5/11/10

Happiness in a fanny pack


I pretty consistently feel peaceful with a dash of joy and gratitude and maybe even a little serenity these days. But that doesn't mean I'm always happy. I'm often irritable or tired or just plain out of it.

My happiness is fleeting because I believe that's what happiness is. Fleeting like a caffeine high or that little lift in your belly when you're on an elevator, maybe after some good news or an achievement or a hormonally good day.

This is why they say that happiness is a choice. It's sporadic and temporary and we want it so badly we choose to force it in the midst of fatigue and the hard things of life. We chase it like a drug and believe we've failed if we don't feel it all the time.

I used to expect this fleeting feeling to stick, and then I'd grow frustrated with myself for not being able to hold on to it. I'd see these people who always seemed to be so happy all the time, and I'd wonder why I wasn't strong enough to be like them. I thought I must be doing something wrong, when maybe in reality it was just simply time to get off the elevator and continue walking through the work week, tired.

What I've really always wanted was that constant thing, that undercurrent of acceptance of things exactly as they are. And that doesn't always look or feel like happiness.

The thing is, the people who seem happy all the time are perhaps not feeling happiness as much as wearing it, you know. Like a fanny pack, jutting out from the hip, filled with good thoughts and a positive attitude. These people are working very hard, doing the nearly impossible to keep that pack filled, and that's why we admire them. For trying so hard when we feel like we can't, or when our innate personalities just won't let us.

I'm beginning to think that when we just can't, when happiness seems to bounce right off, perhaps we should lighten up and look underneath. Because when we dig a little deeper and find that at the core of who we are, we are overjoyed by the people and gifts in our lives, our fanny packs are filled with just as much trying and overcoming even if they're a bit more hidden, maybe behind our backs.

Maybe this is too obvious to say, but I think that for many of us, the depths of spirit within the melancholy periods of frustration and confusion are required to truly feel their opposite, happiness. I'm working on remembering that all the while, even while I don't often feel the belly butterflies or the buzz of happy
, peace and joy do remain, as real as my beating heart. And maybe that is true happiness, not always worn, but always felt, somewhere in the deepest parts.


