In happiness there is always a measure of some kind of success, and the pleasure the success brings. I do not believe you can be unsuccessful in your life and manage happiness at the same time, except I am not too sure what success is anymore. I will soon be 63 years old, I am disabled, and live a solitary life that these age and disability lead to, but these are not due to a lack of success at pursuing life in whatever way I thought would lead to a happy life. They are merely consequences of actions, and choices, both mine and others.
But what I can do, I do well, even if I do it less well than I would like. I admit that I grow things very well, and had I the other abilities necessary, I could be successful at marketing the things I grow. I can put a few paragraphs together, and explain things to others, often, I am told, at too great length, but with sufficient clarity that a handful of people actually want to read what I write. I am good with animals, and end up raising sweet, if also quirky dogs and cats, since I do not train them, but just love them into some kind of order. And despite brain damage, I have recovered my memory to a great degree, forced new neural pathways in my brain, and can still learn new things, if somewhat slowly.
So, I should be happy, right? Well, that depends. The life I have now is not the life I started with, nor the abilities, nor the energy, nor the health, and the comparisons between who I might have been without an auto crash, and who I am now are stunning. I am dependent solely on G-d…not a concept I ever considered in my very capable youth, or at the industrious age of 40 when my car dove into drainage ditch at 45 miles per hour and broke a lot of things that don’t mend easily. The idea of running businesses are something very familiar to me, but my body gets in my way, and 15 minutes of consideration of what I would face starting a new business in this state of health wears me out completely. And although that is disappointing to face when I forget I am not able to do as I once was blessed to accomplish, it doesn’t make me unhappy. Instead, it leaves me rather puzzled as to what the future will bring, and whether I am supposed to be happy.
My successes are very small, and few and far between, but I hold tight to them, even if I have merely relearned something I knew how to do in my childhood. It gives me pleasure none-the-less to have that tiny success. As there is nothing gravely wrong in my life except the solitary life my disabilities limit me to, and the problems that increasing age bring, I should be able to take my small crumbs of success, my simple enjoyment of many small things, and turn that into something recognizable as happiness. Except I don’t really know what happiness is.
All of a sudden, I feel a great need to know what an adequate life is supposed to look like…not just for me, but for all people. My life is not complicated by the matters that other people suffer from. The ambitions I once had have waned. The frustrations at what used to be easy is mostly set aside because I know I cannot amend that situation. Even the old image in my mind of who I was supposed to become in my life are mostly just memories and faded hopes, but other people do not have a disability exemption from striving to better their life above the level they began at. I don’t exempt myself from trying to do better, but it seems that many people do.
Instead of looking to improve what they have, or do better at what they already do, most people want to know how to succeed in life in a practical way. They expect happiness comes with the success, but I know many very successful people, and many are not happy at all. How to be happy while succeeding, from my observation, seems to be a spiritual matter as much as it is a kind of aimlessness in our society. We do not know what we are aiming for anymore. After all, what is a normal life? What is a satisfactory life? What is a life that is happy?
Once I believed I could do the necessary things to create a successful, satisfying life…a life that was successful in the way my parents defined success, and happy in the way I was taught was happiness, even though I didn’t even know what it was, or how to recognize what happiness looked like. I was successful enough, but I was not happy, exactly…more like frazzled wreck, trying to make everything work out. I see the same kind of person I was all around me…busy, capable people that have no real goals that are of value to them, or to others. Few people know these days anything about the life they want, or how to be happy. Instead, they want to make a quick buck, buy the next shiny thing, and play with it for a while.
- the state of being happy.
Synonyms: pleasure, contentment, satisfaction, cheerfulness, merriment, gaiety, joyfulness, joviality, jollity, joy, glee, delight, good spirits, lightheartedness, well-being, enjoyment;
Unfortunately, I don’t agree with the definitions of happiness given in the dictionary. I often have feelings of pleasure, or contentment, or satisfaction…I am often cheerful, but merriment sounds like something that happens with other people, and my regular meetings with my acquaintances are limited to the Post Office lady, the UPS and FEDEX drivers, my doctors, and a few repairmen. I like them all, but I don’t fit in their lives, and have no life pattern that includes anyone but my allergist weekly for shots.
I can feel joy, and even be ecstatic for short periods of time…listening to music, listening to G-d, or talking to him or praising him. But lightheartedness? Well, that’s the opposite of heavyheartedness, which sounds like depression, and although I have my gloomy sad times, I have as many bright happy ones too. In fact, they tend to swing from one to the other in natural waves of feeling…the emotional tides ebbing and flowing on a regular basis.
As for jollity, glee and delight…well, I suppose that occurs from time to time, but mostly when playing with the puppy and the cat. They are not feelings that simply rise up of themselves, are they? And being a singleton, it complicates figuring things out, because you cannot just walk up to another person, and say in a pleasant tone, “Excuse me, are you a singleton, and do you know how to do singleton-ness well?”
