And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.- Don Draper, Mad Men
…they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…- United States Declaration of Independence
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of happiness recently. What IS happiness? Is that that moment when everything is all right in the world? Is it a sense of direction and purpose? Is it ignorance and contentment? Is it guaranteed? Do we need drugs for happiness to last, or do we remember its sweet taste like we remember chocolate and we long for it? Are we supposed to be happy all the time?
When we’re not happy, what are we supposed to do? Get over it? Wait for it to appear again- plan for it to appear again- like a season in a cyclical pattern or a random event spit out by the cosmos? Are we supposed to reframe our experience so that we tell ourselves that we are happy, we just didn’t realize it? Take medication to make it not hurt as much?
And is happiness an event, like a wedding or the birth of a child- the “happiest day of my life”? Is it a feeling? Is it when we’re creating or when we’re enjoying the results of our creativity? Is it an awareness of God or a Higher Power? Is it just the right combination of chemicals in your brain? Or, as some have suggested, is it a virus? Is it a tipping point of the right number of friends- real friends-and the right placement within your social network?
Are you born happy? Or do you, to steal an old quote, achieve happiness, or do you have happiness thrust upon you?
And if someone cannot function because they’re unhappy, are they unhappy because they expect to be happy? We’re certainly being sold recipes for happiness- “Buy this, and you’ll be happy!” Our culture seems to show only happy people. My son told me a few months ago that he was looking forward to high school because that’s when you’re the prettiest and most popular- an image clearly sold to him through Disney and commercials. And in my experience horribly untrue. Are we more unhappy because we’re expecting more happiness- and missing? Were we actually happier when we didn’t know we should be?
I watch loved ones and friends and myself struggle with depression and anxiety and stress- and I listen to my son scream himself to sleep and I watch my husband retreat into a silent shell and I watch myself cry- and I wonder… How can happiness be so strong and yet so fragile?
What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons- Don Draper
But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads? Albert Camus