How are you made? What's your
temperament and have you accepted you, the way that you came?

~~~~~~~~~~

This post is a part of Five for Ten at Momalom. Join us (if it'll make you happy!) (I know. Hilarity.)

33 clicked right here to comment:

Cynthia said...

I love this. My spouse struggles so much with trying to hold on to that fleeting thing.

I think that attitude is a huge factor in day-to-day contentedness- the old adage 'you have what you believe you have'. Happiness seems almost bio-chemical to me.

I am really lucky, I may not have the genetic gift of beauty or thiness but I am a genetically happy person. I am always in a good mood unless I have reason to be different. It's my emotional baseline and it's called a 'hyperthermic temperment'.

My Husband is, of course, my opposite. His natural disposition is on the depressed side of 'normal'. It's not that I am better or have a better attitude than him, it's biochemical.

Cassandra Frear said...

Great post.

I'm a melancholy. Depression used to be my nemesis.

The thing God showed me which changed all was that he is with me always. If I speak with him wherever I am, he redeems and transforms what I am going through moment by moment.

That turning, away from myself and my subjective musings, to the One who is truth steadies my soul. He is the lifter of my head and my glory.

becca said...

My happiness is always so fleeting. I wish I could bottle it up and savor it. And I live with a man who doesn't understand why I can't be happy MORE. More constantly. More consistently. He wears his full fanny pack on his hip so much easier than I do. Happiness comes naturally to him where it does not me. I have to work harder at it and as you say, I get so down on myself when I can't hold onto it.

But I think I appreciate my happiness so much more than my husband does. Because I do have to work so hard at it and because my dark days make those bright days so much brighter.

Thank you for this beautiful post.

michelle said...

great post...and am relieved to know that I don't always have to wear my fanny pack :)

Kazzy said...

I am a bit of a sap, and a bit demanding. It seems like a weird combo, but there I am.

CaJoh said...

Love the symbolism in this. I never pictured it as a fanny pack. Being a giving person, I tend to forget what I may look like to others. I will need to remember to pack away those good feelings so that I can reach into my pack when I am struggling and see all the good there truly is.

Thank you for sharing,

Lara said...

This is wonderful.

I just emailed it to my husband. Both of us have trouble with this.

I also love what Cynthia said, because it does cast new light on it.

Great post, Heather.

Heidi Ashworth said...

You are absolutely right, you can't even know what happiness is until you have known unhappiness. If we felt happy most of the time, it would lose its meaning. As for me, I was fortunate to be born with an optimistic attitude and the ability to ignore unpleasantness to a certain degree. I can focus on positive things and just feel better. I think people would say that I am one of those always happy people--but, I agree, it is an attiitude that anyone can wear if they know how. Love you!

Kristina P. said...

Like Heidi, I am a naturally optimistic person. I really do always try to see the positive in a crappy situation.

But it's not always easy, especially when I have a particularly bad anxiety ridden day.

Lindsey said...

"What I've really always wanted was that constant thing, that undercurrent of acceptance of things exactly as they are. And that doesn't always look or feel like happiness."

Me too. Oh, me too.

Tessa said...

I am of the melancholic sort, and so is E, my 9 year old. The down side is over sensitivity, taking things personal, struggles with confidence and taking on the struggles of others/the world. The upside is a huge heart, compassion, empathy, and generosity. Sometimes I feel sad and don't even know why, but I am rarely lacking gratefulness. I think you are right on about happiness being fleeting.

Sara Joy said...

You summed this up so well. That is exactly how I'd like to walk through every day. I wonder how many days I am successful, I don't really know.
I just believe so firmly that if we focus on what we want, we will always feel we don't have enough. If we focus on what we have, we will be fulfilled, and ultimately "happy". So I try to keep that focus and walk in that spirit.
Notice the use of the word "try". :)

Denise said...

Maverick, IN A FANNY PACK. Now that made me HAPPY. And I utterly agree--it's a choice. One that can only be experienced with it's opposite. xo

C (Kid Things) said...

This was wonderful. You do have to go through some bad to get to the good, to know just how good it really is.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

The key is to know thy own fanny pack, yes? To not compare yourself with others, for better or worse.

Celeste said...

"acceptance of things exactly as they are". This is the line that lit up like a neon sign when I read this. Then I saw that Lindsey quoted that exact sentence. No surprise there.

This is really all I want. Permanent happiness is too much to ask, too unrealistic. But to get over this uneasiness that bogs me down and causes me to question even the things I hold so dear is reasonable. And worth working toward.

Sarah said...

Heather, so much of this struck a chord with me. Hmm, what else is new round the EO. So the fanny pack analogy? love love love
Because those perpetually happy people? I alternate between jealous and mad at them. And have come to many of the same conclusions that you have--BIG shocker, I know. :)

The biggest conclusion is that yes, to feel full with joy I think it does take also feeling full with sadness or melancholy at times. Every single thing in this life has its opposite, and only exists because of that opposite. Knowing how far you've dropped down the hole gives you the ability to stand at the top of the mountain and truly appreciate the view.

