I am waiting for happiness”, she said.
And I replied,
“I can open a sacred drawer in you and there will be all the gold and joy, and companionship you could ever want.”
“I want to be happy.” Seems to be the eternal question that was explored in a recent documentary I screened last week to an audience called aptly enough Happy. In it, director Roko Belic travelled around the world looking at this topic in response to a poll that rated Americans 26th on the “happiness scale”. It seemed that the more affluent countries such as Japan, the less happy the citizens were. Yet it showed very happy people living in the bayous of Louisiana and the slums of Calcutta. Happiness seems to have nothing to do with wealth and everything to do with internal values and close relationships with friends and family. It also showed studies that helping and giving to others released the same amount of Dopamine (feel good hormone) to the brain as a shot of crack cocaine! Mmm…
When I was 19 and dropping out of college, I remember receiving a poignant letter from my mom stating that “she just wanted me to be happy.” Trouble was it was happiness based on what she wanted… college, good job, marriage, family, secure income. All the values she grew up with that supposedly would bring happiness according to the formula. But I was a questor and always looking, asking the bigger questions which kicked off my spiritual search in my early twenties. I wasn’t happy and looking!
I found many answers in the groups I joined, the books I studied, the methods I embraced. I had moments of happiness and joy but still often more intellectual than heart felt. I still felt broken and imperfect. I did eventually get married, have a family and home and make good money. In fact such great money that my old boss use to notice and say “that the more I made, the less happy I seemed.” I soon realized that even $10,000 a month didn’t give me the freedom or self-love and acceptance I craved. Or the time home with my son. Retail therapy only worked for a short span. It was nice to “achieve goals” but then what?
The rest of my story is told in “Who Am I” on my website Gritty Angel. I quit that job and a lot of life experiences have ensued since. Many that one wouldn’t call “happy”. Yet I recently had an experience that has surpassed everything on a happiness scale…
A few weeks ago, I was grocery shopping at our local supermarket and went to pick out a couple of potatoes for baking. There I was. Standing and digging through the russet potato bin when I suddenly found myself fondling and stroking the potatoes with love. They felt so good, the gritty brown skin and earthy smell wafting upwards. A feeling of pure joy washed over me. I was truly happy. Unexpected bliss there in the potato bin! Who would have guessed?
What I have come to discover more and more in my life is that my happiness is so not dependent on big ticket experiences. Often small daily occurrences and random events. The smell in the air from the lake, an unexpected connection with an old friend, dog walks. Feeling good for no reason. And most importantly the feeling of love I have for myself. Most days. “Warts and all”. Nothing much can take that away. That’s the holy grail and I’m grateful to have found it. In the potato bin.