The Pursuit of Happiness
Do you want to be happy? Of course you do, that is a silly question! I hear over and over, “I just want to be happy!” What does that mean when people say that? What is happiness really? I believe happiness is something that is momentary, it is something that is fleeting and does not last. When I bought my first brand new car, I felt happy. I was excited, I was anxious in anticipation of what it would be like to own a new car. Those first few months were great! I enjoyed the new car smell, the way it drove, keeping it clean, etc. But, after time, the novelty wore off, and it became a car that got me from A to B, but at the same time, I still enjoy driving it. It no longer gives me that same sense of happiness anymore. It no longer triggers the happiness chemicals in my brain.
When it comes to relationships, we all want to feel the anticipation and excitement that accompanies the first three months in a relationship. The Greeks call this Eros love. It is the passionate, the sexual, the desire kind of love that we all feel when we first meet someone we really like. But, as with most things, this feeling does not last; it is also fleeting. Because we live in an instant gratification culture (Google helps with that!), many get hooked on this type of feeling, and think they should feel this way all the time with their partner. Since this feeling is fleeting, people often leave relationships prematurely or have affairs because the Eros Love feeling is so powerful.
I believe our pursuit in life should be for contentment, not happiness. We need to choose what we have, and want what we have. How many of us take the time to reflect on life currently, and our past accomplishments? Or reflect on our positive attributes, the things that make up who we are? Contentment requires acceptance. We owe it to ouselves to accept us, and be ok with who we are and what we have. When we only focus on what we do not have, we focus on being “happy”, but this only breeds emptiness. This is not to say that we should not have goals, and work on self-improvement, but it cannot be done at the expense of accepting ourselves.
The Greeks also talk about another kind of love-Agape love. My understanding of Agape love is commitment; it is value based love, and it is a choosing kind of love. Every day, when you wake up, you need to turn towards your partner and say in your mind that you choose them today. You choose them despite their quirky habits, the way they communicate, the family they come from, etc. You develop your firendship with them, you take emotional risks with them, you stand by them when they need you, and you stick in the relationship when the relationship is in the Winter season of its life. This is the kind of love that lasts, the one that encompasses meaning, and the one that grows deeper as time passes.
I wonder how we would experience life, if our pursuit was for contentment.