Updated: Dec 21, 2022
When I was in my twenties I bought a book called “The Pursuit of Happiness.”
Happiness, it seemed to me, was our absolute birthright. But even back then - perhaps especially back then, it had already become evident that happiness was much more of an illusive, mysterious, mercurial companion. I bought the book in hopes it would be a prescriptive guide, an elicit “how-to” that would spell it out for me. I was hopeful that beneath its bright yellow hardbound cover would be definitive answers.
Of course, as with most things in life, it’s much more complex than reading a single book. What has become abundantly clear as I’ve traversed the many peaks and valleys of this journey we all share, is that “pursuing” happiness as if it’s some commodity to be possessed, is the very thing that causes unhappiness.
What if that’s not what we’re here to obtain? What if happiness in and of itself is not our birthright? What would happen if the perspective shifted just a bit?
It seems happiness has conditions. If a certain set of circumstances are achieved, then happiness will occur. If a goal is met; if a loved one says what we need to hear; if we get the recognition we’ve worked for; if a vacation is booked; if we look and feel a particular way; if if if…
Perhaps what we truly need, is acceptance for exactly how things are in the moment. Instead of striving outside ourselves for the next thing that should bring us the happiness we crave, what if we allowed things to be just as they are? It’s tricky. It can be downright challenging. But that’s the other misconception I’ve had to consistently untangle. None of this is supposed to be easy.
Finding acceptance becomes more of an ongoing practice, rather than a vigilant struggle. Happiness moves in and out. So does grief, chaos, and disappointment. We’re here to feel it all. That’s our birthright. In the midst of it, there is always acceptance. And that brings deep peace.