Happiness, Thou Elusive Beast

I am not one of those people who are naturally happy. You know those types – they wake up bright-eyed at six a.m. on the dot, stretch out their arms, and start singing like a Disney character.

A cartoon princess I am not.

Those of us who were teenagers in the nineties will remember Daria…

Bet you didn’t expect this trip back to 1997?

Yep. That’s my natural temperament. I fight against droll, sarcastic quips every minute. It’s been a losing battle, but I do try.

I don’t really like being Miss Doom and Gloom, or as I like to call her, Apocalypta, so I bring my soul back to balance through reading, meditation, prayer and exercise (not at the same time. What am I, Wonder Woman?). I have to find ways to constantly remind myself what I am living for and what I am focusing on, because it’s far too easy to focus on the negatives in life. You know those oft lamented spreadsheets and hours of math I do a day, or egad, scrubbing my kitchen floor? I just scrubbed it six months ago, you mean I need to scrub it AGAIN?? Yea, I find myself focusing on that stuff far too frequently. What can I say? I’m always seeking to improve my lot in life by bitching about it through criticism in a way that does not at all work.

So one day last week when I was in a particularly foul mood over something or other, Mike started watching a documentary about happiness called…wait for it…HappyDocumentaries being irresistible to this perpetual student, I overheard the first ten minutes from my office, then wandered in like a truculent child and sat my bad attitude down. I cannot resist the allure of learning something new.

Since then, I’ve been bumping into happiness everywhere I go. TED talks, which I listen to in the car, seem suddenly focused on the psychological study of happiness; books I’m reading feature themes of characters actively seeking happiness and a clearer understanding of what happiness is; a friend reminded me a few weeks back to reread The Happiness Project; shoot, even articles in psychological journals are jumping out at me. Psychological Journals, people! God is definitely trying to tell me something.

(That’s how God speaks to me, by the way; by making something so obvious a chimpanzee could discern subtleties in pattern.)

Like the good little student I am, I sought out the website mentioned by one of the psychological experts on happiness, Authentic Happiness, and took a character assessment that’s supposed to ascertain what I could do to put myself in “flow.” Oh wait, I need to back up and define flow, don’t I? Well, flow (not to be confused with “Aunt Flo,” you chucklers) is one of the most enduring forms of happiness according to the head doctors. Wikipedia, that good ol’ standby for the lazy researcher, defines it as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” <— THAT. That is what I want. That is why I’ve been such a grump lately. I mean, for the last few years.

Off the top of my head, I already knew that I feel flow when I’m writing, reading, traveling, playing the piano, or painting. Or in school. Please don’t make fun of me.

After taking the assessment, I learned that my top three strengths are:

  • Love of Learning
  • Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence
  • Curiosity and Interest in the World

This. Makes. So. Much. Sense. Brain. Exploding. No wonder I couldn’t drag my butt out of college.

Now, how to parlay these strengths into a career? Hmm…no one has volunteered to pay me for going to school yet…

Being someone who spends the majority of her waking hours out of flow, I can see how I’ve become such a grouch-pot.

By the way, I DID get the memo about my TPS report…

I’m still working on the master plan (writing the novel), but finding time has been challenging as of late, to say the least. Stupid multiple illnesses over the holidays threw off my flow. On the plus side, my French is coming along beautifully. I mean, magnifiquement. 

So in addition to my goals for this year, I’m working on my flow. Because while Daria is entertaining, no one wants to live with her.

 

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Comments

Happiness, Thou Elusive Beast — 37 Comments

  1. I love learning too. Although I think I went to school to study the wrong thing because Biology just wasn’t my thing even thought that’s what I got my degree in. And I totally forgot about Daria. Keep working on that novel! I’d like to write a book too…someday.

  2. This has been a theme this year for myself as well. Trying to find happiness, despite the fact that my career isn’t where I want it to be and my writing hobby (I won’t call it a career until it pays off financially) hasn’t gotten to the point I wanted.

