Thursday, March 11, 2010

In Pursuit

I have this little nagging feeling that I recently heard someone talking about this topic or quite possibly read about it in a blog post? If I am stealing your idea then I apologize, but really you should be flattered so I take back my apology.

Last night, I was speaking with a very wise older woman named Jane who sort of reminds me of my grandmother (who is also named Jane, may she rest in peace). This woman said that, "The thing is, we aren't going to be happy all the time. Life isn't all about being happy, no one is happy all the time and that shouldn't be the goal. The whole pursuit of happiness idea can be very misleading. Life is about being able to handle what comes at you". Now, I pretty much agree with this statement. But my take on this is a bit different.

I do think that Jane is right- life is not about being happy all the time. I don't exactly enjoy having feelings of sadness, loss, or anger when they arrive on the scene in my life. I don't like having hard days at work or having pain physically or emotionally. It sucks. But it is good for me. How would I even enjoy the happy times if I didn't have sad times to compare them to? I appreciate a good day a lot more after a crappy one. I love to bask in sunshine after a cold winter.

Even though the hard times help me grow, I still wish life were happy all the time. But that isn't reality. Even for an Uptown Girl like me.

In the last few years I have been through my share of suffering and sadness. Although I would never wish to see those days again, and I wouldn't wish hard times on anyone, I have to admit that I do find meaning in the suffering (now that I'm thru much of it!).

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring". It is a conversation between Frodo and Gandalf.
Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
This is one of those quotes that speaks to me. I keep it stored away in the back of my mind and think about it when I need it. What I want to do with my time is keep up the pursuit of happiness and pay attention to the lessons on the way there.

And I've grown leaps and bounds (if I do say so myself). I've learned a lot about myself. I've learned the hard way that I need to trust my gut in decision making. I've learned that if I set my mind to a daunting task I can accomplish it. I've learned to let myself feel pain and hurt rather than stuff or avoid negative feelings. I've learned to cry when I feel like crying and laugh the rest of the time. All in the pursuit of happiness and health.

Life isn't about being happy all the time, it is about the pursuit. In the pursuit of happiness we hit bumps on the road and detours taking us down back alleys; we go off-roading at times and we get flat tires (to stick with the analogy). And if we missed all that and arrived at the destination of happiness without the twists and turns and flat tires, we would also miss life lessons on how to call AAA change a tire. We'd miss the personal growth that shapes us into mature adults. I am personally grateful for the painful lessons I've learned in my twenties. Maybe I would be a happier person without all the life lessons, but I wouldn't lead a very full life. I wouldn't know how to do half of what I can now do. I wouldn't be the amazing Uptown Girl you see before you. Actually, I wouldn't even be an Uptown Girl at all. It is because of my personal pursuit of happiness that I moved to the Upper Eastside, started writing posts on my sister's blog (and then she told me to start my own), I started running, I tried almonds. All big things. Because of my pursuit I'm a pretty big deal.

Who knows what is next for me? Maybe I'll arrive at perfect happiness sooner than I think, but probably not. I will keep up the pursuit.


Lovey said...

Well said! This blog post I will save and come back to when I need it. Thanks Uptown Girl! You are wise beyond your years....

Liza said...

UG: well said. You inspire me. Life is hard & I sometimes wish I WAS just perfectly happy all the time too. But You are SO right - it is the struggle that gives us strength..and makes us value a Happy day. You are so awesome - and this Post was VERY clutch for me to read today. thanks for SHARING

Amanda said...

I love this so much. We're all going through the same thing at this age (well, a lot of us). It took me almost my whole 20s to get where I am today. And I had to learn LOTS of difficult lessons. I agree so much that cold winters help you appreciate the warm sunshine. That is a beautiful statement.

And I am just going to guess that you *wouldn't* be a happier person without those things that happened to you.

DeNae said...

Here's a little trivia: In the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson's list was, "Life, Liberty, and Property" -- NOT "The pursuit of happiness". But it was voted down by those who weren't sure that all men really were entitled to "property"!

As for the other things you've said here, you're on the right track, UG. I'm in my mid-40's, and I have discovered that much of life makes more sense when we stop pursuing "happiness" and start pursuing "meaning". Our relationships change, the way we evaluate experiences and opportunities changes, and perhaps most importantly, our expectations of life and what comes our way changes.

The wonderful thing about this is, when you find purpose and meaning in your life, it leads to a very deep kind of happiness, contentment, and satisfaction. I've never been more at peace with my life and the paths I've walked to get here than in the last five years or so.

M-Cat said...

Great post! I think that is one of the hardest things for me to remember, is that life is a journey and to enjoy the ride. To quit beating myself up when I fail, but to find joy in the trying.

Love this!

Uptown Girl said...

Wow I really appreciate everyone's comments on this.. you know I only really get serious from time to time on here!

Lovey- I will share my immense wisdome anytime, you know where I live.

Liza- I totally should've posted it on Own It!

Amanda- I think you're right, I wouldn't be as happy today without living all the life I've lived. Oh the 20s...

DeNae- you have great trivia, and great insight.

MCat- whenever you even think about beating yourself up, think back to those Cancun pics and I think you'll find your joy pretty fast!