My favorite Yogi tea (Vanilla Spice – Perfect Energy) had this message for me recently: “Happiness is an accomplishment.” This led me to question the elusive state called happiness that we continuously seek in one way or another. I’ve been trying to just “be happy” for most of my adult life. What job would make me happy? What material item could do it? How much more money do I need to reach that place and stay there?
Here are a few things that I have picked up over time about happiness.
Happiness is a temporary state. We can never reach the final destination of happiness and live there permanently (unless, I guess, we cease to exist). It’s transitory. I always thought that if I did the right things, then I would be happy. And my husband has often said, “I just want you to be happy,” as though it were something I could turn on and keep on. Happiness doesn’t work that way. It isn’t constant; each moment can be a happy one or not. The good old Dalai Lama says, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions,” and I believe this is true. We cannot depend on others for it, nor can we expect it to last forever. It’s up to us to create it, regardless of what is happening around us.
Happiness is also a practice. It’s work – all the time, every day. And that’s okay. By adding up all those little things that make us happy (for me some are: a hot shower, sleeping in, a delicious piece of dark chocolate, watching or reading a good story, or when my family is enjoying an experience together), we’re able to identify these little times of joy. And if we multiply them, then we might just find that we are, well, happy, for now anyway. The Dalai Lama’s buddy, the Buddha, says “There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.” That might be a little tougher to swallow, or understand, but my interpretation is that we’re in charge of creating that path and we must forge it with each step.
We do this by accepting that happiness is an illusory destination. There is no promised land to arrive at after fighting through the long journey, instead we create or experience the happy moments day in and day out, and be grateful for each of them. (In the words of the Mandalorian, “This is the way.”)
We won’t ever reach that point where, finally, we’re happy (though part of me still wants to believe that). We will have some good moments where we feel it, then some that are really far from it too. So, if my Yogi tea bag is correct, then happiness truly is an accomplishment, but one that we can’t hold onto forever. As summer is upon us with our fantasies of the perfect sunny season, maybe we try enjoying the little things instead: warm weather, time with kids on break (the good parts), a vacation from the grind, or savoring a glass of something yummy.
And we can remember the words of Ellen DeGeneres: “Do things that you make you happy, within the confines of the legal system.” Smart, and practical too.