights at least according to the Declaration of Independance.

But I think maybe we should pursue something else.
like love or joy or peace or contentment.

and leave happy alone.

Don't read me wrong. I am neither bitter nor cynical. Even my problems are good problems. I am positive. Half full. And most days I laugh a whole lot more than I cry.

And simple things like a dance party in the living room, an hour alone in Barnes and Noble, the yellow pajama pants my son picked out for me for mother's day, potstickers, clean sheets, someone surprising me with coffee, jeans fresh from the dryer, a good song on the radio, or squeals of delight when I walk in the door all make my heart sing.

They make me happy.
For a minute.

But when the squealing turns to screaming, my new pants are dirty, the sheets are in a jumble on the floor or the coffee runs out....where does that leave me?

And happy isn't always good.

I remember talking to a favorite old friend right before Owen was born.
She told me that she was leaving her husband. That she wasn't sure she loved him anymore. That she just wasn't happy. So she was leaving.
There was another guy who made her happy and she was going to give that a try for a while.
She was pursuing happy and threw away of lot of good things in the process.
I wanted to hop in my car and drive the three hours to see her. To love her. And then shake some sense into her.
I think maybe we are all so often unhappy because we are pursuing somthing that won't last or an ideal that doesn't really exist. The fake picture we saw on the Cosby show or read about in greeting cards.

Happy is short lived. Experiential. And we keep desperately looking for it. Hoping for it to show up on our doorstep, in shopping bags, bottles, other people and pills. And it often makes it's brief appearance and then moves on to someone else.
I want to seek something a little more permanant.

A joy forever etched in my soul. That is still there even on days where I struggle to smile. In being content. Like Paul. Paul wrote the "happiest" book of the bible, Philipians, while rotting in a jail cell. Because his joy didn't come from his circumstances or his new favorite pair of pajama pants. But from Christ.

And He is surely worth pursuing.
(this post is part 2 of some fun stuff going on over at momalon's five for ten. click on over and check it out.)


Anonymous said...

You are on to something here! I like it, want to think about it more. It's true, we are always chasing the next "goal" in hopes that it will make happiness, but do we ever get there? I suppose it's human nature, those bits and pieces of happiness and perhaps the real joy, contentment you mention comes from being able to add them up and hold on to their entirety.

Glad to meet you here as part of Five for Ten!

For the Love of Naps - Sarah said...

Lots of truth to your post. Even when I am having and "unhappy day" I pause and realize that ultimately I am happy I am just in a funk for that day...so maybe it isn't so much happiness that eases the stress I feel when I am "unhappy" but rather that deep down life is good and worth riding the rollercoaster of the unhappy moments to get back to the "happy" moments. Contentment and joy and peace are what play into me being happy.

I loved your list of happy things....warm jeans, dance party etc. I can relate to all of those.

Happy Wednesday!

Aidan Donnelley Rowley said...

Great, provocative post. I do often wonder whether it is our obsession with happiness, our constant striving for it, that makes us most unhappy.

Thrilled to have found my way here via the lovely sisters @ Momalom!

nachogy said...

Your best post ever. You have hit the nail on the head. Why are people not happy? Happiness is fleeting. Joy is not. God help us learn to be content.

Dawn said...

I learned that lesson a few years ago...it was a hard one to learn but well worth it.

Justine said...

Is happiness some nebulous ideal we make up in our head so we're constantly trying to achieve something but we don't really know what that is? And because of that, it just keeps going and going.

This reminds me of something I read on The Parents' Tao Te Ching, about what you teach your children:

"If you teach them to achieve
they will never be content.
If you teach them contentment,
they will naturally achieve everything."

I would like to think that applies to happiness.

becca said...

I think "Happiness" is so subjective. What makes one person happy may not make another happy. One person may seem happy all the time, another may have to work so hard at it. I think if we are able to pinpoint what a reasonable amount of happiness for ME is, we wouldn't find ourselves so unhappy with the disappointment of not being happier. And if those closest to us could also realize that sometimes not being happy is OK... we're not unhappy, just content... it would make it easier too.

