Tuesday, February 12, 2008

R U Happy?

This past year has presented a number of opportunities for me to examine my life: my choices, my attitudes, my passions, my frustrations, my foibles, my idiosyncrasies, and ultimately, my outcomes.

Outcomes. We talk about this a lot at work. In the work world, there is no point (or at least minimal pointed-ness) in activities which cannot be measured and have value extracted via the rubric of bureaucracy and achievement; outcomes, results, data and so on. And frankly, I ascribe to this notion as a work tactic.

The question that has been dogging me lately is this: Does this rubric also apply to my life? Is my life measured in outcomes? Is my happiness, contentment, joie de vivre, measured by results? What is an acceptable outcome? Is the outcome we are all shooting for happiness? Have we been conditioned to live life with the fundamental goal of happiness? And if so, is this really a great idea?

I read an article recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled In Praise of Melancholy by Eric G. Wilson. The article explored the notion that we are blindly led to always search for the next big thing, the next job, the next relationship, the next vacation, the next thing that will lead to our next (oftentimes fleeting) experience of happiness. In the process we not only fail to live in the now, we also fail to celebrate the experience of being less than happy. Hell, what about the experience of sorrow, longing, frustration, yearning, and even full on melancholy? One could argue (and Eric G. Wilson did) that these unhappy things can result in a zen-like state which produces amazing results, the least of which are the development of great character and great possibility and even (dare I say it) results!

Does this mean there is something more in this quest for meaning and results than just the blind quest to be happy?

There has been some sorrow and brushes with danger/death in my life lately. The sweet and silly puppy our family was growing to love so well was killed by a car on Christmas Eve. Brian was in two (minor) car accidents in the month of December. A close friend miraculously escaped certain grave injury in a major collision with an 18 wheeler last week. Gabe was struck in the head with a rock over the weekend, cutting his scalp badly. It's been a wild winter.

Yet, none of these events singularly has shaken me. I'm a pretty happy go lucky kind of chick. But with all the durm and strang of life the question keeps popping up: What are your goals and outcomes? Are you happy? Is that even the right question?

I would like to propose some alternate questions:

How are your results? What is the outcome of your life (to date)?

Do you even really know what results you are going for?

Are you driving your life's vehicle?

Do you know where you are going?

Are you celebrating the journey, detours, flat tires and all? (Holy over-baked metaphor there! Sorry!)

Are you living life with regret? Resentment?

The answers I am coming up with are something like this: I am not going to live life in the pursuit of happiness. That will never be enough.

How about the pursuit of Fearlessness?

I'm thinking...


Anonymous said...

you are amazing, inspiring, and are in the midst of creating an extraordinary life for all of us...thank you so much for who you are. I love you!

Madame Queen said...

Very interesting questions and some of things I ponder often. But it never hurts to stop and take stock again.

I just want to live a life of no regrets. Not that I won't make mistakes, just don't waste any time regretting them.

Anonymous said...

Are you afraid to pursue happiness because you have never experienced it? It sounds like there is more to this thought process. Would you even know what happiness was if it bit you in the ass? Why not look for the positive in things instead of focusing on the negative? That may be a good place to start!

P.S. The grass is not always greener....

Mar said...

Interesting comments. It's always good feedback for me when something I'm thinking about seems to have the ability to connect to others. Even if those others are anonynously hostile.

This is a bit of a breakthrough thought process for me because I have spend so much of my life considering HAPPINESS the only worthy goal..so letting go of that single idea as an exclusive criteria to judge the merit of my life has been a real breakthrough idea.

Of course this doesn't mean I'll stop being happy (which I mostly am) and enjoying all that I have. But it helps define the journey more clearly, hey? Because, when were not happy, that can be a very valuable thing too.

But I'm preaching to the choir now since anonyous has run off to flame other bloggers.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Mary. Cool stuff. It reminds me of something that my Grandpa M. said when I was kvetching about some jr. hi. drama - 'If there weren't bad times, you wouldn't recognize or appreciate the good times.' It's stuck with me and got me thru some rough times...

BTW - It's been fun hanging out with you! See ya soon, hdm

Daniele said...

Geez, I'm always late to the party. lol I have a friend whose father says that "happiness is an impossible goal; the best we can hope for is contentedness". You know, I'm cool with that. I tend to have a lot of stuff going on, but I thrive on that. I have a direction, not a goal, and I'm happy with where I'm going. I might never get there, and that's fine by me. :)

Sarah said...


yes, yes, yes.

thank you.

and I'm now off to obtain that article.

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