I’m a sucker for those Facebook tests. I “took” the most recent one which has a list of scrolling words to answer the question, “What will I manifest in 2017?” You then take a screen shot and go to your pics to reveal the answer. Apparently, I will manifest happiness in 2017. The word “happiness” is a word used by culture to make us think we need something more than we have.
There is nothing inherently wrong with happiness. I’m generally a very happy person…with a whole lotta sarcasm, so being happy isn’t wrong or bad, but the problem is that we believe happiness is the ultimate state of success. If we achieve happiness then we think we’ve reached the pinnacle–the problem is that the pinnacle is short-lived.
Consider famous quotations and sayings, “Don’t worry, be happy.” “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” “Happiness is a choice.” “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.” I think all of these are pretty much a bowl of malarky.
Happiness doesn’t cure a sick kid, heal a marriage, solve financial trouble, or put food on the table. Happiness is fleeting. It comes quickly and often unexpectedly and is quickly gone again. I’m not saying happiness is bad, but if we make it our highest standard of excellence, then we set ourselves up or an unfulfilling, unsatisfied, shallow life. Instead, we should be manifesting contentment, not happiness.
In the middle of life, it can be very easy for me to be wooed by the idea of happiness as success. It seems so wonderful and lovely, but in reality, it leaves me feeling empty and broken and needing something more. Instead, striving for contentment in my marriage, with my children, in my financial situation allows me room to enjoy what I have–to see the beauty and the love and the accomplishment and the small moments and cherish them even though I feel a range of other emotions. For example, I find great contentment in running–not because I win first place or because I’m breaking records–because when I run a new trail and see the beauty of the landscape, it makes me smile. When I finish a good run and feel refreshed, I feel content that my legs and lungs can still take me places. This contentment lasts longer. I feel content all day for my minor accomplishments–even though I am still stressed or annoyed or sad.
I find contentment in my marriage. I don’t have a perfect marriage, and sometimes we argue or disagree, but at the end of the day we share a common love, a parenting goal, a spiritual guideline that brings contentment to me. I’m content in my marriage even though we aren’t taking expensive vacations to reach ultimate happiness or going on exotic date nights to have the happiest and most romantic experience possible. There is contentment in sharing a meal and laughing with our children, or watching a movie on the couch under the same blanket. These mundane events don’t bring peak levels of happiness, but they establish a contentment that make me feel secure.
Life in the middle is hard because it deludes us in thinking that our mundane lives need something more–happiness–when all we really need is to be be okay with where we are and who we are and what we are. If our highest standard is happiness, then what happens when tragedy or sadness or depression or anxiety or annoyance or bitterness occur? Automatic failure? No. In fact, I believe that through these other emotions we can find ultimate success and something better than happiness.
By manifesting contentment in the middle of life–where we are–I believe we will end up enjoying our lives more and ultimately seeing ourselves as more successful because our standard isn’t based on a fleeting moment but a life of work, family, friends, and commitment to what we have, not what we think we should have.
Wishing you contentment in the middle,