On Happiness

Cute kids in a cute playhouse. What could be happier?

Happiness is in the language here. You greet someone: “Como esta? Tudo belleza?” And the appropriate, automatic response is always “Tudo joya.” (How are you? Is life beautiful? Yes, it’s joyous).

It is so very easy to forget that we are in charge of our own happiness. I’m in a country where most people, even the affluent, have much less than people in the United States. And they are happy, or at least as happy as people in the USA. Life may send you tough choices and yet what we choose to do with those circumstances is our own realm.

It’s embarrassing sometimes, the wealth of possessions that we have even when we try daily to live simply. As Americans, our frame of reference is just so very different. Things which drive me crazy, may disrupt my happiness–mosquitoes that buzzed in my ears last night, that the shower didn’t heat up, the frustrations of third-world bureaucracies, for example–simply don’t affect other people. They (at least on the outside) are as happy as they were yesterday. And trust me, I’m in no way glorifying peoples’ existence here. Life is hard, people here struggle like people all over the world do. There is sadness and depression and the whole gamut of negative human emotions. And yet in general I see people, many people, moving forward through conditions that would crush most that I knew in the States; conditions that might have crushed me were I in their shoes (or lack thereof). So when I’m in a funk it must be my mind that has trapped me in a world of annoyance and despair. I just as easily could have let it slip by. I allowed that item to define my happiness, and so it did.

The very fact that I have the time to dwell on the meaning of happiness itself is by definition a first world problem. I’m not worrying about my food, my shelter, my physical safety, or my health, and thus I have time to worry about larger issues. There is something to be said for focusing on the here and now. I would not wish for any of the aforementioned concerns; I am not so foolish to think that would bring enlightenment. However, the clarity of crisis, the focus on the immediate has its value. Truly, here and now is all we can control. Tomorrow will do what it may, yesterday has gone. It is in my power to shape my reality right now.

As I work to create a new life, I have to remind myself that this rule applies not only to physical circumstances but also to emotional ones. I hope that this person or that will come to fill a certain role in my new life. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. I am disappointed and frustrated with them when it doesn’t happen, but who created that expectation? Me. Better would be to simply let it go, and look for someone else who is willing to be there. Or accept the format in which they are offering their relationship, and seek the pieces I feel are missing elsewhere.

How I choose to interpret my surroundings, the tools I select to shape my future, the way in which I move through my present, all are my choices. I am inspired by people around me who have much larger challenges than mine and face it with laughter. Are these people perfect? Not by a long shot, but that’s not the point. They’ve mastered a lesson that I’m still learning. Laugh. Love. Live. Do it now. It’s all we’ve got, and don’t let anything stand in its way–even yourself. Really, the rest is just fluff.


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