The truth is, throughout my life I have had a tenuous relationship with the concept of happiness. From being described as “such a happy girl” as a young child, to chasing after happiness, to feeling as if I would never know what it meant to feel happiness I’ve run the gamut on the complex experience of happiness.
I think a lot of people can identify with this struggle, with good reason. Climate change, gender and racial inequality, greed, not to mention personal strife – I know I don’t need to tell you that the list goes on and on. In times such as these I’ve struggled to find a reason that will appeal to my better senses as to how I could ever guiltlessly experience happiness, when inequality has stacked the odds against many of my fellows; moreover, why should I dare?
I’m not the only one – philosophers have been deconstructing happiness since ancient times, poets have been writing about it since the beginning of recorded history. While I consider many poets and philosophers as my inspiration, a balm even in trying times, individuals who offer up compelling reasoning worth considering, I want to speak to my own experience, my own philosophy on happiness, however small.
Happiness changed for me when I started treating the concept differently. I was reminded by something poet Mary Oliver has said about the concept of courting your creativity. Oliver likened this to Romeo and Juliet :
“If Romeo and Juiet had made their appointments to meet, in the moonlight-swept orchard, in all the peril and sweetness of conspiracy, and then more often than not failed to meet – one or the other lagging, or afraid, or busy elsewhere – there would have been no romance, not passion, none of the drama for which we remember and celebrate them. Writing a poem is not so different – it is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart (that courageous but also shy factory of emotion) and the learned skill of the unconscious mind. They make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen. ”
I began to court my happiness. Instead of chasing a feeling, I created a container. In very small ways, each day, I made myself into a home where happiness would care to roost. And then a surprising thing happened – within this container I was able to experience sadness, disappointment, hope, an array of emotions, all within the safety of my happiness. I didn’t stop feeling the complexities of human emotion – I felt it deeper, yet I was enlivened!
But then, I lost it again. I felt a deep sense of frustration; hadn’t I figured out how happiness worked? I had no choice but to examine my relationship more deeply, after all I had come this far. I wanted to know, what are some beliefs I hold about happiness?
I wrote down all the things I believed to be true about happiness, but my mind kept coming back to only one: happiness is not a privilege. Every creature in this Universe deserves to know happiness, without a doubt. Yet, I was not willing to extend this kindness to myself. In order for happiness to stay I needed to believe that I deserved it, that I was worthy.
I think that happiness and I will have a life-long relationship of getting to know one another, but I’ve learned there is so much sweetness in diving headlong into the depths. I’ve learned to make a home for happiness to live, and I’ve learned that I, and you, deserve happiness.
I’d like to leave you with a poem by Rainer M. Rilke, who was a master of finding happiness within the complexities of life:
“Again and again, however we know the landscape of love
and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names,
and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others
fall: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky.”
Article by Savannah Schultz, client at Wellness on Whyte.
With much appreciation