Could we have it wrong?
Could we have it wrong? Is it about avoiding unhappiness?
” So, are you happy now that I, Claudia is done?”
I stared at my psychologist husband and grudgingly admitted. “I was happier while writing it because now I’m wondering what to do in the next book…”
We had been discussing happiness. That everyone says they want a happy life, happy marriage, they want. to. be. happy. But when asked how that is defined, often the answer is in the negative…”I don’t want to be poor”…”I don’t want to hate my job like…” or a generic,”I don’t want the life my mother had..”
John declared that he thinks what we really mean when conceiving of a happy life is learning how to avoid unhappiness. I did not think I agreed. But ever since that conversation a week ago, I’ve been thinking about what he said.
Could we have it wrong?
I think and write a bit about happiness and unhappiness. Probably because of my take about the other three women in my family. My Mom and older sisters were mostly unhappy. I have decided that John’s right. We have it wrong. Here’s why.
- Happiness- it’s in the Bill of Rights but it says pursuit of, right? We are guaranteed the pursuit of happiness. Because that phrase describes the fleeting feeling of happiness perfectly.
- It isn’t as if happiness is a static state, right? We learn all too quickly that the degree, or the promotion, new boyfriend, or the raise confers happiness but only momentarily. Because then we’re off to the next problem, challenge, or crisis.
- But unhappiness is different, not fleeting but static, even paralyzing, isn’t it? Just ask someone who is unhappy, listen to the words…and I will wager that somewhere in her answer is something or many things that could have been avoided…or now could be changed. If she has the guts.
- Our happiness then largely rests on our ability to avoid the things that make us unhappy. That puts an entirely new spin on the subject of happiness…the methods of composing a happy life.
- Makes things far simpler, and in our control.
Okay, maybe that makes sense, but what about those things that just happen, through no fault of ours? Getting fired, divorced, losing a child.
- I learned a long time ago to take the blame. Do I do it perfectly and consistently? No. But I’m trying.
- Because it’s easier to believe that I contributed to whatever has happened than to think that I am powerless. Generally, with most everything, some serious reflection reveals my participation in the outcome, whether it’s a betrayal of some kind, failure or loss, my prints are visible, if I look. Are there exceptions? Yes, of course but they are rare.
- For me, there are several things I know I must avoid because they will make me unhappy: Prolonged idleness, overeating, not exercising, spending time with people or things I don’t enjoy, like watching the news, a bad movie…are a few that lead my list.
When John asked if I was happy now that I, Claudia is done, I decided he was right. Not just we could have it wrong but we do.
- Because for me, and I’ll bet for you, it’s never the achievement for that’s done, in the past. Always, it’s in taking the risk. The deep breath and diving in. Yes, the process…it’s the process or even better, the awe we hunger for.
- It’s never. ever. the accomplishment.
- Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of this latest book, of the fact that it is better than any of its predecessors. All the hard work of the last nine years is evident in the quality of the writing. And will have fun celebrating that fact with those who want to hear about it…like on November 2nd at the Author’s Forum.
- So why insist that it is never the accomplishment that brings us happiness?
- You know the answer as well as I: What Now?