Are You Happy Now?

I have a confession to make to all the people I know who recently got engaged, married, fell in love, moved in with someone, lost weight, got a new job, got a promotion, bought a house, car, or a major appliance.

I’m not happy for you. Any of you.

And the truth is, I haven’t been happy about anything good that’s happened for you for a long time.

I have tried to dredge up some happiness, though. Believe me, I have tried. The sad truth is that time and experience and my current state of mind has jaded me to the point that when I attempt to conjure up true joy for someone else’s bliss, all I hear are platitudes and shallow well-wishes coming from my lips. My brain is so full of snark and sarcasm that when I see social media posts from people about the awesomeness of their loved one, or how things are going so well in their relationship, or how much they love their new job or body or couch, I avoid saying anything in response because I know all that vitriol will ooze out of my cerebellum and into my fingers as I’m typing.

I hate that this is true. I hate that I am taking more joy in the stories when someone is miserable than when someone is actually happy and achieving their goals and dreams. Because I have not always been like this.

I can accept the fact that I have major narcissistic tendencies. I’m fully aware of my weaknesses. I’m very good at self-flagellation for any and all times when I’ve said the wrong thing, didn’t say the right thing, did or didn’t do something that would ease someone else’s suffering. I’ve worked hard at being kind and compassionate, because that doesn’t always come easily to me.

But this inability to exalt others is tough. It eats away at me. And it increases those feelings of wrongness.

I have been trying to get to the heart of why I feel this way. A line from “Desiderata” gave me some insight:

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve compared myself to others, whether it’s in terms of possessions, physical appearance, wealth, relationship status, or education. The compare/contrast tactic is ultimately a weapon of self-destruction. I’m working on being aware of when I’m doing this, and refocusing my attention on finding my happy place: a place that isn’t contingent on what I look like or how much money I make; a place where I want the best of everything for those I love. But the path to my happy place isn’t always easy to find, and even when I do find the path and actually get there, sometimes I wake up and discover I’m back in the not-so-happy place.

So if you don’t see me clicking Like on your Facebook post, or sending you congratulations, it’s because I’m still working on getting – and staying – in my happy place. And once I get there, I promise to send you a postcard.


Defining Happiness

A few weeks ago, I sent this postcard to a dear friend of mine who I knew would appreciate the sentiment stated on the card. Then I considered how happiness is so many, many things, and not just consuming chocolate. So I whipped out my extra-fine-point Sharpie and got to work adding more to the card. Below you’ll find my extended definition of happiness.

  • having a glass of really good wine
  • reading a wonderful novel in front of a roaring fire on a cold day
  • a hearty belly laugh with a friend
  • a cat sleeping in your lap
  • listening to a rainstorm from a covered porch
  • singing really loudly with the car radio with all the windows down while sitting in traffic
  • getting a great pedicure and a massage
  • the smell of suntan lotion on your skin
  • unexpected money in the mail
  • fresh ripe berries that you picked yourself
  • a perfectly blended Arnold Palmer with just the right amount of ice
  • seeing someone you love fall in love for the first time
  • hearing a new mother sing to her baby
  • the crack of a metal bat against a baseball at a Little League game
  • being greeted by a tail-wagging dog when you come home from a long day
  • sneaking out at midnight to skinny dip
  • catching fireflies with a 7-year-old
  • seeing your favorite painting in person for the first time
  • the smell of a barbecue
  • the anticipation of fireworks on Independence Day
  • being kissed under a starry sky
  • having someone tell you the positive influence you had on their life
  • a Popsicle dripping on your hand when it’s 99 degrees
  • getting fun cards in your mailbox

What makes you happy?