Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pursuing It

I have a friend who is picking up his life, quitting his job (with a company he started) and moving across the country. To me, that's massive change. But he says he just wants to be happy. He knows it's a risk, but something stronger than fear of that risk is driving him.

I know some other people, apparently not happy in their lives, who decided to go outside their marriages to find happiness. They claim they've found it, even though there are consequences. Honestly, I don't even think they know the extent of the consequences yet.

I consider myself lucky. I believe happiness, or even the act of looking for it, is largely a choice. I believe even with the bad days and the hard times in life, you can still find a way to be happy. I believe that even with mountains of debt, life-threatening illness or great loss, there is still a chance for happiness. I have seen people do it- it is entirely possible. I'm not sure we're all cut out for that though, half the time I'm not sure I am. But that doesn't stop me from trying.

I suppose that's the basis of the two situations I mentioned. When moving your entire life for a shot at happiness is less frightening than staying where you are, and being unhappy, the choice seems easy. With the second situation, though, I can't agree. Because the other thing I believe about happiness? It cannot come at the expense of others. Once your choices begin to affect the life of someone else and their shot at happiness, it becomes wrong. And selfish.

I'm always amazed, though, the extent to which people will go to find a place where they consider themselves happy. Blinded by the thought of love, or change, or the ever-elusive "newness" of it all, I wonder if they're really conscious of any reality at all? I know our happiness comes in different packages, but are we sometimes fooled by the thought?

How do you find your happiness? How do you know that it's real? How do you know that it's right?

23 comments:

e.b. said...

I think about this ALL THE TIME. I am constantly figuring out what makes me/us happy, how long it lasts, the science of happiness if you will. It is fascinating. I also think we can convince ourselves of anything - which is both a good and bad thing. But that our mind is very powerful in that way and can control.

Sizzle said...

i think we should all chase our happiness, in whatever form, and yes, try not to hurt other people in that pursuit but unfortunately it's not always avoidable. i think too many people stuff their own wants and needs and shots at happiness for the sake of other people. it's a tangled knot and each person, individually, has to find their own way to untangle it.

for a long time i did what i thought everyone else wanted me to do and pretended i was happy. i was not. i lost some friendship in the pursuit of becoming my true self, in finding my happiness, and i can't say i regret it. sure, i didn't purposely hurt anyone but sometimes you have to choose you.

i hope that makes sense.

JustRun said...

EB- I couldn't agree more about convincing ourselves of happiness (or unhappiness, as the case might be).

Sizzle- That does make perfect sense. I know I barely touched on the whole "if it affects others" caveat. There is always that difference between affecting others and trying to please them- I think learning to draw the line is very powerful.

Runner Girl FL said...

I think you are right about not hurting someone else in the process of finding your happiness.

I believe that if you do what is right and are true and honest to your self and others... not hiding anything and you live simply and honestly that happy will follow. This is the first example. He is being true to himself and as you pointed out he is taking a chance but it is for the right reasons.

Not that doing the right thing is always easy but by doing it you will know you did your best and not have to "live with the consequences" as you sited in your second example.

Bre said...

Ok, for me, happiness is like finding a good pair of shoes (oh come on, you knew I'd go there). I used to work at a suck-out-your-soul job that was high end, but always rubbed me the wrong way. I got blisters.

My job now is harrowing, it pays to little, it demands too much, but I love it. It's a perfect fit.

I think it's easy to purchase the wrong shoe because it's in style, it looks nice, it'd be comfortable if you didn't stand for more than 5 minutes, whatever. But overall, I'm happier when I keep digging to find the pair that meets all of my needs without the blistering!

For the record, I'm certainly not entirely happy - but I'm willing to continue chasing after it.

Backofpack said...

Have you ever heard the expression "where ever you go, there you are"? It is simply saying that you are who you are - to really find happiness, you have to dig deep and make concious choices to find it, and to realize that if you just move, or change partners, but continue living as you always had - in other words, changing your surroundings (inluding people) but not yourself, then you've just moved your problems along with you.

