What is happiness anyway?

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Mahatma Gandhi


Happiness is something that I’ve always struggled to recognize. Having come from a troubled childhood, I was hardly shown the path to true happiness. In fact, the happiest times that I can remember were when I could go off and do my own thing (usually in the woods) far away from the people I lived with. During the times that I had my dad in my life, I also was happy, because he understood me. Unfortunately, relying on another to bring you happiness doesn’t work. I can’t always have my dad around, I know that one day he will pass away and what then? Will I live the rest of my life in a dark and lonely place? Will I refuse to turn on the lights or open a book? Luckily, I learned from my dad that happiness isn’t something you can seek out in others. It’s something you find, and it can come from anywhere.

When I was young, I lived in North Carolina. (Sunnyview NC I think.) Behind our house, which was on a hill, there was a beautiful wood. I would find myself wandering around by myself, and I couldn’t help but to get lost. I don’t mean that I got lost literally, I mean that hours would go by and yet I craved for more time to spend with the trees. This is a place that I still dream of, so much so that I had to write something to get my mind back to that place. I long for those trees, specifically the one that has the hump that I used to sit on. I have yet to find a tree that grew just for me to nap upon. I remember that as being the first place that I was truly happy, and that’s including the massive sunflower patch behind our townhouse in (Hendersonville) North Carolina. For the first time, I was alone and happy. Whatever happened to that?

What is happiness, anyway? Is it a feeling or a state of mind? Is it something that you can find or is it something that you create? I think it might differ between each person. For me, for a long time, it was something I chased and dreamed about. It was something that I might never get if I were to stay in my mom’s house. It was something that I didn’t deserve because according to her I was a bad child. I was made to feel as if I didn’t deserve the things that a normal child deserves. I was the reason I was so miserable. At such a young age, how could I have known that this was untrue? It wasn’t until my teen years that I began to realize how wrong my mother was, and how much I did deserve. Even now I have a problem accepting gifts from people. I still have that lingering feeling that I don’t deserve what they have to give. I think this is where happiness is vital in the quest to repair the damage done to me as a kid. It’s something I rarely experienced.

I find now that I usually catch myself being happy. (Oh no! I’m happy again!) It’s still a strange feeling to me, and to some that might make them sad. It might take away a little of their own happiness, but it doesn’t need to. I’m happy that I can actually feel this feeling. I can actually be in this state of mind. For so long I was afraid to be happy. I resisted the thought, which made it worse. Whenever someone told me that I was afraid to be happy I would laugh at them. Of course I’m not afraid to be happy, I long for it, so why would I be afraid of it? Silly me right? Of course I was afraid of it, because every ounce of happiness I had ever had would be stolen away from me by my own mother through my entire childhood. Even today she tries to whittle a little away at a time, but I’m wise to her games now. The unfortunate thing about it is that she isn’t aware of her own state of mind. She’s unaware that those little bombs that she plants are designed to steal the other person’s happiness away. That’s how she’s always gotten her happiness because her mom was worse than she.

Which means that happiness can’t be gained. It can’t be stolen or taken thus it cannot be fought for. We are all fighting for this thing, this elusive thing. If only we could catch it, but it can’t be caught either. It can’t be obtained in any way because (and listen closely, this is important) it’s already there. 

The entire time I lived with my mom I had happiness. Lets set the scene. I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing, say reading. My mom comes in and asks a question and I respond without looking at her (I can’t lose my spot on the page after all) and she then gets angry. Suddenly she’s slamming my door closed and bitching up a storm in the hallway. I keep myself occupied with my book which pisses her off further, but I know if I confront the situation it’ll get worse anyway. So I keep on reading. What happens next is where I learned my lesson. If I wouldn’t bring the fight to her, she would bring it to me. Her source of false happiness was to take mine from me, and since I am clearly happy in my room reading, she has no choice but to try to take it. So in comes my mom with her bitch storm and allegations. Fight. Always a fight, no matter how long I try to withhold myself from it, she would pick and pick until I couldn’t hold out anymore. My stone walls were only so thick. That’s all fine and dandy, we are only human after-all and sometimes our tops blow. But had I known back then that even then she couldn’t take my happiness from me, maybe things might have effected me less. We’d fight, and I’d come back to my room, to my book that lay face down and waiting, but my temperature was too high. I couldn’t calm down after the blow out, and so I didn’t pick that book back up for a while. I would roll the fight over in my mind, re-play and try to figure out what I had done so wrong to piss my mother off. She had won. She was now sitting in her bedroom watching Wheel of Fortune and I was hot headed on my bed trying to make sense of the world and berating myself for reacting to her crap. Had I known that if I had just picked that book back up and not let her negativity take over, I would have been happy yet again, like I originally was while reading the book in the first place.