Indeed, were I to ask anyone such a question it would trigger a shocked stare reminiscent of the last time I asked someone to dance while using a walker (the 4 wheeled rolling kind). I smile at the puzzled person I have accosted with a question that makes no sense to most people, raise an ironic eyebrow at their lack of comprehension, shrug apologetically, and then slink away into a corner, and hide. Not a cheerful, jolly kind of moment, really, but you could give me points for inventiveness in seeking jollity.
But then, curious about the question I was asking, without knowing I was asking it of myself, or of G-d, I looked to the place I always look when I am stumped…the Scriptures. And I found my favorite verse without any trouble, to remind me why I continue to drag through the days, in pain, in loneliness, with spurts of joy and silliness, and laughter, connecting here and there with people to brighten my life, but knowing as one gets older, one also has less people still living to be brightened by.
But Abba doesn’t see it so. Our days are merely the first steps of a long journey…climbing up a steep hill, walking along the cool windswept ridges while the weather is warm, and then descending onto the depths of the desert floor as the winter draws on with a mission to make our passage along the dry creek beds matter, and then wend our way to the next mountain.
Psalm 84:4-7 (CJB)
How happy are those who live in your house; they never cease to praise you! (Selah) How happy the man whose strength is in you, in whose heart are [pilgrim] highways. Passing through the [dry] Baka Valley, they make it a place of springs, and the early rain clothes it with blessings. They go from strength to strength and appear before God in Tziyon.
Perhaps as I thought of this earlier my heart was sad, and I felt lonely, and bereft of all that brings joy, and yet, looking into the Scriptures I was reminded so easily, deftly, by the Ruach haKodesh who guided my eyes to the words I needed to see the most, that I may have felt sad without any reason for it, and lonely when the Ruach haKodesh was with me.
I know without doubt that my puppy (5 years old, and still a puppy) will be delighted later in the day to make me laugh as she cavorts around the house and yard. The cat will pretend to sneak stealthily under the puppy’s nose, dash through the front legs, and then out from under the dog’s belly, confusing the pup while making a quick getaway to stimulate a mock fight and chase merely to entertain me and stir up merriment for themselves. And though the moment may be brief, I will feel a few of the words that the definitions of happiness describe that are so very difficult to pin down from moment to moment.
And thus, I have come to see that we are not supposed to be anything all the time…neither sad, nor happy, gleeful, mischievous, grave or contemplative, because all of these things are the flickering of spiritual shadows thrown from a place very far away from our reality where our Creator is assiduously attempting to get our notice, and to have us follow a trail of ethereal emotional clues to the places he wants us to go, and the experiences he wants us to encounter.
We have so much to learn, and in a world that discourages practical learning, or spiritual learning, or anything that is not of the most technical varieties of learning to spin the world faster and faster to some spectacular transcendence. Learning to live well is out, and learning to live in a bright and shiny polished superficiality is in. I find that the more I avoid the high tech as an aim in life, and merely use it as tools, the more enjoyment I have.
After all, I don’t want to build a robot to plant the seeds that grow into the beautiful flowers I love to tend in my little mock Eden. I infinitely prefer a word processor to the old fashioned mechanical typewriter that my father used in college…in the 1940’s, but I wrote the first three books I have pending for rewrite with that old clunky thing, and a lot of white-out. The accident intervened in finishing them, but I have a lot of years left to get to them, if it is important enough to me, and they are already scanned and waiting my attention, if I ever get that organized enough.
I do not have the power or strength to remake my life, merely to live it as G-d has given it to me. And I do not have to seek out all the possibilities of happiness, because my happiness is given me with the strength that G-d gives me to live, and to continue my journey towards him. And even the journey is set before me as a gift, often with many choices of which paths to wander along first.
Psalm 84:5-7 (KJV) Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
And so, we go from strength to strength, and we are blessed, and thus sometimes even happy, and one day, we will end up in joy with YHVH. We are supposed to be content in a quiet joyful way, steadily working toward our goals, and the goals G-d has set for us by gifting us in ways we might rather not have been gifted with. Abba closes doors and opens windows and allows all the choices of every being human and otherwise, to affect us, and give us the most varied, if complicated and often difficult, journey through life.
And since it is a journey, and not a party, we don’t have to strain after all that happiness, merriment, and jollity for every day, but save them up for celebrations, or to comfort us in a moment we are not enjoying. We simply have to go at the idea purposefully…seeking the journey, and enjoying the pauses at the top of the ridges, where the breeze is cool, and the view breathtaking, and when we have rested, go down into the next valley of weeping, and dig a well, and make a garden out of the desert floor until it is time to move on to the next challenge of learning not how to be happy, but to live in joy when this stage of our eternal journey pauses at it’s end in Zion at the feet of the Father.