Happiness Is…Whatever You Say It Is

The phrase, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is universal and hard to argue with when you look at art, home décor or even couples. Truly, everyone has a different view on what they find attractive. What you like, I may not. If beauty can be praised in such a vast spectrum, happiness can be no different.

While reading blogs, I was pointed to The Center for Advanced Hindsight’s blog. (Thank you for the lead Berryduchess.) Their Meaning of Happiness Changes Over Time blog got me wondering, what makes people happy?

Obviously, when you look at people, you can see that all types of things give people joy. Some people find pleasure reading a book while others would just assume run a 13-mile mud obstacle course than turn a page. Even within the happy-reading-a-book group, there are subgroups that would not be caught dead reading a certain genre or author.

CAH’s blog discussed how a person’s gauge on happiness-inducing events changes with time. That makes perfect sense. In high school, I was all smiles at the sight of my first car. Regardless of the fact that it was a missing-a-muffler, hole-in-the-floor-board, bright lemon-yellow heap, it made me ecstatic as it represented independence. Now, if you asked me to drive such a contraption, I would speculate on its safety and not nearly be as gleeful. In fact, I would probably be unhappy about such a ridiculous request. How is that possible when it made me happy once? I was still the beholder of beauty…but my perception of that beauty has evidently changed.

The first song I learned in elementary school choir attempted to teach me this lesson.

I am not sure if I picked up the significance back then, but the Happiness Is lyrics paint varying pictures of bliss. The images of delight range from tying your shoes to being alone to walking hand in hand. Those are all very diverse kinds of happiness that suggest dissimilar ages. (Not that I am not happy to still have the ability to tie my own shoes, but it does not give me the same level of joy now as a bubble bath that is accompanied with a glass of wine.)

CAH’s blog elaborates more to state that young people tend to have more adventurous views on what makes them happy, while “older people tend to find happiness and define themselves in the ordinary experiences that comprise daily life.” (I guess that might explain the bubble bath and wine I enjoy so dearly.)

Their post also mentions how a particular study found that “bucket lists” tend not to be as dramatic as believed. “It’s worth noting that these findings greatly contrast the “bucket list” hypothesis, the idea that as people feel their days are running out, they are motivated to do the extraordinary. For instance, in the film The Bucket List, two aging men strive to have the most extraordinary experiences possible. Though these cases do exist in society, they may be the exception. In general, the rule is that as people feel like they are aging, they turn away from the extraordinary and, like my grandfather, focus on the everyday.”

This made me feel a little special, as I am the exception then. Well, I am partially an exception anyway. (You can just call it well balanced though.) After aging some, getting divorced and enduring three deployments, I feel like I need to have a bucket list. I must experience some extraordinary things to make up for the lost years and sadness. I should witness amazing wonders and yet, applaud the most basics of life. I recently discovered a great quote that explains the level of life I aspire to achieve. “I would rather die of passion than of boredom,” said Vincent Van Gogh.

For me, this means I want to be passionate about everything; I want to try all that life has to offer. From reading good books to white water rafting, it’s on the list. I want to feel the exhilaration of an enduring love. I have swung from a trapeze. I fantasize about horseback riding in Ireland. I have danced around my kitchen alone to inspiring music. I desire to experience the rush of sky diving. I have enjoyed baking a caramel apple pecan pie from scratch. Basically, I welcome adventure and savor the simple.

Recently, I picked up a paintbrush at one of those places that give you a rough sketch where you fill in the blanks. I have never been artistic by any means and cannot recall painting outside of a school art class, but I found myself really pouring my emotions onto the canvas. I was taking the rough outline and adding my own creativity…and to my surprise, my paintings are not utterly horrible. (I could at least provide some stiff competition to an average 5th grade art class student!)

These are the three paintings I created from rough pencil outlines. They are not master pieces, but nonetheless, they are mine and were so fun to create.

These are the three paintings I created from rough pencil outlines. They are not master pieces, but nonetheless, they are mine and were so fun to create.

I find that my days are filled with more things than I ever imagined. I am feeling more. I am taking more risks and stepping out of my comfort zone. I am really living in the moments to see every nuisance of brilliance. In this process, I am finding happiness within me. This new awareness is leading me on a journey-somewhere I think I should have been already. I do not know where the path is leading, but either way, I am determined to embrace it.

Selma Hayek stated, “People often say that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.” I couldn’t agree with her more.

I am the beholder of what I find beautiful and what makes me happy, just as you are for you. And, like the song’s last line says, happiness is anyone and anything at all that is loved by you. All we need to do it open our eyes and hearts, happiness is out there and inside us all.