August 1, 2015

The Pursuit of Happiness

     Happiness is difficult to define. To each of us it is relative. To a wandering Neanderthal it might have been trapping a good meal after walking for miles. Something tasty on the trail would have been pure bliss. But then he would want more and more. And so it is with people still. Human beings are pretty darned hard to satisfy. I try to remember that whenever I do a happiness check, which I do with some frequency. That nagging question, am I happy? pops up and each time I do that happiness check I refine my definition just a little bit more. I base it on how I feel personally and how I see the people around me seeking their own happiness. I try to find a realistic answer to that daunting question: Am I happy?
     Time has made it very apparent to me how elusive contentment can be. Like that caveman, I live in a world where my big human brain always thinks it wants more of everything. It battles with my common sense which tells me something different, that of course I don’t want everything. That would not be good for me or healthy or bring me real happiness. Yet it doesn’t answer that question: Am I happy? Interestingly, if I don’t let that question come to mind very often, I am much happier. What a strange conundrum that is. If I don’t wonder if I am happy then how will I know if I am? Mind-boggling.

     I see the search everywhere. Little promises of happiness are all over the place. They're in marketing, online, on TV and all about us in our world. If we have physical ailments there are cures that are yours for the asking. Don't let heartburn or diarrhea or constipation or ingrown toenails come between you and your happiness. There are pills for that!
     Ah, drugs. Solve your sleep problems, control your weight and yes, find euphoria. Just watch out for the heavy price tag that comes with addiction. And if that's become an obstacle to your happiness, no problem! There are rehabilitation centers everywhere with hot tubs and beautiful people.

     So then let's eat our way to happiness. There are colorful signs and gleaming aisles of tasty calories beckoning us everywhere. Drive along nearly any road in the country and there are guiding lights to all of it. Our brains are hardwired to eat when we see food and to be happy while we are at it. The temptation soon has us salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. That crispy, creamy doughnut or that double bacon cheeseburger are mighty tasty while we eat them. Oh yeah, we are happy, at least for the moment. But, a few days later that food is translated into a firm pair of love handles, and the happiness slips away. Now it's going to take a treadmill and a gym membership to get us back on the happiness path. 

     Yes, if it sounds nuts, it is. And so, I’m learning not to be a happiness addict and I’m happier for it. I'm learning balance. I have food enough to sustain me and bring joy. It’s important to me as well that I am not overweight. Moderation is the key.
     Of course that happiness question eventually will pop up again. Right now, should I answer it, I have to say, yep, I’m pretty darned happy. And you know what else? I’m pretty happy that I feel as if I’ve earned it as well. That makes me even happier. You can’t beat that!

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