Gratitude Sunday: Is Happiness A Choice?

Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

Sunday Haiku
Plum white, cherry pink
blossoms burst above rain streaked,
lichened trunks and moss.
Sunday Musings
A recent meme I found floating around on the internet: “happiness is a choice”. It implies one is inferior or “less than” if one is not always happy. This must be another one of those psychological campaigns to demoralize citizens, like the scientifically unfounded notion of weight or body control, appearance bias, the myth of affluence and our society of poverty, and the currently rarely achievable American Dream. But those are other cranky essays.

How important is it to be happy? How do we attempt to define what happiness is? Is happiness an experience or an attitude? One can experience comfort, contentment, enjoyment, delight, and passion, but are these “happiness”? One can be cheerful, bright, up-beat, or friendly, but does exhibiting those attitudes imply happiness?

I don’t know how to define happiness. I’ve known people who always seem cheerful or in a good mood, who always smile. I’ve seen these very same people have to leave the room, work, or situation because they cannot tolerate anybody seeing them as less than their cheerful self. Does that make the cheerful self a facade? Not at all. It makes the person a whole person who prefers to experience that difficult part of the self in private. Is this person happy?

I’ve known people at all aspects of the spectrum: people who are absolutely foul no matter what, people who are up and down, people who are fired up one day and can’t talk the next, people who are completely transparent and every mood is exhibited as experienced in the moment, people who are so painfully shy they cannot speak in public, people who seemed in such complete control you could not interpret what they were feeling or experiencing, people who are mentally ill and are off my charts of interpretation, people of genius and people who think and learn and process information differently than I do, and people who experience emotions differently than I do. I’ve known people who thought they were happy hurting other people or violating the norms and mores of polite and civilized society. Are any of them happy?

Is happiness about feeling good? If so, that makes it about the self, myself, yourself. That sounds very much like hedonism, and a little selfish if it’s all about me and what I experience and how I feel.

Is happiness about doing good? That’s thinking beyond the self, myself, yourself. Frankly this is a constant mantra for me: Think beyond yourself. The son hears this from me every day. It is what you have to do when you share your life in any way with other people. What if the greatest feeling of pleasure comes from doing for others? Isn’t that hedonistically selfish as well?

Could “happiness” be an elusive illusion, a fantasy, a construct? What does happiness mean?

Well, I’ve worked up quite a delightful helical conundrum here. What feels good? I enjoy the feeling of a massage, swimming, a good bed and clean linens, a well and simply prepared meal of fresh and healthful foods, nature and fresh air, clean water, a beautiful day sunny or rainy, listening to stories about the past from other people especially elders, spending time with babies and little children, watching young people and teenagers learn how to work together and make their voices heard, reading across many genres and disciplines, understanding what I read, learning, a night at the theater or day at the museum, ocean beaches; I feel good when I think I’ve done something well, when people tell me I’ve done well, and when I hear about other people succeeding, and I enjoy the many kinds of love I feel for other people. Other people likely prefer different experiences than mine to feel good.

Then there is the unusual experience of how time changes when I am writing. I don’t experience the time change; I experience the writing. When I am done with the writing for the time period I am often amazed my estimation of the time spent and the actual clock time spent are very different realities. Does noting the time anomaly while writing indicate happiness? Is it the enjoyment of a focused time creating my voice that changes the time experience? I don’t experience the time anomaly at work when I am focused on the details of the tasks I do or when cleaning and caring for my home.

I know. I think too much and this is one of those musings where I pose more questions than I resolve. I admit the meme “happiness is a choice” raises some resentment in me as does the one about your life being about the choices you make. For some people even the best laid plans experience quirks and weirdnesses in life beyond one’s control and choices don’t always work out as planned even with the best intentions.

I resent the pressure and expectation of always and only showing one side of myself to others, to always be in a good mood, to present a “happy” face. yellow-happy-face-md[1] And the same for you as well. I’m not always in a good mood, not always cheerful, not always feeling physically good or well. The work I do involves customer service and working with co-workers so out of courtesy I must present a relatively pleasant face to them. They should not have to suffer because I do not feel well or good. When one is pleasant to others despite one’s personal experiences is that exhibiting happiness? I personally know many of the people who serve me at other local venues and their personal and medical histories, and as long as they are pleasant to be with and around I am happy with their service.

Oh my gosh. They pleased me, I’m happy, that’s selfish, and I slide down that slippery spiral of confusion in understanding the concept of happiness once again. I might not be happy for them knowing they served me while I know they are in pain, but I enjoy their ability to overcome those feelings to treat me in a pleasant respectful way. I wish to do the same for others.

The older I get the simpler things make me feel good: watching a group of young scouts learn and play together, grabbing the last few minutes of glorious sunset while breathing clean refreshing air, holding somebody’s new baby, finding time to have that rare coffee or dinner with a friend, getting a corner cleaned out, giving something away, dispensing free and unsolicited advice. Many times these moments of being mean more to me than the family history of the material stuff I live with.

Happiness is relative, perhaps not so much a choice, but a face of one emotion in a complete human being. If the meme means be pleasant to other people, we can probably do that most of the time. If it means to fake happiness at the expense of being a complete human being with a full spectrum of emotions, we might want to analyze how we really feel about the phrase.

