Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Happiness

fantastic free printable via on-hand modern

I've had several conversations/interactions lately all relating to the subject of happiness.  Happiness is such an interesting thing.  We all desire to be happy.  We think about it, we learn about it, we work towards it, and for some it seems totally elusive.

I remember several years ago a yearly check-up with one of my kids and our pediatrician.  I commented on how this child really seemed to struggle to be happy.  He asked questions to make sure there weren't signs of depression, and then he gave me advice that has stuck with me.  He instructed me that my job as a parent is not to make my children happy.  He validated my efforts as a parent and told me that I was providing an exceptional set of circumstances for my children to grow up in, but ultimately even the best circumstances don't make someone happy.  He also helped me realize that my child was still young enough that hopefully the period of fussiness/discontent/pessimism would be something they'd outgrow, but even if they didn't, it was not my fault if my children were unhappy and that I couldn't base my success as a parent on the happiness of my children.  

It was definitely food for thought.  I think every parent wants their child(ren) to be happy.  Some go to great lengths buying up every toy/outfit/treat imaginable to make their kids happy.  Others give their child every opportunity through music/sports/lessons/outings/travel.  We all have our own approaches as parents of things we do to try to help our children be happy.  

The bottom line, and not just when it comes to kids, is that no one can make anyone else happy.  To try to do so is unfair to ourselves and unfair to the other person.  Taking on someone's happiness (besides our own) as our responsibility is an impossible burden to bear.  Letting someone else believe we are responsible for their happiness is a lie and it removes their ability to choose it for themselves.  And really, true happiness will only be found when we choose it.  The beauty is that we can make that choice every single day.  Our circumstances don't matter (although some are definitely more ideal for happiness than others).  Our age, race, gender, occupation, marital status, fertility, finances, house, or anything else are not characteristics that happiness is based on.  They're just not.  All of those things can definitely bring heartache, but it's wrong for us to think that if one of those things were different, then we could be happy.  Happiness can be found amidst heartache.  Our happiness is completely up to us.  

It's a definite shift in thinking for many people to take responsibility for their own happiness.  Although this is a principle I feel like I try to live by, I still sometimes catch myself, particularly in my relationships with my kids, saying things like "your choices aren't making me very happy," or "I'm not happy about x,y,z that you're doing."  Those phrases seem harmless, but I don't want to send the message to my kids that my happiness changes based on the actions of others.  I tell them frequently that they can choose to be happy, and I want my actions+attitudes to reflect that truth.

Forgive me for coming back with a few deep thoughts after several days away from the blog, but this seems to be such a persistent theme right now in various life situations that I just can't shake it.  I wish everyone could free themselves+others from the unrealistic expectations of making each other happy.  I don't mean that it gives us all license to go around being unkind with the excuse that our actions shouldn't make people unhappy.  There's never an excuse for that sort of bad behavior.  But I also think acts of kindness and love would go even further if we're already in a positive place instead of waiting around for those things to happen to "make" us happy.

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For more great thoughts on happiness, read A Blog About Love if you haven't already started.  It's such a breath of fresh air on how to be happy in marriage, but the wisdom shared applies to so many other things in life.  Word to the wise-this is not a blog for those of you who like to skim- these words are meant to be read!

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Hope your week is off to a great start.  Yesterday was completely gorgeous weather.  Today my mom is in town and spent an embarrassing amount of time steaming clothes that have piled up needing to be ironed.  She also played with my kids and helped with other various things around the house that have been neglected and made me wish that an extra set of hands came standard with the third trimester of pregnancy.  I'm excited for what the rest of the week has in store.  Back soon.

2 comments:

Hannah said...

Christina, you always seem to post just what I needed to read. Your blog is amazing.

Hooray for an extra set of hands. Moms are so fab.

Karen said...

I love this post. What a liberating concept! Especially in regards to my parenting. If I can teach my children to look within to find true happiness... what a gift!

Thanks for sharing!