First off, I want to make a distinction between happiness and joy. According to Brené Brown, happiness is tied to circumstance and joyfulness is tied to spirit and gratitude. Even the Greek origins of the word demonstrate that concept. The Greek word for happiness, Makarios, was used to describe the freedom of the rich from normal cares and worries, or to describe a person who received some form of good fortune such as money or health. The Greek word for joy is chairo, which was described as the “culmination of being,” and the “good mood of the soul.”
I’ll admit I’ve been chasing happiness. When I was younger I thought being thin would “make” me happy and later I thought having a boyfriend would “make” me happy. For the past few years it’s been about having the perfect home space. I’ve been chasing a feeling, trying to recreate an experience from my past, believing if I just moved somewhere else then I’d be happy.
On Friday, I asked myself, “Rebekah, do you really need to be happy where you live?” The answer is, “No.” I realized sometimes my needs and my happiness converge and sometimes they do not. Right now my home meets my needs – it’s quiet, I live alone, I can afford my rent, and I’m surrounded by nature. But am I happy? No. And that’s OK.
To me, being an adult means understanding I won’t always be happy and much like I wrote about in my post “Self-Will and the Magic Pill,” there’s no magic pill or formula or circumstance that will invoke happiness within me. I’m choosing to see happiness as something I stumble upon, something that is bestowed upon me, and not something I can seek.
What I can seek, what I can cultivate, is joy. Joy comes from gratitude and appreciation, from counting my blessings, from connecting with others, and choosing to see the good in my life.
I guess what I’m saying is right now I’m finding getting my needs met are more important than being happy. I’m letting myself off the hook in terms of searching for happiness because in the last two years especially, I find it’s a never-ending quest. How can I chase a feeling? How can I possibly know what elements are required to create happiness? I thought living in this cottage in Oakland would make me happy, and it hasn’t. But instead of trying to do something about it, I’m letting myself be.
Many people find themselves unhappy – they thought the great job, nice car, beautiful house, loving partner, or whatever, would make them happy and it did – temporarily, but then it wore off because happiness is not permanent. Happiness is something that happens. But joy? Joy is an inside job.
I dream of a world where we realize we don’t have to be happy. A world where we no longer seek good fortune but let good fortune come to us. A world where we practice being joyful through gratitude and appreciation. A world where we understand sometimes it’s more important to get our needs met than it is to be happy.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.