How To Be Happy

(Playing in the background (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman– Aretha Franklin )

I came across a story on CNN called Study: Experiences make us happier than possessions that I really enjoyed. It details the results of a study that says that experiences make us happier than possessions.

It reminded me a bit of my childhood. I grew up in a middle class home but went to school with a lot of kids who came from far more affluent homes than the one I grew up in. I can remember complaining to my parents about it. I’d ask why Little Johnny had Intellivision and we didn’t or why Loren Froah had a swimming pool and we didn’t.

My father would tell me to get used to it, that throughout my life people would have more and that it wasn’t important. For a while I thought of it as being a throwaway line parents use to get you to stop bugging them. Kind of like when you asked why you couldn’t do something and they said “because I said so.”

But after a while I realized that I had received good advice. My happiness wasn’t tied into having to have possessions. It didn’t mean that I didn’t want things or that I didn’t have my own set of prized possessions because I did. It just meant that I figured out that the things that made me happy were usually experiences.

(Playing in the background Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds– The Beatles)

Almost three years ago to the day I wrote a post called What Brings You Joy? that ties in nicely with this. I suppose that you could say that this is sort of a retread of that one, but…

Anyway, one of the lessons that I hope my childen learn is that learning how to be happy is contingent upon learning how to be content with who you are and not basing it upon what you have. It is not always easy. Sometimes there are things that we want desperately and we never get them.

All I know is that as I get older the list of things that I want is growing longer, but the reality is that what I really am looking for are experiences. More experiences and adventures. That is really what is important to me, sharing those moments with the people I love the most.

G-d willing I am going to be one of those people who lives their dreams.

Do You Know What Makes You Happy?

You should have seen the first draft of this post. It was pathetic. A collection of pithy phrases and gibberish that I am embarrassed to say came from my hands. Ok, it came from the melon on top of my shoulders. Anyway, I decided to try again.

Within the last ten years or so of my life I have been a part of or witness to some events that have made me focus on trying to identify the things and people in life that are most important to me. Some of them have been obvious and some have been less so.

I suppose that you can attribute some of this to painful mistakes that have made me take a hard look at myself. One of my great challenges is that I am very hard on myself. Sometimes I look at choices I have made and I just want to kick myself for picking the wrong door.

Friends of mine have told me that as one door closes another one opens but I always have trouble accepting that. It is a feel good statement that doesn’t always make me feel good. So I have chosen to take a slightly different approach and ask myself some very simple questions about what I want in life.

At the root level it is a question of who do I want around me. Who makes me happy. Who makes me feel good. Who stimulates me. What sort of work do I want to do. Not what pays the bills, but what kind of work inspires me to wake up in the morning.

What kind of things do I need. I truly don’t need much, but I do need some things and I haven’t any problem saying that.

Now I haven’t provided much in the way of details and I am not sure if I am going to in this post. Much of this is incredibly personal and I am not really sure how comfortable I feel sharing it. I’ll provide some general answers. In order to protect what little anonymity remains I am going to qualify this and say that I may already have some of the items I list here, or maybe not.

Let’s start with companionship. I want someone who makes my heart pound and my blood boil.
They don’t have to and shouldn’t agree with everything I say or like. It is good to have a few differences. But I want someone that I like and that I can speak with about anything.

It is not about someone to have fun with, but someone to have a life with.

Possessions- I want a comfortable house that I can entertain in when I feel like but it must be a home. I want a good stereo and a good television. I love music and sometimes I’ll want to watch a ballgame or cuddle up for a movie.

I want a great library of books to read and a comfortable chair to read them in.

That is pretty much it. Obviously it is not detailed. I didn’t forget family and friends. They are critical elements in my life and I want them too.

In between all this or maybe I should say wrapped into this I’d love to travel and enjoy some very fine meals.

Off the top of my head, that is pretty much it. The rest is commentary.

The Search For Happiness

You can call this post The Search For Happiness. It is one of those posts in which I find myself thoroughly unsatisfied with the end result. I had 800 words or so written down but I decided that I just didn’t like it so I nuked it and started over. This is the result.

As a child I had a lot of different dreams about what I would be when I grew up. Many of them were the typical things that you might here. Professional athlete, Fireman, President, Lawyer, Doctor, Sports writer.

As time passed so did my interest in some of those dreams. I suppose that you could say that my interest in being a pro athlete never did pass, but my ability didn’t allow for that particular dream to continue. I’ll write more about this in a different post.

My interest in some of those other professions waxed and waned over the years for a variety of reasons. Some of it was due to practical reasons and some of it due to what you could call extenuating circumstances. It is fair to say that part of the personal challenge for myself and a number of my friends is the lack of burning desire to become a (fill in the blank). I’ll readily admit to feeling mild jealously to those few people I know who are doing exactly what they love.

I don’t want to live to work. I work to live. See I can rattle off all the little cliches. I don’t want a job, I want a career. But there is so much truth in those thoughts. Life is very short and I want to enjoy it with passion and with gusto. I want to wake up feeling like I am ready to attack the day. It still happens from time to time, but not with the frequency I want.

If you ask why I can give you a list of reasons and I can give you a rudimentary framework for how I am trying to change the areas that are deficient. But I would be remiss if I didn’t try and explore how I got to this place and why.

The simplest answer is that people change. I am just not who I was. Many of the things that used to be important to me are just not all that exciting or interesting to me. Many of the things that I thought that I wanted fall into the category of not necessary.

When the boys and I sit down and discuss this we all agree that life experiences are responsible for creating this change in us. It is a bit unsettling. I have always found big changes to be a bit tough. But I also know that I can’t continue along the path I am walking on without making some adjustments.

One of the guys told me that he fears that he won’t find a place where he feels truly happy and that right now all he wants is to focus upon being happy in the moment. I understand that. I have always been a bit restless and felt this sort of wanderlust. I have wondered if that is always going to prevent me from really enjoying life. But when I think about it I realize that I have a lot of really good memories and some of them are in the very recent past.

The very recent past. That gives me hope and strength. It is a reminder that I am not looking backwards and saying that the best is behind me. It means that there is no reason why the best is not yet to come.

This search for happiness is a very personal and intimate thing. For me at times it has been a struggle and I suspect that there are going to be some very tough moments ahead. But I have to do as I teach my children.

That means I need to identify the problem and try and determine what the solution is. And as I tell the children it means that before I ask for help I need to determine if I can solve it myself. Too bad it is not as simple as the challenges that they come to me with.

In the not so distant future the kids and I are going to have more discussions about how to deal with a challenge head on. I see too many of the parents of their friends creating future issues by always fixing things for their kids, but that is a separate issue altogether.

What I do know for certain is that if I want my children to succeed on their own quest for happiness I have to give them the tools to do so. One way to do so is to let them learn from their father’s experience.

And that is all I have to say about this for now.