There were some excellent musings from readers about happiness a few days ago. A thread that runs through all of them is that our level of happiness is our responsibility and not the result of external sources or events. Jeanne of Cooksister!, one of the Honorary Elderbloggers listed in the right column, quoted U.S. president Abraham Lincoln in this regard:
“…people are generally about as happy as they make up their minds to be…”
And that is a mark of maturity, isn’t it, that comes for most of us only with the passage of time. Learning to appreciate the small things helps with one’s happiness quotient too. Ruthe of Fat Old Artist say birds singing in the morning are enough to make her happy and Peter Tibbles of Melbourne says he has
“…learned to accept the good things in life (fine wine, good books, great music, writing blathering emails). Oh, and standing on the south coast of Victoria looking out at the Southern Ocean. That’s good too.”
Terri of Writing Away on Cedar Key believes our ability to adapt is important to happiness. Quite a number, including Wendy at I Want to Be Sixty and Francesca Gray of Pushing an Elephant Up the Stairs attribute some measure of happiness to finally knowing oneself better in later years.
Wally, The Resident Curmudgeon, points out that it can often be hard to know in advance what will make us happy:
"[In the book], Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert…” writes Curmudgeon, “[what] I was most impressed by was his assertion that the things we think will make us happy in the future leave us dissatisfied once we achieve them, and the worst experiences of our lives (at the time) turn out to be the best things that ever happened to us.”
That last is certainly true for me. There is no doubt that a parent’s death is one of our most painful rites of passage. But to this day, 14 years later, caring for my mother during her final months remains the most profound experience of my life.
In the past couple of weeks, a lot of people have asked how I like Portland and my new home. I’ve been poking around inside my emotional cauldron looking for – oh, maybe some sadness at leaving New York or some trepidation, perhaps, at becoming part of my new community, maybe some all-out, kid-like excitement at starting something new.
It’s all of those things and none of those things together with relief. Above all else – for the moment, anyway - relief in big, bold letters at finally, after five or six years of extreme personal, professional and financial unsettledness, smoothing out those wrinkles in my life.
As to my new life here, I chose my location well. Without being able to explain why, I’m comfortable in the space, the general feel, the weather, the atmosphere of Portland, Maine. I’m eager to know the nooks and crannies and history of the city and surrounding area as well as I know that of Greenwich Village and that will come in time.
And, I like my new apartment – light, airy and much bigger than what I had in New York although I wish the process of buying new furniture were done; I’m not much of a shopping maven. Still, it’s fun to start in a new place with new stuff.
So is this happiness? I’m not sure and I’m also not sure happiness is a goal. I think I agree with what Cop Car of Cop Car’s Beat said in a comment the other day:
“Happiness is highly over-rated. Nearly half a life-time ago, I was happier; but, I was also unhappier. Life was more exciting - good and bad. Today, I am more content. There is much to be said for contentment!!”
Contentment more than happiness better describes the excellent place I’m in right now. It almost feels like I might be heading toward the important place DellaB of Turning Sixty identified in her comment on the happiness post:
“Now, Peace Of Mind - that's different, more permanent.”