I fully agree - you have to make a choice to be happy. Fact is, you have a choice about every single thing in your life, and you have a choice about your response to it. Being happy requires work. Being married, or in a relationship (even a friendship) requires work.

I also agree about hurting others. I'm not talking about not meeting some one else's expectations, but more about the fundamental changing of their lives, in order to pursue your own happiness. In the case of divorce, no one but the two people involved can know whether it is right or not; and I do believe there are times when a person absolutely has to leave a marriage for their own sake. However, in my opinion, before you leave, you give it everything you've got, you pour your heart and soul into making it work. Then, if you walk away, you know you gave it your all. What I disagree with are the cases where a parent chooses to walk away from the family, to leave their children, in pursuit of another. I've seen and dealt with the children that are left behind - some are resilient and bounce back, but too often, the damage is done. I believe if you bring a child into this world, and you choose to keep it, then you are making a commitment that cannot and should not be broken. For at least 18 years, the needs of that child supersede your own. After that, then you can go your own way.

Hmmmm...did you hit a hot button or what?

Sempre Libera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ginger Breadman said...

Deep post today.

I think that some people cannot look inside and find true happiness. It comes as a form of escape or fantasy land. They feel they cannot be happy in their own world, so they create another one in which to be happy, at whatever cost to anyone else. In fantasy land, they don't see the hurt.

To find that happiness, they need to look deep inside and face their own reality. To some people, that's so scary and so painful, they live forever in fantasyland. But others can learn to move on and really find happiness in themselves and their surroundings.

Bottom line? You create your own reality.

Sempre Libera said...

I do think we can choose to be happy. Sometimes it takes a big leap of faith to find it. Kudos to your friend!

But there are times when we can't find happiness, no matter how hard we try. That doesn't mean we've failed somehow. It takes unhappy times to make the happy ones stand out.

And you're completely right - you cannot find happiness at the expense of others. A family friend made that choice recently and as the failed relationships - his marriage, his friendships - pile up around him, I can't imagine whatever he sought is enough to justify the pain he has caused. I'm amazed that he hasn't realized it yet.

Finally, I think the fact that any one of us are thinking about these things means we're in a good place. Better this than to wander through life oblivious to the path we're forging.

runliarun said...

Whever you go, you take youself with you. Happiness depends on who you are inside, not on the place. That said, I made a radical move twice. The first time I did not leave behind a place - I left a life, a continent, a country, a family, and everything I have ever known. As extreme as it sounds, this move was just a simple variation on the common fate of the immigrant. After 9 years, I did my second move. This time I exchanged New York for New Mexico. As simple as it sounds, this was the true gesture that brought me happiness. I love the desert. I bloomed here.

I believe in the spirit of place.

justrun said...

RGF- I think you hit it on the head when you said be honest. I think in the second situation I mentioned, there is honesty lacking. Not that people aren't trying, they're just refusing to see the entire picture of who/what they're affecting.

Bre- That's an excellent analogy- I have used it myself. I, like you, will dig for as long as it takes.

Michelle- You and I are on the same page about so many things. Perhaps that's what makes situation #2 so difficult for me to believe in- there are children affected and to me, leaving children behind so that one is able to "find love" and be happy is one of the most selfish and irresponisble things a parent can do.

Ginger- Excellent point. I think escape can provide us with happiness. If we're not healthy enough or willing to take on the reality of it, it's just going to (for lack of a better phrase) bite us in the ass in the end.


SL- I think that might be the worst of it, using "happiness" to justify the why's of our choices with no regard for others. I just don't see how something that would feel wrong (at least to me) can equal happiness.

Lia- I agree, sometimes we just know when something feels right. And yes, wherever we go, there we are but in line with your belief, sometimes we can "be" in one place a whole hell of a lot better than we can be anywhere else.

egan said...

I'm guessing I find happiness the same way you might. By taking care of myself via exercise, engaging hobbies, and spending time with my wife and friends.

The second scenario is sad. Why someone would think cheating on their spouse is sound alternative is bizarre. The consequences of those actions are never worth it. If you're not happy, break up, then move on.

