Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Secret of Happiness

Listening to Public Radio this morning, the announcer mentioned an upcoming show on which celebrities will be telling us how to find the secret of happiness.

After listening to the advertisement I wondered, what could Katie Couric or any of the other celebrities on the show have to tell me about finding happiness? Why would a celebrity be considered an authority on the topic anyway? I am not picking on Katie C. I'm sure she's a nice lady, but the thing is, I don't know her. Is she happy? By whose measure?

And what by the way would be the measuring stick used for happiness? Would it be riches or fame? Fast cars or long life? Does the word happiness even mean the same thing for each person?

A storyteller named Joel ben Izzy wrote a book several years ago called The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness. A friend gave me a copy in the dark days after my mother's death, and it was just what I needed to read at the time. I have since bought and given away several copies of this book that shares the story of Izzy's journey through depression when he lost his voice. The message of his story, interwoven with the tale of the beggar king, is one we all need to hear--to learn to accept what is, to appreciate the life we have while we continue to strive. Izzy's version of happiness is close to my own, and his book put me back on the path to my own place of light.

The radio ad brought all this to mind and I once again considered what the word really means. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as "a : a state of well-being and contentment : joy," or "b : a pleasurable or satisfying experience."

Contentment and well-being. Those words have little to do with riches and fame, at least in my world. Contentment is sitting on the porch in my rocker and looking out at our burgeoning gardens, or watching grandchildren disappearing into the woods on an adventure. It's hot tea in a china cup and hot coffee in my travel mug. It's seeing snowfall and a fire leaping in the fireplace. It's my husband's smiling face as he fixes breakfast in the morning for the two of us. It's little things.

And well-being? The sense of being loved and of loving, the knowing that I am in my right place in this world, and that all those I love are also doing well, that to me is well-being. Good health plays a role certainly. The basics of survival--food, shelter, water, and love--are the also the basis of well-being. Wealth and celebrity do not provide well-being; security and support do.

Perhaps I over-simplify but I am a simple woman and my needs and wants are down-to-earth. I missed the radio show so I will never know what Katie advises on the topic and I'm not feeling like I have deprived myself of great knowledge by not hearing her take on it. I have defined happiness in my own terms.

But what about you? What is your secret to happiness?


Mary Garrett said...

I think they should invite you into the discussion -- you did sent me to Google and NPR. Couldn't find the one you "missed" but this was interesting.

Janet, said...

I agree with you, Susanne. So long as we have enough money to live on, I'm happy. If my kids are okay and doing well, I'm happy. Like you stated, the little things bring a smile to my face.

Granny Sue said...

Well now, Mary, I searched for it too, with no luck. I know I didn't dream the advert! Maybe it hasn't actually played yet? Tis a puzzlement!

Connie said...

In the past couple of years (long before the "recession") I began noticing an explosion of blogs and books about happiness. Couple that with surveys and whatnot that reveal Americans to be some of the unhappiest people on the planet, and, well, it does get your attention. Factor in, also, that I was unhappy at the time.

Most of what I read pretty much boils down to what you said. It was stuff I knew as well. I began to notice that I am most unhappy when I don't have time to wallow in the life I've built - when time is so crunched and money so precarious that I fret that I can maintain that life.

I had a meltdown the other day - all sobs, tears, and dangling snot. My dad wrapped me in his arms and said, "Oh punkin' You'll get through this, we'll get through it, and it will all be okay. It always is."

And he's right. My life is built on a strong foundation. I have people who love me fiercely and I have people I love fiercely. You don't need much else. Happiness is being aware at all of times of that basic truth.

Granny Sue said...

Well said, Connie. Sometimes we need those down times to appreciate what is good in our lives. I watch the deer and think, ya know, they've got it good--they eat all day, then sleep. No bills, no hassles, no worries. We think that way about other people too--they've got it all so why are they unhappy? I forget when I watch the deer how precarious their existence is, how difficult to find food, and how short their lifespan. It's not as good as it looks on the surface.

Same thing when we think others have it made. We don't see what lies beneath what might look like a perfect life.

Jai Joshi said...

I thought exactly what you thought regarding celebrities and happiness. Why would anyone consider them the experts?

Happiness is a feeling of satisfaction, of being content, of knowing that one is where one is supposed to be and doing what one is supposted to be be doing. Happiness is fulfilling one's purpose.

That's how I see it.


Staci Lynn said...

Being content and living a simple life is the key to happiness for me. It has only taken me a thousand crazy adventures to figure it out. Well, that and 36 years.

When I up and moved hundreds of miles away from my family and friends to a tiny country town to try and capture my yearnings for the simple life - I never knew that I'd find my key to happiness.

Everyone thought I was crazy. I lived here for about 3 years before it settled in - before it I realized... I loved sitting on my porch watching my chickens and ducks, I loved sharing food, swapping recipes, and sewing with my elderly next door neighbor, and I especially loved just soaking in the days without a care in the world.

My family and friends would often say that I was happy in that tiny Georgia town - but it's not at all about the town. The town was the means by which I discovered my happiness. I discovered that simplicity and contentment were always with me I just had to dig deep enough to find it. Life, to me, would be a sad existence if happiness were dependant on a place or a thing... IMHO.

Laura said...

I saw a piece on the news recently about a man who has started a company that does seminars to help people be happier. Don't you wish we'd have thought of that? Can you imagine that people are willing to pay to have someone tell them how to be happier? I believe that we can choose our own happiness. We are content and happy because we choose to be. (Of course it doesn't hurt that we live in Happy!)

Granny Sue said...

That made me laugh, Laura! It's like those laugh clubs, where people go just to laugh. How strange that there is not enough laughter in their lives every day. Shoot, I spend plenty of time laughing at myself!

Staci, it sounds like you followed a path similar to mine. My family had difficulty understanding why I moved away from the area where I was raised. It's not easy to explain to those who are satisfied with where they are. I wanted to be in the country with plenty of space between me and my neighbors. I wanted to go back in time to a slower, friendlier place. I found it and I've been here ever since.

It sounds like you have found your place in this world too. And it sounds like a nice place indeed!

Char5 said...

I think, my dear, that you have hit the nail on the head with this one! My hubby makes our breakfast, too and it is always such a warm cozy feeling for me to get in there with him and make the coffee and help out a bit. Home, family, good food, sweet hugs--it just doesn't get any better than this. BIG ((HUGS)) to you and many blessings for the 2010.

Granny Sue said...

Thank you, Charlotte! The same blessings to you and yours.

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