Working on character for the “Book Project”, a few weeks ago I decided to run through the Proust Questionnaire: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/in-pursuit-of-character-the-proust-questionnaire/
However, progress has obviously stalled at Question 1: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Needless to say, pursuing this question has evolved into quite a challenging and thrilling journey, resulting in multiple stepping-stone posts and even devouring precious wisdom from:The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living.
You could well say I covered my idea of perfect happiness in my last post: By the way, you can read that post here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/the-dna-of-happiness/
However, I really wanted to nail it down.
Write something succinct.
Yet, of course, I’ve failed. After all, how could I ever encapsulate happiness in just a few words?
Finally, getting straight to the point, my idea of perfect happiness is something like a crazy patchwork quilt. Fabrics with a diversity of colour, pattern,texture, age and origin are all sewn together with a multiplicity of threads to make a truly eclectic life. It would also have to include something of a rainbow because even in my state of supposed “perfect” happiness, there would still have to be sun and rain. Otherwise, I’d stagnate. After all, flowers need sun and water to grow.
I love this sense of diversity, leading a varied and eclectic life because I thrive on that tension of yin and yang.
For example, consider intimacy and solitude.
There are times where I thrive on and really need my own space to write, think, eat my chocolate and simply breathe in peace. In other words, I can find true happiness basking in solitude and being completely alone and I can ever feel annoyed when someone enters that sacred place.
However, as a people person, I prefer to be with my kids, my husband, family, friends and being an active part not only in our local and now global community.
Yet. I love, appreciate and find happiness in both states.
Another way I’d describe my idea of perfect happiness would be to embrace life the way my children used to paint. Carpe Diem seize the day is definitely my mantra. While my kids still enjoy painting, they were really in their element painting as toddlers. I’d turn my back for just an instant and those thieving little hands would be squirting and smearing “Mummy’s paint” all over the page, their bodies and the house with exuberant delight. Even their cheeky little grins and their precious toothypegs were covered in paint. No holding back. No fear of making mistakes or not being good enough, there was only joy!
So often, we as adults have lost that joy, becoming too inhibited to spread our wings to fly or perhaps to open our lungs and truly allow ourselves to breathe and not hold back.
As I mentioned in my last post, for many poets and philosophers, happiness and sorrow are inexorably linked. You can’t have one without the other. That as opposites, that “yin and yang”, they help define each other. This would suggest that happiness is also identified and appreciated only by experiencing its opposite. This means no tears, suffering or frustrations, you also miss out on happiness…even if that doesn’t make sense.
A few years ago, if you’d asked me about happiness, I know I would’ve said: “getting my books published”. Indeed, even getting one book published would be a thrill. However, I’m not so sure that fulfilling that goal would bring enduring happiness. Sure, there would be such a sense of achievement, accomplishment and that “FINALLY”!! But I’m not sure that this would guarantee happiness. It is very tempting to think so but I’m not that sure. Of course, one suspects if it’s a best-seller, you’d never turn back but….?
I also don’t want to put too much weight on something that will happen in the future because I also need to be happy, content and excited about getting out of bed right now. That means right here, right now…NOT tomorrow!
That means that my idea of happiness currently has to involve NOT having the book(s) published.
In addition to all these more creative representations of my perfect state of happiness, I have also taken a more systematic approach.
A few years ago, when I first started working on writing my motivational memoir about living beyond a chronic, life-threatening illness, I came up with a list of things, seemingly out of nowhere and I wrote it down and have pondered that list for years now. A few items come and go but the list is essentially:
They stayed in this linear list format for a few years until I discovered Mind Mapping and then I put them into this format. I really didn’t know what happened when you put all this things together at once and just left it as a question mark…an enigma. It might be happiness. It could be self-actualization or resilience but I do believe it is a very powerful, life changing force…a bit like shaking up that bottle of Coke and taking off the lid.
However, these musings didn’t stop there.
When I started to work out the next level of the mind map i.e the things that I could do to develop these areas, a surprising thing occurred.
Or, at least it surprised me.
There was considerable overlap between categories.
For example, playing my violin managed to tick off mind,body,spirit and community because I not only play by myself but in an ensemble. It might even get a half tick in the environment category because at least I don’t think playing the violin is doing any harm.
Walking my dogs at the beach ticks off everything except work. Well, actually as my writing is my work and I write about dogs, I guess that’s also ticked off.
So, you see, if you are clever, you can activate many of these areas through a single activity, although you’d probably want and need more diversity than that.
I have been living quite consciously to this road map of sorts for a few years now and I am pretty sure it’s helped. For example, when my violin teacher and I discussed my future goals, I said that violin was a form of therapy to me. I know that it’s actually rewired my neuropathways quite significantly taking me from being unable to listen to music and finding it annoying due to a noisy brain, to someone who now attends concerts regularly, listens to CDs and plays an instrument. Indeed, I’m becoming a musician of sorts.
Unfortunately, all of this hasn’t resulted in perfect happiness. My health continues to be a serious concern and as I’ve mentioned before, while I’ve been exploring happiness, I’ve simultaneously been battling a nasty bout of bronchitis and am only just avoiding a hospital admission.
Our family also lives under a lot of stress and more often than not, this all boils over and it’s not all happy families, despite the photographs. However, what does perhaps give us a boost is our tenacious perseverance. We don’t give up easily. My husband is up at 6.00 AM every morning to go to work in Sydney no matter what. He did work from home on Friday because I was that crook but that doesn’t happen often. Geoff arrives home around 7.00PM and that’s the beginning of another day. Our kids are also fairly intensive and have some time-consuming medical issues.
So with all this going on, how could we possibly be happy? How could I be happy?
Well, despite how I come across, I’m not happy all the time but I am optimistic. Moreover, after all I’ve been through, I feel like I’ve been living on borrowed time for quite awhile and I am incredibly thankful. I consider myself very lucky. I carpe diem seize the day, which doesn’t just mean living for myself and our family but also being active in our community. I do the publicity for the kids school and can be seen running around at events taking photos, even when I’m not particularly well. I do the same for there Scout troop.
So, once again, I haven’t manged to answer this question in a nutshell but I think I’m getting close.
I hope some of these thought might also help you further along your journey towards happiness, contentment and along with it that sense of peace. It’s not about having all your ducks lined up and having the perfect life, but somehow seeing beyond all that to something for less tangible. Something you might not be able to see and touch but you know it when you feel it in your heart.
Love & Blessings,