The question really throws me off. Even if I am lying on a beach under a shady umbrella, with sand flecked toes and a perspiring cold drink in my hands, the question about happiness makes me pause. I am never sure. Do you mean right now, this very instant? Or do you mean generally, overall? Do you mean ‘most of the time’ or a ‘majority’ of my days? Do you mean satisfaction with where I am headed? Do you mean to say if I have many regrets or complaints? Or do you mean a sense of sated peace that makes it easy to breathe and sleep, that makes my heart feel as light as a wispy cloud, that makes me want to perpetually smile, with my lips, my eyes, my soul?
There are very few mornings when I wake up and think to myself, what a beautiful day to be alive! That may be partly because of my sleeping, eating, living habits, or maybe it is because of my tiresome dreams… nevertheless, I don’t wake up with a spring in my step and a big smile on my face. My shoulders are usually achy and usually I think about why my hair is such a mess. Why couldn’t God have given me silky hair that bounced in beautiful, shiny waves and I would always wear them down no matter how hot the day because it would almost be a sin to hide it in a tight bun?
To brush or not to brush, settle on a cursory few strokes that leave suicidal strands of hair in my hand.
I guess if I want, I can be happy. I used to think if its taking me so much thought about my state, then I must not be happy. I might not be sad, angry, jaded or depressed either, but if I were happy, I’d know for sure, right? The answer should rush out of my mouth before the finger hits the question mark key, my eyes bright and glimmering proof of the joy that flies around inside my body like drunken cupids!
Or maybe not. Maybe I need to revisit my notion of happiness. And don’t we say that happiness might be overrated? Isn’t it also important to be ambitious, generous, self-sacrificing? How happy do you think social workers are who work day in and day out in a hospice or a foster home, how happy are doctors working in a broken down government hospital environment, stitching gaping wounds or peering over festering injuries?
There are probably many, many kinds of happiness. The carefully orchestered joy that you plan with your friends for the perfect birthday surprise, a fishing boat expedition that goes just as you thought it would, it surrounds you gently as you sprawl on the upper deck on a fancy stolen carpet, the boat bobs gently and the wind wafts lazily through, flirting with your hair, your skin. The sudden happiness that magically appears, like a fluffy bunny in a hat, the kind that is saturated with almost guilty gratitude when you look at your parents laughing together on a wooden bench, or see your sisters excited about buying makeup for you. The whimsical romance that settles over you like invisible silk when your mind and heart cooperate for a change and you re-realize you love your fiancé. There is the nostalgic happiness of moments, years, times passed, achievements that didn’t feel like much when they happened but in retrospect smoothen out creases of worry that stir up trouble inside.
Sometimes we have to create it (and yes, all plans need lady luck’s help) but then sometimes we just have to notice the happiness that flits in and out of our lives like a humming bird and then disappears into the shadows of everyday life, present but usually ignored, in the background.
Think about what makes you happy, going to the gym or sharing the perfect cup of tea, and remind yourself that it’s okay if it takes you sometime to answer the question of happiness. And if in the last 48 hours you can remember the coolness of the breeze the teased your anxiety away or a kiss that etched a smile on your face – give yourself the liberty of ‘yes’.