Happiness is not an eternal state of bliss or, walking around feeling totally content, singing out loud with a smile plastered on your face 24/7. It also doesn’t mean that you are never going to feel down, grief, upset, anger or any of the negative emotions one can think of to insert into the equation. Happiness is complex and yet simple at the same time. It’s the state in which one feels that for the most part, one has freedom and a sense of control over one’s life even if only for part of your day.
I remember summer days seeming eternally long and adventuresome as a child. Every morning that I opened my eyes was a chance for something wonderful to happen, something magical. I’d leap out of bed with both eagerness and joy to begin my day. I loved to play out in the sun or making blanket forts, climbing my grandparent’s tree or just laying back in the grass, looking up at the clouds, creating pictures in my mind as to what shapes they formed. I also took pleasure in eating ice-cold popsicles from the freezer, ice cream cones or tumbling down a hill and the feeling of freedom as I rolled and rolled, seemingly endlessly. Winter snowball fights were filled with laughs and giggles, unless one struck me on the face and hurt, in which case, I’d run into the house, crying until Mommy told me it was alright and back outside I went to play again. Jumping in puddles, building snow forts, playing in mud and making mud-pies, splashing in water, letting waves at the beach wash up over my legs and back while I constructed sand castles. Just about everything I did, made me feel happy back then.
Children have the easiest time being happy and feeling happy. Part of that reason for that is that they don’t yet have the understanding that things can go wrong in life. The other part of that reasoning is that children don’t yet have many responsibilities nor, the understanding of what it’s like to have to make decisions which can oftentimes, have serious consequences for themselves and, or others.
Have you ever noticed a child, playing with toys or, frolicking in water, carefree and seemingly amused by simple things in life? The joy and even concentration that the child shows while participating in such activities can make an adult wonder, “what went wrong with me? Why am I not happy like that with things anymore?” The answer, of course, is that we grew up and have had to face the reality of both advanced abilities to think as well as responsibilities that have mounted onto our shoulders. When was the last time that you saw a child, sitting, pensively worrying about how to pay bills, keep a roof over their heads, food on the table or clothes on their backs? While we may see a younger person ask questions like, “what’s happening with Grandma? Is she going to be able to play later on?” we rarely see them worry about it much beyond whatever answers we choose to give to them. Answers like, “no, Grandma is sick…very sick. She’s going to Heaven and won’t be here with us anymore soon,” will conjure up perhaps, a sad, curious look on the child’s face and maybe some tears but, neither that look nor the crying will last long. For the most part, the child will fairly quickly go back to playing or whatever they were doing previous to asking their question. Once again, they feel either contented in doing what they are doing or, go back to singing and playing, seemingly happily. They don’t know enough or haven’t yet trained their minds to worry, fear, feel or understand loss, responsibilities or imagine the consequences of their actions or choices much beyond the idea of “if I don’t go to bed or brush my teeth, Mommy/Daddy will be mad at me.”
As adults, we’ve learned that every choice and decision that we make, has a consequence attached. Furthermore, we’ve learned that we have responsibilities towards not only ourselves but, to others in this world as well. One way or another, we are no longer the centre of our universe and there’s no one else who is going to shoulder those choices, responsibilities etc., for us. That’s where fear comes into play especially, when we doubt ourselves. We also fear that others will dislike or even hate us if we don’t live up to either their expectations or our own.
A child will feel loved for the most part. He/she will have faith that someone, somewhere, somehow, loves them for who they are, as they are. Whether that be Mommy and Daddy or Mommy and Mommy or Daddy and Daddy, a child usually feels loved. Feeling loved is an important part of feeling happy. Whether Grandma goes to Heaven or not, is of not much importance as long as Mommy and Daddy love him/her and will be there for him/her. That’s what’s lacking in most adults. We don’t feel certain of love nor, our worthiness of being loved. We tend to doubt it within ourselves to some level or another and that’s where we get into trouble. We start depending upon other people to mirror back to us what they are feeling towards us in order to know one way or another. We stop simply feeling worthy of being loved and start relying upon others to let us know if we are worthy of love or not.
In Part I, I mention that relying upon other people or possessions to make us feel happy, is a potential disaster, waiting to happen because at any given time, it can all be taken away from us or, simply disappear and leave us without that safety net or reassurance. Everything can become an unhealthy dependency. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t love other people or be able to rely upon them. Not at all. What it is saying is that when we base our happiness solely upon other people and our possessions, we are setting ourselves up for a great likelihood of some or all of that being removed from our lives and therefore, we can be left feeling uncertain, helpless, hopeless, far less than worthy as well as unhappy. In this type of scenario, where we base all of our happiness on other people and, or possessions, we are handing over our own power of being happy to others or things. We are giving it away but, we need to hold some of that within ourselves and for our own wellbeing. Happiness comes from within, not others or things.
Back to our child scenario. As children, we have to depend upon others for our wellbeing. We cannot cook, do our laundry or tell ourselves what’s dangerous for us to be doing or not doing. We do have to rely upon others for those types of things as we don’t know enough to be able to function on our own. Our teddy bears or dolls or blankets that we carry around have become “security” items as well for us and soothe us. We rely upon possessions for our happiness as well. There is no choice in the matter but, we don’t know the difference yet. We don’t know that these things can be taken away from us or us, from them. We rely upon faith and lack of knowledge that they can leave or be taken away. Childhood is a magical time where though we have fears, cry, become frustrated, irritated, angry etc., for the most part, we are happy.
How do we find happiness again as adults? Can it exist? Is it possible?
Part III coming up soon.