There’s no sense in berating myself about all of this now, I can’t change it. But I can still learn from it, and I have. I’ve learned when to recognize when my mom is fishing for feelings she can play off of, and I’ve learned to not care. That’s the trick. 

You’re in the drive through and someone behind you honks at you even though you can’t move up in line, and then you get the wrong order and you’ve already had a bad day so all you wanted were some God damn’d french fries. You storm into the place with bag in hand, and yell that you need the proper order and your fries are cold. God damn it the fries are cold!!! You’re head’s so hot that the employees can see the steam rising, but you’ve just treated them like garbage so they take their sweet time which only makes you more angry. You see this cycle that’s forming? Rewind.

You’re in line after having a horrible day and you want some french fried goodness in your tummy. So you pull into the McDanks and ask for a large fry. The guy behind you is also impatient about getting his fries. (Damnit all you need in life is a bunch of fries!) But what can you do, really? Not that much. But you’re having quite a shit day and the fella behind you might be as well. You pull up to pay for those delicious potato sticks and decide to pay for the poor fella behind you who is too anxious to get his fries. Instead of giving you the wrong order, you end up with extra fries because you were nice enough to pay for the asshat that’s in the car behind you. The McDanks thanks you because they get to deliver good news, the guy behind you is happy because he saved a buck, you’ve got extra fries and your day has turned around a little. Maybe it’ll be a good day after all. I’ve seen this happen many times actually. I worked in a Dunkin Donuts, and almost every Friday there was a pay it forward in our drive through. People pull up with frowns and leave with a smile having paid for someone else’s coffee.

Now, I’m not saying that when you’re having a bad day you should go buy someone else’s fries. That can get to be expensive and there’s not guarantee that the employee will give you that extra fry. But happiness, and love, are actually free. Say you’re in line this time, inside the restaurant, and you’re having a horrible day and the kid with his mother behind you is just screaming. He also wants his french fries but he hates standing in line. What can you do? Turn and yell back? Bottle it in and get progressively more and more pissed off? Or maybe turn to the kid and say what everyone in line is thinking. “Hey, I want my fries too. Aren’t they so good?” He’ll probably be taken aback (most kids would be anyway) and stop crying long enough to evaluate the situation. During that time we can throw another question his way. “So, have you ever tried dipping them in barbecue sauce, like you do with your nuggets? It’s actually really good.”  At this point, you’ve probably stopped the melt down that was about to happen, and he’s probably going to answer you (provided he’s not actually a spoiled brat, In which case run to the nearest bar and grab a shot of whiskey). Mom’s happy, the employees are happy, you’re happy and the kid is happy and probably talking your ear off (or hiding behind mom because he’s actually shy. Go figure!) That was free and it ate up enough time that you’re now next in line! Hurrah!

My point is that happiness is always there, it’s just hidden in your perspective. You can choose to react negatively, or you can choose to react in a positive manner. I promise that if you make the latter the habit, you’ll find happiness in everything that you do. But don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes. They happen to everyone and nobody can do it 100% of the time. I’m over here just going on and on about being happy and how to do it but I’m going to be the first to tell you that the negative reaction is what you’re likely to get from me if you’re honking at me in a drive through. But I’ll carry that on, and I’ve done so in the past. I’m angry about this guy being an ass in the drive through, I decide I don’t care and later on when I am in the grocery store and see someone wandering up the aisle looking miserable, I shoot them a genuine smile. Most people will give me one back, and if I happen to see them later in the store, they are still wearing it.

Happiness begins with a smile.

So what is happiness to you?


Just a small bit of happiness I found yesterday at the Indianapolis Canal