wings and things

Happenstance and happiness

on July 20, 2015

The pursuit of happiness seems to have become a key topic lately, in blogs, documentaries, research articles, therapy groups, Facebook shares etc. ‘Happiness’ has made yet another come-back because the idea of having happiness is irresistible (and it always has been).

But you can’t just have happiness; it isn’t a commodity that can be bought and sold with money; it can’t be negotiated via generosity, gratitude, genetics; and you cannot conjure a state of being that asks you to dismiss/forget/deny your unhappiness.

There is nothing wrong with being unhappy but it seems to me that the happiness culture has made it a bit embarrassing to be unhappy. This makes it difficult for people to grieve, to mourn, to flounder, to sink – because we are supposed to be braver, stronger, useful, happy.

The notion of happenstance appeals to me much more than the notion of happiness. Happenstance is real, immediate; happiness is an elusive, heavy obligation and I know for sure that, if I pursue it, it just floats away.

So I no longer pursue happiness; instead I just figure out how to create it within the various happenstances of everyday life.

46 responses to “Happenstance and happiness

  1. Vicki says:

    Yes, Happiness is the ‘buzz’ word around.

    I figure Happiness is to be found when you stop looking for it. It is there all the time and the lack, (of it), is merely the person’s inability to recognise what is right in front of them.

    It’s like Success.

    Or Wealth.

    Success and Wealth are in the eyes of the Beholder, not a measure compared to those around you. Well, at least in most modern western countries anyway. I’m sure the homeless and hungry are not happy. But are the millionaires happy? They have ‘everything’ in terms of money and material possessions, but they seem to be forever wanting more. The never seem to be satisfied either.

    • jmgoyder says:

      I didn’t mean to wax so philosophical but I tend to blurt out on my blog rather than think it through first. No regrets – just sometimes feel a bit squirmy re my POV which may not be everyone’s. You and I are definitely on the same wavelength here and I learn a lot from you Vicki xx

  2. Love this Julie! Love how you reframe ‘the pursuit of happiness’ to creating it in whatever happenstance appears in the moment. Very powerful!

  3. susanpoozan says:

    Such a thoughtful post, thank you.

  4. ksbeth says:

    and ironically that is the key to one’s happiness.

  5. we are so on the same wavelength–I am so tired of the eternal quest for happiness–I like your model much more

    • jmgoyder says:

      Oh thank you – reason I wrote this was I, too, was tired of being encouraged (mostly via social media etc.) to somehow chase down and trap happiness haha!

  6. As long as we can cycle through the unhappiness, we’ll be alright. We can’t appreciate happiness if we don’t know the opposite every once and a while. 🙂

  7. Judy says:

    I think your replacement word is an excellent “stance” to take. Pressure to be anything during a time of coping is definitely unhelpful. Press or squeeze is how I see it. What I think you’ve chosen as a replacement for pressure is “precious.” Love how you’ve made every moment with Anthony precious, despite living with the reality of his unrelenting horrible disease.

    • jmgoyder says:

      The strangest thing is that I no longer find his disease horrible or heartbreaking or tragic (well, most of the time!) I didn’t realise before how powerful it would be to simply accept things as they are. You are a mentor here!

  8. Rhonda says:

    You are a very smart woman. I like your way of thinking and believe I will adopt (adapt to) this very logical outlook. xoxo

  9. Trisha says:

    Very wise words, Julie!

  10. For those who are naturally upbeat or intent on faking upbeat, those who are naturally melancholy or are suffering just don’t fit with the program. Grieving has to be over and done with so not only you but everyone can move on. I am not ready yet. If you hurt, you suffer in silence because there is always someone worse off than you. But that wise “word” does not take the pain away. I certainly was not born with Pollyanna characteristics, and my grieving seems to take too much energy.

  11. I understand this completely and do feel our western culture does not let us express times of sadness or of being unhappy. It is all part of life and yet it is not ‘allowed’.
    And those times, when moments of ‘happenstance’ or fleeting feelings of joy within the sadness occur, they are the times we remember and treasure.

  12. Terry says:

    I wish little girls who are being read those fairy tale books almost wouldn’t. Life is no fairy tale, or forever after or any Cinderella. I liked your post. It was real and good reading

  13. tootlepedal says:

    Being happy all the time is exhausting. I settle for occasional contentment…..but I am very lucky in my life.

  14. Amy says:

    I agree. We are required to go to happiness training at work now, and it just seems odd to me. Unhappiness is a natural response to certain experiences, and I worry that people will now feel like there is something wrong with them when they have this response. Everything seems to be taken to the extreme these days, and it is nice to hear a voice of reason.

    • jmgoyder says:

      Wow – I have never heard of happiness training!

    • Vicki says:

      Dear me, Amy.

      Are you serious?

      I can think of much more important issues in the Workplace (like Equality, Good Manners, Sensitivity to others, Honesty……..Sharing……), anyway……happiness training is not something that can be taught? Happiness is an individual thing and surely differing from person to person.

      I agree with you on things being taken to the extremes these days.

  15. great post Jules – love ‘happiness making a comeback’ ;-); very realistic appraisal of it all…

  16. aFrankAngle says:

    Much of happiness is a state of mind, along with an understanding that in the short run, it comes and goes … so a big question lies about how one views the long run.

  17. Happiness to me, should just happen when it happens. You’re right in that the moment you concentrate to much or question yourself about how happy you are… it is folly; for that is when you sometimes feel sadness instead…. Diane

  18. Being unhappy is part of life, choosing to try and be happy when life if making one unhappy is the key but only after we have allowed ourselves to feel unhappy we need to know how unhappy feels in order to appreciate being happy if any of that makes any sense at all if not scrap it all and carry on

  19. Great post Julie. I agree, and often this is why so many people suppress their grief and sadness. The pressure society places on us to be perfect, is very real and very wrong. 🙂

  20. […] the comment I am furthering is one I made on JMGoyder and her post Happenstance and Happiness. Her thoughts on the fact you can’t buy or negotiate happiness. If you have a few moments, […]

  21. Val Boyko says:

    Great post Julie! Finding contentment in each moment taps into our inner being … which is where our happiness lies.
    The big downside of all this pressure to be happy is, that we feel like failures when we are not. Recognizing and accepting that life is full of highs and lows is crucial to our happiness.

  22. Great post! And full of wise advice. It is a lot though, that people are expected to always be tough, and in control, and happy. Society tends to frown at people in pain, because it makes the rest of us uncomfortable. When it shouldn’t. Sometimes people hurt and mourn and feel down, and the rest of us should recognize that and not expect so much perfection.

    Finding contentment in the moment is definitely the best way to live one’s life. At least to my mind. It sure has made my life happier!

  23. oh this is a bit creepy! we were recently talking about this as there are so many books out about how to be happy. indeed it does imply that we are entitled to feel happy and are failures if we aren’t able to feel it all the time.

    i prefer contentment over happiness, in general. of course like most humans i love to feel happy. it just seems impossible to maintain that level promoted. on the other hand we can be content with our life. when i counseled patients i would always assure them that their depression was not some sin. they had reason to feel that way and i was there to help them move through it.

    you are so brilliant and insightful! i am proud to call you my friend and learn so much from you.

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