How do you know happiness is right? Huh, good question. I think that's a question friends can answer for you. They can see it on your face. Good topic.

brandy said...

Happiness is like perfect jeans, my spare set of keys or a man who understands my brand of crazy. Looking for it never results in me finding it, neither does waiting for it, wishing for it, or turning my life upside for it. I find that happiness comes when I'm running late, it's raining but I find a cab right when I need it. I'm just working on keeping the happy feeling...

Danielle said...

Wow...is it springtime that brings this out? I know lately I've been contemplating my own happiness and peace and place in this world and I finally decided that happiness is something you can seek or you can accept. I'm unhappy in a job I'm working, that's very obvious by some of my blogs, and tired of the negative, but instead of letting it get to me, I finally just pushed it out and am pouring forth more positive in the things I do there, hoping to counter. It isn't always easy (particularly if I work two days in a row) but I'm trying. I'm also just trying to be positive and happy with all things in my life, figuring the things I can control and just letting others go.

Now at the expense of someone else...that's not good. The cheating I don't agree with. It's one thing to decide you aren't happy in the marriage and figure out you have to either change things or end it, it's not good for kids to grow up in that either, but to just start screwing around...

Happiness I also agree is where you make it. You can't be happy someplace else if you aren't happy with who you are, while if you are happy with who you are, you can be happy anywhere right? At least that's the theory. Me, I'm working on being happy with who I am...then we'll figure out where I want to be (beach and warm come to mind!)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Those are very interesting questions you've posed.

The concept of personal happiness is actually relatively new. We now expect to be happy, 100 years ago people did not really think about happiness as a right, as we do now. Frankly, they likely didn't have time to indulge in such ideas.

And while I agree with most people here that happiness is something which only you can create for yourself, I think we also have to acknowledge and accept that at times we will not be happy, and draw upon our personal strength to deal with those situations as best we can.

JustRun said...

Egan- I honestly did not think of that, to ask my friends. Hmmm, I might have to do a little experiment.

Brandy- I couldn't agree more- it's in the little things. Which I think we have to choose to see.

Danielle- It's hard to explain, but I really think it's about finding a balance between the "try" and the "acceptace" efforts.

Barb- I agree with that, too. Sometimes, life just isn't going to hand it to you. Then again, this is coming from the girl that digs through crap looking for a pony.

Dawn said...

I've been thinking about that a lot lately. Last summer I wanted to move home, because I thought I was running away from something.

So I decided to sign my contract and stay.

Now I'm like...I don't wanna stay!

Oh well. :)

Nicole said...

Wow! What a great post. Its funny as a kid I never had a care in the world and was happy all the time. My sister and I would chase each other around, make mud pies, cook and clean with my grandma. And, now life is definitely more complicated and maybe if we just played more we might not be so stressed out, angry, or depressed. I can't say I've been the happiest these last two years but I can definitely laugh at myself.

Hope you find much happiness in your life now and always.

justrun said...

Dawn- I understand. Of course, that might be because I've been contemplating a move myself.

Nicole- I think being able to laugh is half the battle.
All the happiness in the world to you, as well.

egan said...

Let me know your little experiment works. I think friends are pretty aware of your moods so this should be interesting.

GirlGoyle said...

I don't think you can know weather it's right until you give it a shot. What you can be sure of is being unhappy which is what pushes people to look for happiness. The act of looking for happiness is an act of courage. It's easy to sort of find comfort in an unhappy situation. At least you know what you have. Picking up and leaving for the unknown takes balls. As does looking for it outside of a current relationship. Nothing guarantees that you leave an unhappy relationship for a happy one. After all, you never really know someone until sometimes it's too late. I think the key to happiness if knowing what it is that makes you happy, I still haven't figured it out.

justrun said...

Egan- Will do.

GG- I think "figuring it out" takes a lifetime. I also think, though, that we get little clues to it all the time and if we're open to seeing them, we can't go wrong. Deep down, and often not so deep down, we know what's right.

Orhan Kahn said...

I recently did something similar
to what your friend did.