Getting My Blog Groove Back
The Corner Bordello Legend

Happiness Redux

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.”

Comments

Love your site, and yes I came here because of the AARP article. You are right about that article, everything has to be such a "quick read" these days. Woman's Day called me and interviewed me about going back to college for a second career. The result boiled down to a photo caption!

At 79 waking up is such a wonderful feeling, the alternative is so dull and permanant.Really enjoyed the in-put from all

Cop Car & someone wonderful that I knew years ago have, I believe, the answer (or part of it!)Contentment, being content is the optimum one can hope to achieve. Also in my case, being without so much responsibility makes a big difference. Dee

Another great post, Ronni. And whatever "place" you're in...it sure sounds like you are exactly where you're supposed to be. I know, for me, the older I get the less I question about my "place." If it feels right...it IS right.
And thanks for the mention.

I'll buy Peace of Mind. Does that make me a POM Elder (as opposed to a Pom Pom Girl)? Dee, I hadn't thought about the difference in responsibilities. There are not only differences in responsibilities, but the ways in which our responsibilities are perceived. Great thread, Ronni!

Happiness is enjoyment of the process. Joy is those moments that sparkle in your memories forever.

It's easy to be happy when everything is going well, but true happiness is found in understanding that whatever you are going through, there will be a resting place on the other side where you can simply relax and reflect. Even times that seem chaotic and turbulent can be enjoyable if you know you are moving towards a goal. Those who know how to be happy can be happy under most circumstances. Those constantly searching for happiness will never find it.

Peace of Mind comes when you know that you are a part of everything around you and not separate from it. Then, you are always content, no matter where you are or what is happening since you are always a part of it. And yes, it is a rare and wonderful thing which comes and goes. But for me, it comes more often and more easily these days.

Glad you are content in your new home, Ronnie. It seems you have found a good place to be.

“…people are generally about as happy as they make up their minds to be…”

I have been seeing that quote a lot lately and I think that my subconsious is trying to tell me something... like go out and play. Work will still be there when you get back! I'm working on it!

:)

The best part of my life has been lived according to Lincoln's profound observation. I read it many years ago and have confirmed on almost a daily basis since then.
To me, happiness is not a path or goal. It's a decision and/or a gift, like faith. Difficulties, suffering and disappointments don't automatically make me unhappy if I know I'm doing the best I can under the circumstances.

What's sad, bad and makes me unhappy is when I look back and see what I could have done but didn't.

All of us here wish you a week of peace,
love
lucyd

The older I get the more "contented" I become and the less I worry about the small stuff. I don't know if that equates to happiness but it works for me.

My thoughts about happiness include recognition that happiness is not a constant state. Expectations for happiness to be so are unrealistic. In fact, happiness can be quite elusive. I don't find that objectionable. I think that's simply life.

I've always believed that happiness is a state of mind; that the language tape we play over and over in our heads greatly influences our perception as to whether or not we are happy.

I think we can create openings for happiness to come into our lives.

I think if we can recognize and accept the pleasures of the moment we are creating an opening for happiness.

We experience happiness on a continuum anywhere from brief moments to much longer time frames, including years.

However long the duration, we can experience contentment and peace of mind, though at times their presence may only be fleeting. We embrace the hope and desire for those states to remain with us indefinitely.

When we are fortunate enough to actually have contentment and peace of mind enter our lives we have a treasure that can neither be bought, sold, or given away whatever their duration.

I can only wish you, Ronni, the hoped for and highly desired experience of contentment and peace of mind for the rest of your life.

Dear Ronnie,

I am a 46-year-old mother, new to blogging. I love your site! Beyond the obvious care and attention and thoughtfulness you bring to it, I find your musings and thoughts applicable to my own life. Happiness, for instance, is something I think women my age and younger feel very confused about. We seem to have so many choices, but the guilt is greater than ever too. Thanks for your voice of experience and honesty. You remind us younger women that it's not about figuring it all out now. Indeed, we've got time.

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