And I should really be pretty happy. I have awesome friends. My sweet mom is close by. My husband works so hard to help us all get through the day smoothly. They're all pretty thoughtful and loving. My children are wonderful and amazing and they EXIST, something I thought might never happen. That's a pretty good deal and when I think about it that starkly, it does trump quite a bit of the daily grind that wears out happiness.
And yet. I don't always feel happy. Do you? Working, struggling to get the kids to do what needs to be done so we're on schedule, almost never getting a break or exercise or a full night's sleep, constantly running late and feeling my house is a disaster, feeling anxious about finances and the future... Those things don't exactly contribute to feeling happy.
My experience is, of course, not unique. I'm sure you heard about the recent book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. You can get some of the research and the gist of the book through these two NPR interviews (Fresh Air and All Things Considered) or you can read an interesting (long form!) article about the conundrum at NYMag.com.
One quote that got me thinking:
The answer to that [where do we find the elusive good moments] may hinge on how we define “good.” Or more to the point, “happy.” Is happiness something you experience? Or is it something you think?Hm. Good question. What is happy and how do we know when we are? Do we know when we are? Many times we only realize happiness in retrospect. I think Buddhists might say that's a problem of not being truly present in the moment and of having expectations that each moment can't meet. Of course, when we're awake with crying babies at 3 am, it's hard NOT to want the expectation--of being asleep--met.
Here's another quote that I think starts to show my evolving beliefs about happiness:
And perhaps this is because the study sought to understand not just the moment-to-moment moods of its participants, but more existential matters, like how connected they felt, and how motivated, and how much despair they were in (as opposed to how much stress they were under)...So this is where the joy over time but not always happy in the moment comes in. It's interesting. Up above when I started to list the things in my life that should be making me happy -- I started to smile and I was filled with a sense of happiness and joy. And yet I know that I cried over dinner last night.
Unfortunately, I don't have any more of an answer than anyone else. And that's one more source of frustration, because I want my children to be happy and I want to help them learn to be happy. Since I can't teach that, what I will try to focus on and teach are the following, which I hope will lead to feelings of happiness for all of us:
Today is the International Day of Happiness. This year, they're suggesting that happiness comes from connecting to others. I can buy that -- I got a night out with my girlfriends this week and didn't want to leave I was loving seeing them and connecting with them so much. And so many of my joyful moments are when I can connect -- those moments when we aren't rushing or stressing or struggling -- with my children or husband.
So, today, I hope that you get to make a connection -- to me, to your friends, to your family, to your pets, to your colleagues, to someone who smiles at you (or at whom you smile) walking down the street, to someone you can help, to someone who can help you... Connect with someone, take a moment to be in the moment, be as grateful as you can for the things you have, feel compassion for the people around you (and yourself)... Take a moment to be kind to someone and see how you feel.