Dissecting Happiness

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”― John Lennon

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I am trying to get to a place where I can write again.

A lot has been happening lately, and my head has been swirling full with words and thoughts aching to made tangible somehow. It’s like having a rhythm playing over and over again in my head, and the words are jumping around endlessly, as if looking for their rightful place in this beat I continually hear. It is, in a way, a torturous thing. When it’s as busy as this, I couldn’t keep still enough to figure out how these words are to be arranged so that this rhythm becomes a melody that makes sense, instead of it perpetually hammering in my head like an empty scream.

This, right now, is my nth attempt to pacify this pulsating rhythm in my head. This time around, I am refusing to do anything else until whatever needs to be written is written out. I have decided to make time for this, for I know that this recurring beat will not stop bothering me, until it is finally expressed in the exact way it is longing to be expressed.

 …

Foremost on my mind is the question of happiness. What is it, really, and how do we experience it? When we say we are happy, but only actually feel happy in one aspect of our life and not in another, are we being truthful? Or are we just trying to fool ourselves and others, choosing to magnify that portion of our lives where we feel happy while ignoring the fact that in yet another aspect, we are struggling, miserable, irredeemable?

In other words, can we meaningfully break happiness down, i.e. as something we can be only at particular aspects in our lives? Or can happiness only be genuinely experienced in the general sense, such that it is impossible for one to both be happy and sad at the same time?

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I ask these questions because recently, big changes in my life have plunged me in the middle of one weird emotional space. I wish I could say that it is as if I am in a rollercoaster ride, where I’m up the heights of happiness one moment and down the depths of despair in another. It’s simpler to say and understand it that way, but in reality, it isn’t like that at all. It’s as if I am at a place in my life when I am both happy and sad about how things are—both happy and sad at the same time.

 …

happyandsad

Let me elaborate a little (but just a little). It is undeniable that career-wise, I am currently happy with where I am right now. (I got the job as a psychology instructor, yay!) With confidence, I can attest that this kind of happiness, this sense of challenge, this feeling of “fit” between who I am and what I am doing every day, the looking-forward-to at the start and fulfillment at the end of every day—these things I have never felt in any other job I’ve held before, and these things I am incredibly grateful for. I mean, I appreciate this kind of happiness more now because I have had my share of struggle in the work world. I feel like I am made happier now precisely because I know what it feels like to not have this kind of happiness before.

On the other hand, I am still feeling a sort of emptiness with regard to other aspects of my life. It cannot be overshadowed even by the great happiness I feel in my life right now, and that makes me feel guilty somehow. It feels like I am not being grateful and happy enough with what I have been blessed with, because I still cannot help but be saddened with what I lack. It’s not that I choose to focus on what I lack rather than on what I have. It’s just that, both aspects are weighty matters in my life right now, and ignoring either is out of the question.

 …

So if you ask me—simply—if I’m happy, I guess I wouldn’t really know how to answer that. After all, when has life ever had easy answers? Not too often. This is one of those many, many times, when it’s not black-or-white. Still in the in-between, still a blend, a shade of gray. I am happy in certain significant ways, yes, but at the same time it saddens me to realize that maybe certain kinds of happiness are not mine to be had…like, not now, not ever.

Maybe such is the nature of life, maybe it’s true that we can’t really “have it all”, maybe it just takes a little more getting-used-to. Happiness, it is elusive, and maybe it is the perpetual tug-of-war between having it in some aspects and not in others that keeps us moving, keeps us looking upwards and hoping—that whatever little happiness we currently have might not be taken away, and whatever happiness we aim to have is still possible in the future, waiting at the next corner we turn. ♠

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