Why Happiness Is Not Just Happy

Musings / Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

I had the most extraordinary, eventful week. Consider this.

On Sunday, I see a letter from the Commercial Tax Office that I have to submit all the auditing for Trippin Traveller within seven days or be liable for civil/criminal prosecution. Also, by Sunday I realize that someone so despises me that they wouldn’t want anything to do with me.

My Monday starts with a “budget-cut” kind of meeting, and both the girls I interact with in the office are not there. Waste of time? Yes. If you think Time exists for us to ‘waste’.

My Tuesday starts with a trip to Warangal, a town that I completely disliked as soon I landed. That’s difficult for me. I am the sort of person who loves most of the places I visit. Yet, I didn’t want to be here, and the town makes me feel like it knew about it.

My Wednesday starts with our auditor asking me about VAT receipts, returns, IT filings, P/L statements for the past three years. For someone who hates Excel sheets, this is a nightmare.

My Thursday starts with a late arrival in Bangalore and further grilling of our accounts, including running behind errant clients. I go home only to find that I have left my running shoes at my parents’ place, and the only thing I was looking forward to was my weekly long run.

My Friday starts with an email from a client for yet another revision for a post that I am sick of seeing by now. I am behind on work, struggling with our business, emotionally upset, and zonked out by a boring trip.

What an unhappy week, eh? One of the things I have learned in life is that we often confuse happiness with comfort, peace, and serenity. All the ‘good’ things. The more I work on happiness- the more I realize that you can’t seek happiness, you can’t find happiness- you simply have to remember to be happy. And what is this happy?

Happiness is NOT the absence of sadness. Happiness is not some mellifluous state in life where everything goes the way you want. Happiness is simply not any of these.

Happiness is simply this: a state of acceptance. That state where you look at the difficulties in life with the same openness that you view the beautiful things as well. That state where you embrace the difficulty as opportunities for growth. Happiness is not the Instagram package you think it is. Happiness is gratitude and love for all that the Universe gives us. Happiness does not mean jumping in joy over someone’s death. No. But you can be happy in grief. You can be happy in loss. It’s a state of being that’s hard to reach, I know. I can’t. But we can be happy with the small things. I am happy because I know that I can sleep in peace at night. I am happy with the kindness I can share and receive. I am happy with the love I see in my loved ones. I am happy with the difficult people who test my resolve of kindness. I am happy with the stress and the muck. I am happy because these things too happened during the same week:

For all the troubles with the audit, I could be happy that we finally got a great accountant who might drive me crazy with her meticulous accounts but is a blessing..

I could be happy that while one person tells me to fuck off after receiving a gift from me, another person also breaks down in tears while receiving a gift and makes me run away in shyness with platitudes like the above. Such beautiful contrasts I can learn from! How humbling to realize you can be a nobody in someone’s life and a somebody in another person’s life!

I am happy that even in Warangal, a place I didn’t like, there was a moment where the sun set like this while I sat by the lake, immersed in a call over numbers. Yes. It was stress and still, the Universe was kind to me like this:

warangal sunset

Happiness was being grateful for the mere joy of being with my parents and my loved ones.

Happiness is when a friend shares my joy over the sky and thinks of me and sends me a photo like this when she is moved:

Picture Credit: Sheetal, the Human Owner of the Dodo

I was able be happy that I even though I didn’t have my own running shoes, my friend’s running shoes in my apartment fit me well enough to run anyway. Previously, I would have raved and ranted that “The one thing I wanted to do this week, even that is denied to me! Why is life so unfair? Everything is so fucked up. Fuck fuck fuck.”

I didn’t do any of that. For 2 minutes, I was flustered when I realized I didn’t have my shoes, but then, after two years of meditating for an hour every day, I was here, able to recognize that I am flustered, accepting that I am flustered, and then choosing to respond differently. Happiness is recognizing that I am able to accept this changed awareness in me. I sound enlightened- bear with me- I am still a mess, but I just write like this. 🙂

Happiness is being annoyed with the client’s request for the third revision, but trying to think different and feel  grateful that I can test my skills this way.

Happiness is receiving emails from strangers who move me with their words.

Happiness is not a warm color, but also the seeping cold darkness of winter.

Here’s what I can think can still make you happy in the small moments:

  • Appreciate the love you receive. Don’t be stingy with your love. Love yourself and love others who give you their love. Love more, never less.
  • Let values of dignity, grace, peace, forgiveness, love, kindness, compassion, and empathy dominate your life.
  • Be tender with your bruises, especially those you inflict on yourself.
  • Be humble. Don’t think you know anything. Not even this. Especially not this. Know for yourself what your soul tells you. You will feel it when you do right. You will feel it when you do wrong.
  • Be proud of only one thing: The standards you set as a human being and the values you live your life by.
  • Express gratitude. Again and again. To people, to yourself, to Life, and yes, to all the difficult moments too. Especially, the difficult moments. Especially, the difficult people.
  • Value time. Many times, we think we will be happy once we get that pay hike or when we have a kid or when we buy that house. That hedonistic cycle of happiness is good in its way, but its effect is momentary. You lose it as soon as you buy that house or get that pay hike. I have been there and I realize now that those are meaningless if our values are not aligned with the achievement of these. Did you backstab a colleague to get that raise? Forgot to be kind while you pursued money? Don’t wait for a time to be kind. Don’t wait for a time to be grateful. And I can’t think of anyone who is happy if they have acted cruelly. For acts of grace, the time is only now.
  • Be aware. Of yourself and others.
  • Love the leaves, weeds, suns, moons, stars, and the entire freaking sky. They are there for you. Always.
  • Make space in your heart for the little moments.
  • Be a giver. A giver of time. Of moments. Of little words. Or just little acts of kindness. Give love. Give yourself.

And this I know in my little world :

Happiness is all the colors of the rainbow. Happiness is accepting all those colors with love and equanimity. And happiness can be sad too. Hug your happiness in all those colors.

6 Replies to “Why Happiness Is Not Just Happy”

  1. This – Previously, I would have raved and ranted that “The one thing I wanted to do this week, even that is denied to me! Why is life so unfair? Everything is so fucked up. Fuck fuck fuck.”

    Haha, I could almost picture that scene. I was taken aback, pleasantly, by your calm demeanour to this entire “fiasco.” Happiness is there when you want to see it, I think. Even in that song you hear. Even in the phloem bundles 😀

    1. What if, gasp, happiness is the phloem bundles and you have been throwing them away all your life? Grin. Oh yes, I have come a long way from my “fuck it all days,” but you never know – change change change change is all we have, so I might get back to those days too. You never know.

  2. Hi Smitha – Dave here. There is a little allusion here to the art of lying, something Mark Twain wrote a nice essay on. it is called “On the Decay of the Art of Lying.” Basically, it comes down to the choice we are faced when a new mother proudly shows you her ugly baby. Of course you lie. “That’s such a lovely child.” Similarly, the little “social noises” I identify them as “semantically null,” and common courtesy, are the lubricant which keeps people from chafing each other. They have no meaning, but are so expected that their absence seems to create a dissonance in a lot of people.

    Of course, I have vastly simplified Twain’s ideas.

    Thanks for a stimulating note.


    1. Absolutely, Dave. The little social noises are necessary. So necessary. The gestures are not the big ones- the simple thank yous, the “I love what you wrote here,” or the sharing of a photo, or a kind word to the security guard. These are the social noises we should be yelling about, aren’t they?

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