L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Happy \'hapē, -pi\ verb

As I stumble awkwardly through my own Middle Ages, I'm slowly coming to the realization that one needs to work - work pretty hard - to be happy. I guess I've always thought that happiness is just a natural state of being, the normal thing. The default setting. If you have the necessities of life, are in proximity to congenial people, and are blessed with a good digestion, you can expect to be happy. And if you have these things, and aren't happy, then it's your fault. You're unappreciative or lazy or just a rather unpleasant person. But I'm beginning to believe that isn't true.

I'm beginning to believe that most "happy people" - maybe all - have to work to be that way. It might come a lot easier to some. They might be more exercised, more flexible when it comes to the happiness game. It might seem like second nature to choose happy over grumpy or whiny, but I think they're still, however unconsciously, making a choice.

In the last months, I've been consciously choosing to "go toward happy". It's a sadly cheapened catchphrase, "fake it 'til you feel it", but it's a really practical thing: push yourself to model the behavior you would want to have. As I've "acted" cheerful, more and more, I think I'm becoming that more often. And I can begin to see the cost of running my old pattern of the grumpy, whiny guy; it's much more pleasant to be the cheerful guy. It feels better. And moving farther into this new territory, my choice in the matter is more and more evident. I have a choice to be happier. And I need to do the work to get there.

I've heard it said, in more than one context, that we should always try to see love as a verb rather than a noun. It isn't some thing you have, that you hold onto, that you have no control over. It's something you do. You work on it. You give it all your attention; you tend it like you would a garden. I completely agree with this. And I'm starting to see that personal happiness might just work the same way. It isn't just a gift or a natural state of being. It's something we might achieve with a whole lot of work. Happy: an action verb.


  1. Happy as an action verb, yes! I happy my way through the room. Plus it's the way it's used, eh? It could be active or passive. Passive: I am happied. Active: I happy. This I do; it is not done *to* me. I suppose if you use it correctly, it's both. I hope I happy you.

    Lovely post, by the way.

  2. another nice post S. You're rocking the full-on honesty this week! i don't know if you're familiar w/ Pema Chödrön or not but she's a constant reference for me as i struggle w/ much of the same. there's the idea of shenpa, a habitual action, thought, feeling or process that continually hooks you, preventing you from contentment.

  3. Yes, G, you happy me all the time!

    Thanks, BP. Of course I thought I was supposed to be talking about ART, here. But "life" is allowed, too.

    Funny you mention Pema Chodron. Several months ago, when I was having a lot of agida, a friend recommended "Start Where You Are"; I immediately bought it. Tried once or twice to actually read it, because I know it's great stuff, but now it sits next to my side of the bed. I'm hoping that maybe I'm assimilating some of it merely by sleeping so close to it. Shenpa sounds more than a little familiar to me; I'll check out the link.

  4. Your post made me happy. When the ugliness of humanity starts making me angry I do wierd things to help myself get back to the happy state...for instance (and you're not going to believe this) I look at a red traffic light and pretend I'm a little bird curled up in a cozy nest there, all lit with the glow. And I feel better at once. Very strange, but whatever works, right?

  5. Yes, Diane, very strange but very creative! Yup, whatever works. You'll have to tell me some more of your techniques; you model "happy" just about better than anyone I know. And it's a gift to the world!