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Happiness, as Defined by Me

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. -- Carl Jung

Last night a dear friend asked me if I was happy.

Usually I would have a clear, definitive answer for that: yes or no. But last night, for once, I didn’t really have an answer. All I could come up with was that I was at peace, and for now, that is good enough.

Today I decided to “introduce” Bubba to my lolo (okay, I do realize that kinda sounds weird but just go with me :-)) and so we got in the car and drove to the Manila Memorial and we played in the open area in front of Lolo’s grave for quite a bit. When Bubba was tired, I laid out my sarong and we just sat there by the shade of the tree nearby.

In the quiet, I found myself drifting to my innermost thoughts and once again, just letting myself be in that situation.

I’ve been doing that a lot lately, and I realized that I’m kind of beginning to get comfortable with it. For a long, long time, I used to fight like mad when I’d be in the quiet. In fact, I can barely stay in my room (which probably is what I can really call my haven, because it’s the one place that I can really call mine) without the television or the radio on.  I guess it’s because I’ve always feared the silence, because this is when my thoughts and insecurities hound me most.

So today I just let myself be in that quiet.

I was reminded of something I wrote a few days back when I was feeling very safe and settled. At that time it came so naturally for me to say yes, I was happy. Happy and content, should I say. The funny thing is, every time I think I’m happy and things are perfect, something reminds me to take it slow and to not take things for granted and to assume…and most importantly, it reminds me to honor and appreciate what I have.

It dawned on me that the reason why I keep struggling with whether I am happy or not is because of the preconceived notion I have of what happiness is. I used to think that to be happy means you’ve worked out all your issues and these no longer come to haunt you. In many ways, it means smooth sailing despite the storms that come your way. Being happy meant you were whole and that you were strong enough to face whatever comes your way.

But now I think I know better.

Being happy doesn’t mean nothing hurts you anymore. Being happy doesn’t mean that there will no longer be dark,  stormy nights that take away your bright sunshine and beautiful rainbows.  In the same manner, being happy doesn’t mean always, always feeling safe, secure and sure about yourself and things around you.

For all intents and purposes, I have grown to believe that being happy comes from being content and at peace with knowing that for every rainfall that may come, there is growth that begins.  It is knowing that you can weather the storm but not beat it. It comes from embracing the fact that things are not always what they seem and that there will always, always be two sides to every story, no matter what. And yes, these sides often are complete opposites of each other.

I have never really been a big fan of Carl Jung (well, consciously that is….I guess I have always been at odds with him and his teachings because it’s too real for me, so much so it always hits a nerve. So, as is typical Ria fashion, I go on the defensive) but today I came across a quote from him that told me I am learning what it really means to be happy and content after all: “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity”.

So again I am reminded to embrace my darkness and to welcome the challenges that come my way, knowing full well that no matter what, I have the ability to make a choice about how these moments will affect the course of my day. It reminds me, too, that when faced with a rain that seems too daunting, I can always take a step back and just breathe. At the end of the day, being happy and content, as I said a few days back and was reminded of today, comes from appreciating what I have and is in front of me, changing what I can, and making peace with those I have no control over.

And so if you ask me now if I am happy, I know what my answer is: I am at peace with not being the “happy” that I think I should be. Rather I am finally at peace with having  to welcome the sunshine and the rain, the dark and the light, the bliss and the sorrow, the good and the bad, and everything else that comes in between, no matter how they may seem to be polar opposites of each other. And this is what is making me a better, more whole Me, and I guess, that’s what would define my happiness.

  • #1
    Posted by I Teach Because They Taught Me Well | TheAccidentalTeacher on October 5th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    [...] was there too that I met some of the most life-changing women in my life, the first being my wise sage, Dr. Seann Tan-Mansukhani who has seen me soar to heights I never thought I would reach and held my [...]

  • #2
    Posted by Perhaps It Does Exist After All... | Thought Bubble Project on October 3rd, 2011 at 12:10 am

    [...] At the end of it all, what I can really say is that it reminded me of an old post I wrote about defining what happiness really is…and yes, today I can say I am content, despite of, in spite of and because of [...]

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