To feel true happiness, one must also be prepared to feel the rest of the emotional spectrum. Only then can we define what happiness is and be present enough in the moments that we actually feel it—to appreciate it. A great bowl of pasta is only as good as its comparison to other meals that may have missed the mark.
Moments of happiness are in fact earned gifts. These full rapture moments are rewards for being vulnerable enough to accept the full human experience. Striving exclusively for happiness however, is a bit like striving for a sexual orgasm. You hope you have one when your engaged, but you can’t build a life around a momentary feeling or one aspect of the human experience, and if you’re not in the moment, the intimacy of it will elude you despite best efforts.
For me…happiness is a fulfillment of earned answers. It’s that feeling that I’m doing the very best I can and knowing it to be true. It’s those moments when I’m not dodging, I’m not pretending and I’m not in denial of anything. It’s an earned awareness that I’m open to feeling the entirety of what being human is— the hardest journey known to humankind.
Happiness is not and cannot be a sustained state. It can be an affirming crescendo, a moment where empathy, humility and grace come together in those rare moments that move us, lift us out of our messy human individually and into a momentary state where we understand that we are all, in fact, connected. It’s that rare moment when we, for a split second, drop our drama, our ambition, our egos and transcend the confines and the mortal web that is the social behavior trap we collectively have built and perpetuate.
Like a great dish of pasta, happiness is sensational (if not euphoric) now and then. However, as a steady diet, it quickly grows tiresome. Like carb-overload happiness can become unhealthful if not addictive. Suddenly the special thing it once was–looses its “treat-factor”. The more we force to sustain it, the more guilt we eventually feel. More guilt leads to self-incrimination, then to resentment and finally self-recrimination.
Perhaps it’s the more complex state of “Joy,” that better serves us. Joy in knowing we are destined to fail but the odds of excelling are just as plausible too. Joy is the ability to learn how to do things well no matter how seemingly mundane. Joy is the ability to be grateful at all times because gratitude allows us to better prioritize the short moments we exist here, putting “meaning” at the top of the list.
“Joy” is the ability to understand that life as a journey not a competition. It’s the ability to re-think ‘chore’ by employing our natural creativity to take what might be considered beneath us and elevating it to a human art instead.
It’s finding joy in hoeing the earth for the wheat, weeding the rows in the hot sun so the basil will grow, spreading the manure so the tomatoes ripen. Then giving the sauce the proper time and patience it deserves to mellow in its complexity. Only then, for one brief moment, in the company of friends with happiness emanate…is it ready to be shared. It’s one, disproportional moment, where only you can truly appreciate that the plate of pasta they will consume in a matter of delicious moments, took an entire summer of toil to get there, does fleeting happiness reward the sustainable joy.