    Yet, my family is awesome. I’m not broke. I have decent health. Most people are pulling for me… so how can I be unhappy? That’s kind of been my new motto: Don’t be unhappy.

    Who is the male equivalent to Daria? Rafael from TMNT? Eeyore? Squidward? Whoever it is, I don’t want to be him.

    • Don’t be unhappy – I like it. I may use it occasionally in my life, if you don’t mind.
      And same here. Everything in life is good except for how I spend most of my waking hours. I have to remind myself that it’s a process.
      I don’t know who the male equivalent of Daria is off the top of my head. Maybe Woody Allen? But some people like Woody Allen. He’s funny, but I wouldn’t want to live with him…

  3. I’m just going to start saying, Me, too. You understand.

    Funny though, after getting to know you via this (awesome) blog and other internetty venues, I imagine that you’re always sporting a snarky-cute smile when you’re passing out the sarcasm. You actually strike me as *gasp* kinda positive and hopeful behind it all. For me as long as you’re intelligent and have a quirky sense of humor, you’re on my team. The love of socks doesn’t hurt.

    Also, one of my favorite names for a girl (if I ever become a mother) is Quinn, which I was so proud of because I worked with a little boy named Quinn back in 2006 or so and freaking loved the name, but then stupid Glee came out with it’s Quinn character and I was all mad because I came up with that name for a beautiful blond girl FIRST but if I ever have a baby girl and name her that, everyone will annoyingly assume I’ve named her after a freaking Glee character. Breathe in. THEN someone reminded me that Quinn was Daria’s big snotty sister’s name in that ever-loved MTV show from said nineties and that totally sucked all the wind out of my angry, because it turns out I DIDN’T come up with it first. She was blond, too. So if I do have a kid and it’s a girl and I name her Quinn, and people ask if I named her after Quinn from Glee, I will happily shout, NO! I named her after Daria’s sister! HA!

    Tangent. Sorry. Loved the post. I’ve got Gretchen’s Happiness Project and totally followed along with her monthly goals…I got to July. A dear friend just gave me a book called, “Loving What Is” (I think) and I’m interested to see how it changes my perspective, as I, too have a natural expression that is not a glorious, toothy grin. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Also, I’m totally going to find that Authentic Happiness thingy now. Quit getting sick now.

    • I DO maintain a naive hopefulness that everything will turn out alright in the end. How can every book I’ve ever read be wrong? ;)
      And Quinn, to me, will always be Daria’s blonde sister or the misguided detective on Dexter (even though that’s his last name). Either way, gender-safe and not at all about Glee.
      Let me know how your Authentic Happiness score goes, and also if Loving What Is is worth a read. Lord knows I need to fill up my life with as much positivity as possible.

  4. The word “flow” will always be “aunt flo” just like moist will always make me cringe even if we’re talking cake. So I snickered a lot at the last half of your post. Thank you for that.

    Also, this is def the season for turning things around. I’m doing it too. Because being unhappy not only sucks it also gets in the way of doing the job you really want to do (me: crafts; you: write good stuff). So instead of worrying how I’m going to get happy already I’m spending my usual worry time in prayer. Jesus is always the answer, and not just in Sunday school :)

  5. I spent seven years in college for a BA. I’d be totally up for the “paid student” role if it weren’t for those awful classroom chairs.
    Happiness is largely a perspective issue. I notice if I take more time to enjoy the little things (my cats, good food, etc) I feel better. But the grumpy dissatisfied feelings drive me and make me do more. So both are necessary, it’s all about balance.

    • Yes, balance is not something at which I excel, but which I strive for (theoretically, at least). I notice that when I take the effort to adjust my perspective, like putting on my glasses (except a million times harder), it does increase my overall happiness levels. Now, to implement this practice on a daily basis…

  6. I own the Happiness Project. It helps. Lots of things help, but I have to keep working at it – like, all the time! My mother says it’s because my middle name is Dolores (which is HER first name) and Dolores means sorrowful in Spanish.

    It’s all my mom’s fault.

    Anyway, your post made me smile in recognition, so thanks for that!

