The state of being happy has been weaving its way through my thoughts lately. Even when I’m standing in line at the grocery store, I start thinking of what I was doing at times in my life when I was truly happy. The most interesting commonality with all of them is that I didn’t necessarily recognize my demeanor at the time; I wasn’t trying to be happy. How relieved I was this week when the New York Times published an essay by Tim Kreider entitled Averted Vision. He very eloquently explained what I had been trying to comprehend:
“ - happiness isn’t a goal in itself but is only an aftereffect. It’s the consequence of having lived in the way that we’re supposed to — by which I don’t mean ethically correctly so much as just consciously, fully engaged in the business of living. In this respect it resembles averted vision, a phenomena familiar to backyard astronomers whereby, in order to pick out a very faint star, you have to let your gaze drift casually to the space just next to it; if you look directly at it, it vanishes.” *
My wandering mind focuses on some very specific times in my life which rank up there somewhat below the births of my sons, their graduations, and weddings, and other important family occasions.
I moved out of my parents’ house for one year after high school, and lived completely in the moment. My days and nights were full of doing, being. Even though there were some hard times, I was active and I look back at that as a happy time.
After the children were older and I was on my own again I worked two jobs, tried to keep up with the boys, and still tried to have a little life to myself. My primary employment was demanding mentally and my waitressing wore me out physically. Along with some college courses and learning skills at a new job, I was being responsible for myself again. I spent my spare time with my youngest son; biking, beaching, and rollerblading. Another son worked with me at the restaurant each weekend. The days flew by. Happy days.
At these stages in life what I thought about was how to get by, not the degree of my emotions. Yet upon reflection it seems that the more involved I was in living, the more satisfied I was. So do we, as Mr Kreider states, “experience happiness in retrospect”? Will I someday look at this current time of transition with pleasant memories?
I hope you look back on all your days with a big, contented smile.
*directly quoted from Mr Kreider's column, August 2, 2009.