Happiness is…I see a lot of posters and posts on social media that try to address is question. I also hear a lot of people my age (55) say “if I only knew then what I know now…” What that “knew” is can be quite different, some are referencing the value of hard work or a simple life or charting a course to one’s own unique navigation. But for me linking the search for happiness and wishing we knew then what we know now is key and that connection is divorcing what we thought was important from what we now realize makes us happy. I believe there was a lot of noise back then, a lot of “if only they would give me what I deserve”, if only I could have this or that I would be happy.
The reality is now I know what it is that brings a smile to my lips. And I know the agency to make that happiness occur starts with me. Whoever “they” are now becomes irrelevant, “they” have been exposed as a myth, the truth is my happiness is less about what others control and more about my initiative. That does NOT mean it is all about me. Far from it. My happiness depends on others, but not their approval or their sanction, rather my happiness depends on my initiative to engage others and find common cause with them. I know now that what makes me happy is taking that first step toward being involved with others and seeing where that leads.
For too long at the earlier parts of my life I thought others had control of my happiness when in reality I had that power. And the irony was/is that while it was up to me to take that control it was a dance with others that made me happy, not a solo performance where I needed others to sanction. Too often we imagine our happiness rests in the power of someone other than us. When in reality we know deep down what we are, who we are, what makes us tick and all we really need is the permission to go out and engage others in the dance, in the relationship, in the sacred covenant of doing, being and relating to the other.
I spent far too much time brooding in my younger years waiting for someone to magically recognize me when in reality others were waiting for me to wake up and join the sacred conversation. Now that I know who I am, what I am about, what this life has been given to me for, I am eager to “get on with it” and worried I will waste my time on the trivial. It’s why I don’t want to talk about the weather or have meetings where we discuss the mundane or fuss over the details or who gets to have control or credit. Who cares??? I want to shout out “don’t you realize how short and fragile our lives are? Is this really what you want to waste your time doing when we are all one accident or illness away from our death?
My frequent encounters with death makes me more and more convinced that happiness is that experience of finding what you love to do and be and living into that every day. For me that happiness is writing sermons, visiting all kinds of different people, and reaching out to those who are lonely. And all the while the humility of laughing at our mistakes and our egos and the silliness of our lives gives this passionate engagement the levity it requires.
It’s not up to someone else to figure this out and resenting that someone has not given this to you on a silver platter will only push the discovery of happiness further away. It’s time to learn who you are, how you can offer your gift to others and make the most out of this precious gift we call life.