Defining happiness

As I (slowly) make my way through Tal Ben-Shahar’s book “Happier”, I am faced with questions of just what happiness is. I know that I want happiness; I hope for happiness; I pray for happiness. But what is happiness? Is it as simple as being happy for a moment in time? Is it a long-term state of happy emotion? Or is it something else altogether?

I manage to find a happy moment or two on most days. And that’s wonderful. But that’s not really happiness. I even manage to find many days that are filled with nothing but happy moments. And that’s amazing. But that’s not really happiness, either. So I guess that means that happiness isn’t about moments; happiness is something else altogether. But what?

Much like my thoughts on “happy milestones”, I think it’s easiest to define happiness by thinking about a time when I felt happiness had been achieved. And I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to many people when I say that those thoughts brought me back to my marriage.

When I was married, I knew that my future was uncertain – as futures always are. But I knew that everything would be OK as long as I was travelling the road to my future with Paul. If you asked me where I wanted to live or what I wanted to do, I would have said I would be willing to go and do anything, because no matter what challenges I would have to face, I would be facing them with the other half of my heart. I felt safe and secure; I was content and complete.  I was at peace within my world and within my soul.

Since Paul died, my life has been filled with uncertainties. Big uncertainties. Scary uncertainties. Since Paul died, there hasn’t been a constant point of reference in my life. There hasn’t been true, contented happiness. There hasn’t been peace within my world or my soul.

Don’t get me wrong: I am mostly happy most days. But I haven’t truly achieved happiness since losing my husband, my confidant. Not because he was my happiness, but rather because he was an important part of my life, and the partnership we built together created a safe and secure place of contentment (and joy); a place of peace.

And that, to me, is happiness. To me, happiness is a safe and secure place of contentment with life. Happiness is a feeling of peace. Happiness is a feeling that nothing is missing from life. Happiness is the feeling of planning for a future with confidence and joy.

Happiness is a feeling of completeness – a completeness that was lost when my heart was amputated. (But I am not saying that happiness is only achievable in a relationship; that would be silly.)

Happiness is more than laughter. Happiness is knowing that when the tears come, they are only temporary. Happiness is knowing that there is a future ahead of you that you want; that you can have. Happiness is a feeling deep within your soul telling you that no matter what bad things come, there will be joys to follow. Happiness is a place of security; a place of faith and hope and trust. And, importantly, happiness is a place of peace.

I am nearly there. I am near to that place of happiness where I know that my future will be bright and cheerful – even if there are lumps and bumps along the way. I am near to that place of happiness where I’m not frightened about what comes next. I am near to that place where I am confident in my security; confident in my being; confident in my soul.

But I’m not there yet. There is still this fear in my heart that tells me the future might be full of sadness and unhappiness. There is still this fear in my heart that tells me I will never find that place of peace and contentment I once felt.

I don’t know when or if I’ll ever achieve true happiness again. But I do know that I am blessed with great moments of joy. And I continue to hope that those moments of joy will help me to find the last little pieces I need to put my broken soul back together again so that I can feel the happiness I once felt.

So, what is happiness? I suppose happiness is peace of mind and a peaceful soul.

And how will I find happiness? Easy: Faith, hope, and trust will guide me to it…

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