Happy?

Doug asks me if I am happy. That’s not an easy question to answer; a simple “yes” or “no” does not suffice. For one thing, I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Other those conditions are under control, relatively speaking, they have not gone away or disappeared. I even wrote a book about being Christian and facing those symptoms. Add to that the fact that I am a Chicago sports fan, suffering through unsatisfactory seasons from the Cubs and Bears and Bulls, and “happy” is not likely to be the first word that comes to mind.

Part of my temperament is existential angst. I am an imperfect person living in an imperfect world. Put into theological terms, I am a sinner living in a sin-polluted world. I know by faith that Christ has defeated all evil and death, that he shares his victory with those who trust in him, and that I have been claimed for his kingdom. From those assurances, I receive inner joy and inner peace. Those qualities do not erase symptoms of anxiety and depression; they do not bring about happiness on the surface. The existential perspective suggests that anyone who can be happy all the time in this mixed-up world must be delusional, or at the very least unaware of the things that are happening around us. We all have passing pleasures and delights. Converting them into lasting happiness requires a shallow personality which I do not possess.

Since ancient times, philosophers have said that happiness is the goal of human existence. Socrates and Confucius both offered philosophical approaches to achieving a happy life. Some schools of philosophy, such as the Greek and Roman Stoics and the Buddhists, have said that happiness comes from nonattachment to the world, not basing happiness on anything outside of ourselves, but being apathetic toward the surrounding world. Others recommend maximizing the enjoyment of what is good and minimizing the agony of what is bad—maintaining a positive mental attitude, looking for the bright side of life, seeking the silver lining of every cloud, and viewing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. While these approaches are effective for some people, they leave others exhausting, struggling to achieve happiness, portraying themselves as cheerful rather than being honest about their feelings, and denying their friends and family the opportunity to support them in their times of need.

Respect for our neighbors (and for our own well-being) suggests that we be honest with others about our feelings. At the same time, we do not want to be a burden to others. We do not want our gloom to darken their days. We do not want to rain on their parade. We do not want, whenever we enter a room, to have people looking around and asking each other, “Who just left?”

Am I happy? Sorry, Doug, but there’s no hands clapping in my corner. Yet I would not say that I am unhappy. Like everyone else, I’m taking the bad with the good, the raisins with the chocolate chips, the rainy days with the sunny days. And a few more rainy days this summer might be needed for the long-term health of the lawn, the garden, and the nearby farms. J.

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8 thoughts on “Happy?

  1. I try to think of my existential angst and anxiety as a real gifting, Salvageable. Perhaps we shouldn’t think of these things as afflictions, but more like superpowers? I wouldn’t say I am happy, but I am relatively cheerful most of the time.

    Also, I am healthy, tested negative, been quarantined at home for five days, and am the only one in the office who has not contracted yet another bout of covid. So naturally because I am unvaxxed and healthy, and feel great, and have a cheerful disposition, they are making me stay home for another 7 days. Without pay of course, since I’m not actually sick like everyone else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Superpowers? Yes, I’m all for that designation.
      As for that quarantine, that really stinks. I have to wear a mask at work because I am not fully vaccinated and boosted (haven’t had any of the shots, actually), and every day another coworker is coming down with COVID. So we all get the emails about that person who is sick and reminding us that if we aren’t fully shot up we must wear the mask. I want to tell the people in charge that their policy isn’t working, but I already know they won’t listen. J.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Being happy is subjective to be sure. Perhaps the better word is “contentment”; are any of us content with how our life unfolded. I am not asking that as you’ve provided a succinct response to the “happy” query. For what you suggest you are lacking in the real world interaction category you do quite well explaining yourself in written form. I find myself more content, and for me that contentment overflows into a measure of “happy”. At this stage of my life I look back and I can do nothing more than be thankful for having had the life I had given all the possible situations in life I could have had. That’s not to say there’s not been some heartache, disappointment, and sadness…. and embarrassment and regret. But the other far outweighs all that for me. Oh.. and my appreciation for having experienced “my” life is not motivated by having won a lottery or economic independence in other ways. For sure there were moments in my past when that would have been welcome. 🙂
    Sounds like your faith guides you. Stay with it.

    Liked by 1 person

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