I am selfish. I want (desire) to feel good. I know many ways to feel good. I prefer comfort to distress. I want to be cheerful and show a friendly face even when challenged by a tough day, which is not always easy. I am also selfish enough to want (desire) other people to feel good, to experience comfort, contentment, enjoyment, delight, and passion, to be able to exhibit a modicum of cheerfulness in the light of suffering.

But please don’t force me or expect me to behave within a narrow range of emotion, and I won’t expect the same for you. I am a complex, intelligent person and I don’t have to be “happy” to treat you respectfully and in a friendly manner. I don’t have to be happy to clean my house or to complete my tasks at work, or when I sit down to write, or to experience any other experience, though I might experience or produce pleasure from accomplishing those things.

What do you think? Are you happy? Content? Comfortable? Enjoying life? Delighted by life? Passionate about anything? Cheerful? Do you experience a range of emotions as well? Are you transparent or do you hide some of your emotions? We all have a private and public face. And that’s okay. And it’s okay to show your happy face.

Color Watch – blooming attractions in my neighborhoods this week – And just like that spring arrives a week before the vernal equinox, suddenly it’s poof, puff, PINK!
My plum tree has bloomed out all creamy white lace;DSCN3088 I find a neighbor’s star magnolia; DSCN3129 a red camellia and a white; DSCN3135
DSCN3150 pretty blue purple periwinkle; DSCN3134 a lovely purple azalea; DSCN3115 bright yellow bell-blossomed Oregon Grape; DSCN3108 this lovely little white blossom so sweet against the moss.DSCN3126 And the promise of next week’s blooms. DSCN3118

Currently Reading – Last Exit to Brooklyn (1957, queer lit) by Hubert Selby Jr.; The Story of Handwriting:Origins and Development (1970 history, penmanship) by Alfred J. Fairbank. Yes, concurrently.

Winter Classic Reading Choice 2014: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The plot thickens and the story is finally getting juicy. Reading at this age through a feminist lens and enjoying the strength of the character Hester Prynne, I wonder if I would have had that perspective as a 15 year old reader. I’m certain now I was frightened by the archaic language; I did not have the tools to read it then.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The smell of rain coming in after a few dryish days, before the drops begin.
  • The hubster rescuing and fixing a couple of little organizing racks I had put together wrong.
  • Beautiful days, rain or shine.
  • Brooms. Dustpans. Swiffers. Extender arms.
  • Lemon juice. Vinegar. Baking soda. Washing soda. Boraxo. Elbow grease.
  • Feeling better after a couple rough days and a twelve hour night of fevered sleep. Hope I burned it out. Whatever it was.
  • The organic cloth heat packs I heat in the microwave and take to bed with me. They soothe some of the aches and pains.
  • Owning every minute of my grief and sadness.
  • Having fun experimenting with my digital camera.
  • The weather holding off the drizzle long enough for me to gather Color Watch photographs.
  • The elderly lady who lives up the street from me, whom I serve over the counter at my place of work, who caught me photographing her daffodils and wood violets naturalizing in her grass, DSCN3123 and asked me if I had any daffodils at home. To which I answered no and told her I had been enjoying watching and photographing her yard. To which she said when I was done photographing I was to help myself to a nice bouquet to take home. I thanked her and gathered a handful. Bless her as my room is now filled with the oh-so-subtle fragrance of daffodil.DSCN3187
  • Switching out the black winter coat for the turquoise and fuchsia pink spring jacket. And back again as the weather went coolish then warmish then coolish. Wonderful abundance to have two coats.
  • Working to make my From Me 2 U Book Review page current and active. Check it out. I’ll wait while you do. Won’t take you long.
  • Watching my chives sprout. My most reliable and tasty perennial.


  • Pastured farm fresh eggs. At a price I can afford. Delivered with a cheerful smile.
  • The soft skin on my hands.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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3 Responses to Gratitude Sunday: Is Happiness A Choice?

  1. billmarydrew says:

    I think being happy all the time is not reality. I suffered through a period of justifiable grief from suicide. There is no way I could possible say I was happy for a long while during a stretch of a year. It wasn’t that I made life for other people miserable, I was quiet, withdrawn, angry and just plain old depressed. During that time I can say that I could find things I felt thankful for, but not many days when I felt sunny, happy or cheery. I just wasn’t. A dark cloud encircled me and consumed me. The storm passed eventually and the sun came out again. With all that life offers in a life time, it is reasonable that we will all experience many different seasons and some will be happy, some sad, some just meh. I remember people asking superficially, “How’s it going?” and literally you want to honestly say, “You don’t really want to know…save yourself!!”.


    • sassykas says:

      Yes, as you say Mary, unrealistic. And not honoring the spectrum of human emotions that make us full and complex persons. I’m just not going to fake happiness because “somebody” tells me I have a choice. Thanks for reading me!


      • billmarydrew says:

        I am an avid reader. I enjoy your writing very much! I have also had the same thoughts about happiness being a choice. No it is not! Sometimes life sucks and the range of emotions that goes with the sucky part of life just goes with the rough terrain.


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