I play this awful version of Euchre on my phone. The other players make poor choices. The guy to my left always trumps my aces. My partner calls it on nothing. But, it’s a free version and loads quickly. It’s easy to play while waiting for the deli to slice a pound of ham or when waiting for the Costco gas line to move forward. It’s really terrible and a little frustrating, but it works.
Yesterday it got me thinking, though. Well, not the game, exactly, but one of the banner ads that ran got into my head and wouldn’t leave.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you, really?” it asked me.
At first I thought, “I’m happy. What a silly question.” And I finished that hand. Another ad showed up for the next hand, but the one after that? That same ad popped back up.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you, really?”
And I thought, “Why would it ask me again?” Now, I know it’s just an advertisement. I didn’t actually click on it and answer and it can’t read my mind. But the fact that it showed up twice got me wondering. How happy am I? Really?
I mean, when the insurance person on the phone asked how my day was going, I said, “Fine,” and didn’t tell her the truth. I mean, who’s day is going well if they’ve got to spend time on the phone with an insurance company? When the cashier asked how my experience was at the store, I told her, “Fine,” not that I was trying not to feel bad about me because the clothes I was hoping would fit and look cute didn’t. When the guy at my table at a meeting asked how things were I did open up a little more. I told him I was weighing some choices and having a very busy week, but then I felt like I was baring too much of my uncertainty and not enough confidence, so I smiled and said, “It’s a busy time, but things will work themselves out. I’m fine, thanks for asking.”
So, really…how happy am I? And am I really fine?
Deep thoughts during sad Euchre hands.
How happy are we and how happy should we expect to be? I’m not sure happiness is meant to be more than a periodic target. At least not unbridled glee. That’s an extreme that it’s great to reach every now and then, even regularly, but not a daily goal. Sometimes it seems that people think it is, though. There’s a song about being happy – a couple actually. Remember the kids’ ditty about clapping your hands if you’re happy and you know it? And then Pharrell wrote another, also about being happy and clapping. I definitely don’t think we should all be clapping all the time. That would be highly annoying.
Back to happiness as a goal, though. Regardless of all the songs, pop-up ads, and general notion that being happy is the way to be, I’d like to propose something different. What about living a life of consistent contentment? Some points to ponder…
- I think we’re doing a disservice to our kids if we’re raising them to believe that joy is attainable at every turn. When people think that everything they do and experience should bring a smile to their faces, they’re bound to be disappointed. And maybe think something is wrong with them, when in fact, they’re living normal and worthwhile lives.
- I wonder if this idea that our kids should be happy all the time is where the over-planning of their lives started. I find myself trying to find things to fill their time when they’re bored. I like seeing smiles on their faces and want them to stop whining. But if I’m spending all my time trying to make them happy all the time – there’s no time left for me. I’m aware of this and stop myself, letting them (gasp) figure it our on their own.
- A lot of life is routine. Sweeping, vacuuming, laundry, dishes, filling up the gas tank, grocery shopping…none of things leave me overjoyed. I sometimes take the time to feel satisfied or accomplished or just glad that’s done, but not ecstatic. Menial tasks have to be done and provide a foundation for our lives. Rushing through them or forgoing them completely for the sake of searching out happiness leaves us on shaky ground.
- Equal and opposite reactions. Newton probably didn’t have feelings in mind when he recorded his third law, but it fits. When we are upset about something and get over it or move past it, we often feel good about something else. But if we’re over the moon and it doesn’t work out, we’re left in disbelief and despair. There’s something wonderful about true, thrilling, pure happiness. Jubilance. But the opposite and equal feeling that we risk will be just as true and pure – perhaps sorrow, melancholy, or depression.
- There is a reason and a need for medications that help our mental health. I have to wonder, though, if some of those that turn to medication (doctor-prescribed or self-medicated) are feeling unfulfilled because they’re not a 10 out of 10 on the happiness scale, when maybe a solid six or seven is a more realistic objective.
So, those are my thoughts. For what they’re worth.
How happy am I, really? Well, it really depends on what we’re talking about and when you ask me. At the end of my yoga class I feel confident, able, and ready to tackle the world. After a day of shuttling the kids, dealing with drivers, overhearing conversations about how my coffee is bad for me, and feeling guilty over the m&m’s in my bag – well, then I don’t feel so great. After a parent meeting with the homeschool group where I feel understood, supported, and cared for, I feel refreshed. After being complimented on the kids’ behavior, I feel proud and thankful. After hearing arguing and bickering from a different floor of the house I feel beaten down and defeated.
When I think of my life as a whole – I feel blessed. I feel contentment.
Through the ups and downs, the daily goings-on, and considering it in it’s entirety – as parent, as wife, as woman, as sister, as daughter, as friend, as writer, as teacher, as mentor, as me – I feel consistently (but not always, because then I might not recognize the simple beauty of it) content.