Happiness is...you.

Amber said...

Yes!! We DO need the melancholy and "bad" days to help us appreciate the good days! I am fond of quoting that without the bad there would never be the good (which is a paraphrase of one of my favorite scriptures, one that I can never remember the reference to).

And, using a fanny pack as a metaphor is pretty much amazing. : )

Kelly said...

I would like to posit that happiness isn't an either-or. Nor is it a psychedelic carnival ride.

For me, happiness exists right alongside melancholy and frustration. It's what holds me together when the check isn't in the mail or the teacher calls for the 10th time in a day or the baby refuses to eat.

Usually, happiness is a quiet, lasting current upon which the rest floats. However, it's so constant that we often forget it's there until it flares up and makes us take notice.

Those with the plastic, too-wide smiles are often hiding their fear that the happy current must always rage through them.

Angie said...

Wonderful post! As a melancholy girl, I used to struggle so much with wanting to feel happy. I'd stand aside and watch others enjoy life and then feel guilty because I didn't enjoy life like they did.

Over time I have realized there is a huge difference between happiness and joy. And while I may not be happy all the time, I have the peace that comes with true joy. And because I am a melancholy and feel deeply, when the happy comes, I feel it deeply, and that is beautiful.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I used to be very passive about my happiness and I waited for things to happen to me. But now, I really have to work hard at it since I have more responsibilities and worries (thanks motherhood!) It's not easy - but I honestly believe that with the right attitude (and if necessary - with the right drugs), everyone should be able to find some happiness in life.

Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities said...

Feeling vs. Wearing. This is a profound distinction. A powerful one. And it makes so much sense to me.

Fantastic and thoughtful post.

Aging Mommy said...

If you've never read my post on what fanny means to an English person then do, it will make you laugh. Which is that fleeting happiness feeling. I love the way however you use this as a symbol of how we do or do not carry our happiness with us. I believe true happiness comes from within, which means we have to be content, confident and feel right within our skin. So yes, I think some people who always appear happy are in fact wearing it, not living and feeling it. Wonderful post

Christine said...

"The depths of spirit within the melancholy periods of frustration and confusion are required to truly feel their opposite, happiness."

This I know...very well. Thanks for this post!

Amy Whitley said...

Fleeting. YES, yes, and yes. And my temperment is not made for such things: I want MORE all the time. I want to push the envelope, set the new goal, get to tomorrow, all the time. It's a character flaw, I think!

Corinne said...

"the people who seem happy all the time are perhaps not feeling happiness as much as wearing it, you know"
this took a little bit to sink in (a little slow this evening...) but it makes so much sense. Feeling it is the key, feeling it is the hard part, but it's what makes the moments without happiness worth it.
I think.
Huh.

Justine said...

"... the people who seem happy all the time are perhaps not feeling happiness as much as wearing it..." That's a great observation. Perhaps in so doing, and if happiness can be contagious, by wearing it they would eventually feel it?

I find myself looking for the positive, but even then it doesn't come as easily to me. And then I realize that it may be because I am so busy looking for it that I miss what is right here under my nose.

Here from Momalom, but eager to be back!

Charlotte said...

I agree, some people wear it more openly and others don't. But just because it isn't worn openly or felt consistently, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. (Although I have tried to be better at wearing it more openly, it does make you seem more friendly).

TKW said...

I always feel stunned when someone tells me that I'm chipper. Inside, I'm not. I always think, "boy, I'm a pretty good faker."

I like the fanny pack analogy. Very true.

Jessica said...

Because when we dig a little deeper and find that at the core of who we are, we are overjoyed by the people and gifts in our lives, our fanny packs are filled with just as much trying and overcoming even if they're a bit more hidden, maybe behind our backs.

Seriously, this is exactly how i feel but way better said than i ever could. perfect.

Kathryn @ Marbury v MadisonAve said...

I am a wearer of the fanny pack. And it is exhausting. And heavy. When I finally put it down for awhile and admitted to everyone else that I am (I wasn't) really happy and, in fact, was pretty depressed it was a relief. The pain was at times unbearable, but, as in your metaphor, it was quite literally a burden off my shoulders. Now, as many of your commentors have themselves suggested, I am kind of happy with a low level of contentment.
I read your work on or via Lindsey's blog or Tweets all the time. So glad I had a chance to stop by and leave a mark and see what the fuss is about -- well, well warranted. I'll be back!

Lee Vandeman said...

Oh Heather....oh yeah. To all of this stuff you say up there.

And as I say in my happiness post...it's not about being happy. It's about being content. Because in contentment is where happiness lives.

Miss ya chick.

a li'l bit squishy said...

I always tell my kids when they are feeling sad that it's important to embrace sadness too because that's the way we truly know happiness. It's all part of our journey! Thanks Heather!

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