I've written before that we need to be ok with being "fine". We don't need to be thrilled, overjoyed or laughing all the time. We can just be fine. And that's fine.

Great post! Love finding you here through momalom!

Alisha said...

Thank you for framing this in a new way for me. We do spend a lot of time chasing happiness instead realizing that sometimes happiness has to come from within.

Rachel said...

This really makes me think about the arrival fallacy... the idea that we will be happy once we reach a certain goal, but then once we've achieved said goal.... nothing. Contentment is a good place to be.

I think it's great that you wrote this. It's brave. These days its all about "doing what makes you happy" but perhaps that's misdirected... Definitely something to ponder this morning!

Rachel @ MWF Seeking BFF

Margie said...

Love this. LOVE it. I think we also cripple our children when we try to make sure they are always "happy." Because they're tricked into believing it's something they deserve, that can be brought about through circumstances.

Would like to know what happened to your friend. Are you brave enough to post about it? Or can you just tell me next time we meet?

SoccerMom said...

I agree, maybe PEACE is where its at.

like that song, "if you can't be with the one you love, then love the one your with"

Great Post

Kelly said...

"A joy forever etched in my soul." Yes. *That* is what will hold us and keep us through dark days. Not the pants and the money and the other stuff that we pile around us.

Rudri said...

I am intrigued by this post. I've debated some of the same issues in my head - I often wonder is true happiness in detachment? The ability to be even keel no matter what the circumstance, event, or reaction.

I think what we want is permanence, but are content with short-term happiness. Maybe that is the problem. Quick fixes to deeper, more complicated dilemmas.

Nice to meet you through Momalom.

Amber said...

I have had this same thought today. Although, my thought was much more cluttered and not as coherent. It is nice to see an excellently laid out thought process to help me through this whole confusing puzzle.

Looking for something more concrete does sound much better than looking for something fleeting. Thank you for this awesome post.

Sarah said...

So....I was hesitant about 1/2 way though. I didn't know what you were saying. Were you telling us not to pursue happiness? Hmm, that seems odd. That's what we DO, right? I mean, we don't want to be miserable do we? But then I got to the end.

And there it all became clear. And I agree with you that pursuing peace in self is much more critical then pursuing happiness, which is typically defined by something quite momentary (for instance, this luscious pizza I'm eating).

Wondeful post. Thank you.

MidnightCafe said...

Thank you for saying this! I agree with others who have said that there's so much truth in this post. We humans so often get caught up in the pursuit of the fleeting feeling of happiness, but happiness doesn't sustain us the same way that joy and contentment truly do.

Belinda Munoz said...

Yes, it is impermanent but we've so overly romanticized it we want to believe there is that oen thing that will sustain our happiness.

Great to meet you through Momalom.

Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point

Heather of the EO said...

True that!

Well said, lady. Well said. Thank you :)

samskat said...

I just finished Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow, and contentment is what I seek....true, honest to goodness contentment with the lot God has given me. :) Cause happy definitely doesn't last forever.

Corinne said...

You know, I always put happiness and joy in the same box.
You've got me thinking...

Kristen @ Motherese said...

Your post has helped me hone in on my definition of happiness. Like you, I am lucky enough to have many moments of joy sprinkled through my day, but I often feel disappointed in how transient they are. To me, happiness is really contentment, feeling satisfied, lacking want. And I think the pursuit of that is a lot more attainable than the idea of being filled with joy all the time. Thanks for making me think, Michelle!

kirsten said...

this is kinda crazy, but I was just on the verge of forwarding the link to this post to a friend of mine who is planning to leave his wife. Just to show him, you know, that it isn't just about 'happy'. But he's not a blogger, so.. pretty sure he wouldn't get it.

But i loved it. Loved it.