  7. Oh wow, I had totally forgotten about Daria! We must be twin personalities… In spite of someone telling me “You’ll never be happy” when I was a teenager, I have managed to “embrace” happiness, even if I can’t always say “I am happy.” And I am constantly trying to say sarcastic comments quietly to myself instead of out loud. I think creative people in general have trouble with the whole idea of happiness.

    • A kindred spirit. I too was cursed with that kind of prediction as a teenager, but I really do try as an adult to live a fulfilling life, which includes working on my happiness factor. And yes, I believe creative people struggle with this more than most; there’s that tendency towards melancholy, for starters, and then there’s that old lack-of-demand for creative careers aspect…

  8. The science of happiness — sounds fascinating! I’ve been trying to prune my Daria, too. Sometimes it works, sometime it doesn’t.

    And I could go to school forever…

  9. I just watched “Happy” as well! I think ‘flow’ must be the new buzz word as I’ve heard it several times now. I like it though; I think it’s a good concept to work on, especially with all the multitasking I do these days.

  10. I can identify with your observations — v funny btw — but the point is serious. Who wants to go through life unhappy? There are people who naturally wired to see things half-full. I regret that is not me. The older I get the more intentional I am about my thoughts and try to keep them positive. Actions and emotions often follow.

    • I agree, happiness is not strictly a scientific avenue of exploration. I think it’s interesting that it’s finally merited as a topic for psychological study now – and of course it’s far more complex than my dumbed-down explanation. I just had to simplify it down for myself, so I can more easily readjust my perspective on a daily basis.
      And it’s working, so far. :)

  11. I’d be a perpetual student, too, if they’d let me and if the money would never run out. I still think it would be so cool to go to med school. Not to be a doctor or anything… just to learn it all. I haven’t found the solution yet either, so let me know when you figure out a way to get rich sitting on your butt and learning stuff – I want in.

    As for the sarcastic Daria side of me… at first I tried to fight it, and then I found Twitter and all was lost. Twitter is to sarcastics what a bar is to alcoholics.

    • Um, I’m going to find you on Twitter, then. I could use an outside sarcasm-infusion.
      Once I learn the secret, I’ll let you know. I almost went to med school…then realized I didn’t want to be a doctor, I just wanted to learn all the stuff. Not that I’m crazy or anything.

  12. Oh, how I love Daria! This is totally me, too. I have to be intellectually engaged or I’m like, “Meh.” I’ve been flipping past the “Happy” documentary on Netflix for the past few weeks. Now I’m really intrigued and totally going to watch it this weekend. Great post! Self awareness is so key to success in any endeavor.

  13. Putting oneself in flow makes so much sense. I just wish it was so much easier to obtain! I mean, I guess if I put forth a little effort, I could probably get a little flow to my life, but until I’m teaching in my own classroom, I think my flow will be trickling.

    And best of luck working on yours. Once education gets funding and is kickin’ again, I could see you being a professor of literature or some really cool obscure class. You’d be in school FOREVER!

    • I know! If only EVERYONE knew I was supposed to be a writer to be in flow, then I would have no trouble snaring a job at National Geographic. Or being a professor of literature. Sigh, the dream still lives.
      Patience getting into flow is hard, but I am pretty determined. I know you’ll make it into the classroom yet!!

  14. My husband loathes Daria yet loves me. He gets snarky when, well, the slightest thing sets me off.I am not a cheerful person and do my best to keep chipper. So my more natural state and the state I slide into at the drop of a hat is Daria. She is my doppleganger. I am not completely proud but yeah its me. I even dressed as her for Halloween, twice ,in high school and college which wasn’t diffucult. No need to act the part, and eith long brown hair, slim figure, glasses…..yeah. easy peasy.

    Its not that I am not happy. I am just pensive and serious and was toldthat even as a small child. I just see no reason to squeal or cheer or smile all the time. It is annoying.

    • I am neither squealy nor smiley, either – people who are that way all the time are hard to take seriously. I’d rather be me, just as you describe.
      I’m working on being a happy me, though. So think Daria with a wry smile…;)

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