Monday, November 21, 2011

Happiness


I'm thinking this morning about the ingredients for happiness. This is a work in progress. I've been at it for forty-three years and figure it will take me at least fifty-seven more to make much headway. This then is a status report, an update on what I know and what I'm thinking. I imagine that my thoughts will have changed by the time I get to the bottom of this writing. It usually works that way.

This morning I feel fairly happy. I didn't feel that way when I woke or when I drove to work. I didn't even feel that way when I took the first sip of coffee here at my desk. It wasn't until I wrote my customary note to my wife. Each morning, you see, before I do much of anything else (aside from making a cup of coffee), I write a note to my wife that she will find when she boots her computer. Toward the end of this morning I was saying how grateful I am for all the ways in which she shows me her delicate and beautiful love. At the typing of that, at the moment of having that thought, I found morning happiness.

Is it as simple as that? Having good love is what makes happiness? I suppose that it is, but I also think that it's intriguing to think about what else there is to it. And what there is that's not connected to it.

I've been pretty sick lately. I started with a head cold two weeks ago, went through a night of fever and chills, and have been lethargic and aching for a week. Friday, I got some antibiotics and there was hope in me that they would knock this thing down in seconds. No dice. Today (Monday), my nose is still running, I'm already tired (and it's only 7:18 in the morning), and my head just started to ache. What a mess I am.

Throughout all this I've been on the couch, I haven't been able to run, and there has been next to nothing on television. So I've found myself browsing the web and looking at a GPS running watch that I have been thinking I should get for Christmas. I figure it will make me happy.

But I'm wrong.

I mean, there's nothing wrong with having a GPS running watch. It might be fun to get a toy like that and use it some. But happiness isn't there. How do I know? Already, this morning I'm regretting purchasing it. And I haven't purchased it yet! I can feel the regret of trying to buy happy before I shell out the money.

The ingredients of happiness aren't at the store. I know that and yet, I'm still a sucker for a good sales pitch. The iPad, a new Google phone, the Nissan Leaf, and on and on. Last week I got two catalogs for fountain pens. I have two fountain pens already (and use them all the time), but there I was leafing through the catalogs thinking about pens that cost more than GPS running watches. It took a concerted effort to toss the catalogs in the recycling and forget about that stuff.

The obvious thing to say here is that all I need is the love of my wife and children, a connection to my family, the friendship of a small group of people. It's more complicated than that and I don't think I have a grasp on all of it yet. There's also good food, music, books to read. There are the good miles of running out on the road, the occasional trip to somewhere far away, the game of basketball that leaves me dripping and panting for an hour afterward. There are so many things that make up happiness, but all of these seem to have one ingredient in common.

Being aware of feeling happy is what it takes. The GPS running watch I've been looking at is my way of trying to anticipate happiness. "If I buy this, I'll be happy." Meanwhile, I'm missing the things around me that could make me happy. I'm sick, I'm stuck on a couch, I have the damn television on and the laptop open to nothingness. I'm wanting happiness but not going toward it. Instead, I'm looking at $200 running watches.

To be happy, I just have to switch off the television, close the laptop, and maybe go take a nap. Or talk to my girls. Or just sit and consider the world. I don't need to buy happiness. The Beatles were right about money and love. They might as well have been talking about happiness too.

I don't think I've gone as far with this as I wanted to. I'm thinking of the Japanese poet Ryokan who lived with one robe, one bowl. I won't ever live so simply, but there is something to getting down to the basics. I wonder if I'll ever get down to those. I wonder.

Then again, this morning, typing a note to my wife, telling her how strongly I felt her love, I was there already.

Write on.