Happiness, where are you?

“Happiness, where are you? Come out, come out, where ever you are!”

Though retired I’m still ambitious. I strive to accomplish a lot of things each and every day but find true, long lasting happiness eludes me. While happiness seems to be on everybody’s wish list, I wonder if it’s been made up by greeting card companies, politicians, consultants and marketers.

To believe happiness is something enjoyed on a regular basis seems ludicrous or wishful thinking, or just a cruel joke. That’s not to say that I’m morose, nor misanthropic. To the contrary, despite numerous obstacles and challenges (or perhaps because of them) I feel I’m the road to fulfill my rightful place in this world. I find that satisfactory.

But it takes me a lot of discipline, time and hard work to stay on track. Fortunately, many of the “toys” that society glorifies as tickets to happiness don’t do it for me nor have they really ever been of interest. The fancy big car. The latest big ticket consumer electronics technology. A hot new game. I don’t have it and don’t miss it. In fact I usually run the other way when they are first announced. Instead, I gravitate to new knowledge and new thinking having to do with well-being and faith. That way I can continue evolving and developing my being, beliefs and behavior.

I’ve been motivated to find “meaning” and “some comfort” in life. It has to do with some of my mother’s tough luck life I’m sure. So I sought out ambitious tech startups always in motion, always changing, with freewheeling cultures and with no processes in place. When I was working I also sought some financial success and I found that high tech startups paid better than traditional marketing positions. I worked to accumulate enough money and we generally lived below our means: just in case an unfortunate, unplanned emergency might be thrown our way.

But even those frantic activities in the startup work life has its limits where everything seemed so urgent and had to be immediately addressed. I had to be in three places at the same time. It seemed exhilarating …. but to what end?

Change occurs constantly and nothing is permanent say the Buddhists. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche writes in “The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness”:

“If you truly want to discover a lasting sense of peace and contentment, you need to learn to rest your mind. Only by resting the mind can it’s innate qualities be revealed”.

In Judaism, sitting with oneself enables inner healing (and awareness) and affirming one’s fundamental goodness says Rabbi Alan Lew in “This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation”.

As a young boy I gravitated to making art as a solitary activity and means of self-expression. Doing this was an escape from the competitiveness, criticism, teasing and demands faced at home and at school. I didn’t know what I know now that artwork was healing. At the time it just felt like a good, secure place for me to spend time.

Art allowed me to make a mark without comparison to anyone else. Art of my own choosing, my own creation, was something I could believe in and be proud of. And as it turns out I was pretty good at it.

As much as I enjoy completing artwork, it’s still challenging to break away to do the hard work of art be it hand lettering and calligraphy, or illustration/pen and ink drawings. I don’t do stone sculpture any more. I know the hard part – transferring the vision in the mind’s eye to the blank piece of paper or the block of stone – without making mistakes like an errant irreversible mark. Swiss sculptor Antonio Giacometti wrote about this sometimes paralyzing phenomenon during his career in the 1900s. So like Giacometti, I procrastinate and lie to myself until I feel “in the mood” before getting down to business and doing my art. Like the Nike advertisement: I wish I could “just do it”.

My wife has a simple unadorned printed 3”x5” card on her desk that says: “don’t be swayed by external circumstances”. I try to keep this foremost in my mind. The key to finding happiness in life is within if you make the time and have the courage to face it. A sense of happiness may be attained by cultivating self-awareness and resolve, being comfortable in one’s skin, maintaining a positive outlook in response to adversity. Others find a sense of happiness by providing compassionate care to others. Finding happiness is not simple; it’s complicated like so many things. At this age I’m learning the art of living and with it comes some happiness.

Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

4 thoughts on “Happiness, where are you?

  1. This is inspired! I completely relate to it. Thanks for taking the time to write it and for including the thoughtful quotes. Very nice 👍🏼 🙂


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