What is happiness?

What makes you happy? What would make you happy? How do you know when you're happy?

How do you define happiness?


Hap' pi ness noun 1. favored by circumstances; lucky; fortunate 2. having, showing, or causing a feeling of great pleasure, contentment, joy, etc.; pleased 3. exactly appropriate to the occasion, suitable and clever; apt; gratification; felicitous.

Last night, the phone rang as I tossed and turned in bed, trying to fall asleep. For all of 5 seconds, I considered letting the caller go to voicemail, but then thought "I can't sleep anyway so I may as well see who it is." Phone calls after midnight were once a common occurrence. But not anymore. Not lately.

It was an old college friend of mine. He'd been out with clients, gallivanting in NYC causing all sorts of mayhem, and decided a late-night-dialie would be the best way to end the evening.

We spent an hour talking about ... happiness. Was I happy? Was he happy? Did our work make us happy? What was happy? He reminded me that I was so far removed from where I thought I'd be today. So far.

I remember climbing the three flights of stairs to the top apartment of a townhouse I shared with my best friend. Well, climbing is the neat and tidy version... crawling is probably more accurate. I'd enter the railroad apartment, turn right into the spacious living room and collapse on the ratty blue loveseat. Four hours later the sunlight streaming through the bay window would pierce my eyelids. I'd become aware of a dull ache that would soon turn into a jackhammer throbbing headache.

By 9:00 a.m. I'd be seated in front of a computer monitor, reading an email detailing the evening's upcoming activities, popping Advil like candy and drinking from a super tall paper cup filled with steaming hot coffee. I'd think that there had to be more to life than going out to bars with friends, party hopping, then showing up at work each morning to do "nothing important" only to collect a pay check that I'd spend on rent, student loans and going out with friends. I enjoyed going out, getting calls, being a serial dater, labeled the social director, but I'd be really happy when I finally got the opportunity to do meaningful work.

Now I do meaningful work. I work a lot - no more 9 - 5 (10 - 4) hours. I paid my dues and now love what I do. But last night I was thinking, gee I want to shake things up. Enter the vortex of chaos again. I'd be really happy if I could get the crew together again and go out on the town the way we used to. We had so much FUN! I was so happy back then.

And then he reminded me that I hadn't been. I kept longing for the routine life I have now.

Is happiness real or a figment? Do we have vague impressions of what happiness is? Or is it just me? Will I ever be satisfied?

Which brings me back to - what is happiness? Maybe it's just a moment. A moment of clarity... a moment of sharing... a moment of being loved unconditionally... a moment of feeling the wind whip your hair back, your stomach drop, the speed of the ride you're on turn your body this way and that. Maybe it's not a state of mind, or a life condition.

Maybe I need to settle for the moment that pops up every now and then, instead of the state of being I've been striving towards. Or maybe some people just aren't capable of being happy. Ever.


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