What is all the fuss about happiness? I am not denying anyone their constitutional right to pursue it, but it seems one can't achieve happiness these days without a guidebook....literally. There was a recent article in the NYT about happiness (what country has the most of it, when money can and cannot buy it, etc.) that lead me to think about happiness as a commodity. Can we buy it? Can we sell it? I went on Amazon and typed in "happiness" in the search bar. The search returned 23,249 hits! At the top of the list was Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill. Slightly below that item was 18 Rules of Happiness: A Pocket Guide. Really? Do we now have to follow rules with regard to happiness? Must we carry a pocket guide to remember them? And what about Gretchen Rubin's NYT bestselling book, "The Happiness Project", that correlates happiness with de-cluttering? Maybe my dimwittedness has caused me to overlook some greater lesson that Ms. Rubin is trying to teach, but I don't think so. What in the hell is going on here? Is this strictly a Western cultural phenomenon? Of course it is. We've turned ourselves into tantrum throwing toddlers. "I WANT HAPPY! GIVE ME HAPPY! HAPPY IS MINE, MINE, MINE!"
I am finding all of this happy-speak rather humorous. Don't get me wrong. I want to be happy. We all do. We also want everyone around us to be happy, because it makes it easier for us to be happy. Nothing clears a room faster at a dinner party than when someone is asked, "How have you been?", and they begin their answer with, "Not so good lately." Run for the hills! I hate a pity party as much as anyone, but maybe it's time for us to define happiness differently or at least more broadly. Maybe it should be as simple as the feeling you get when you take that first sip of java in the morning. Maybe it's the “job well done” feeling you get after you've finished doing all, and I mean ALL, of the laundry....for once. Maybe it's your volunteer work. Maybe happiness starts with gratitude for all of the things you have loved, held, earned, created, and, yes, even those things you've disposed of. Maybe the other question we should be asking is, "Why do we have to be happy ALL the time?" Isn't it okay to be sad, angry, frustrated, bored? Aren't those the emotions that cause us to re-think, re-tool, and re-imagine our lives? Maybe being a balanced person means experiencing all kinds of emotions and being okay with that. Even the smiley-face emoticon has evolved to include a range of emotions. If emoticons can do it, so can we!