Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I don't want to be happy!

There, I've said it. I don't want to be happy. I know that breaks my husband's heart, but that's not what I mean.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about happiness lately. Too much thinking about it, according to my mother. My mother said (in a comment to this blog) that during all this time I spend thinking about happiness, happiness is happening all around me (my emphasis, not hers).

But I disagree! I think that it is rare for happiness to just happen. Yes, sometimes, you accidentally stumble upon something that makes you happy, like a good book or a nice coffee shop, but most of the time, you have to do something to be happy.

My mother and I do not think the same way. I don't mean we have different ideas. I mean the actual way we think differs. Neither of us are "glass half full" or "glass half empty" people. Presented with half a glass of water, I imagine my mother would say "That's all I get?," While I'd say "Why didn't you fill the glass up all the way?" (My sister would say "Who drank my water?"). Obviously, that analogy just fails in my family.

My mother sees the world through a lens of entitlement. THIS IS NOT A CRITICISM. It's actually a very beneficial way to view things. My mother is very good at getting what she wants. She can convince store clerks to give her free shipping, she throws parties in which she doesn't actually have to provide the food, and proof that miracles actually do happen: she was able to get a full refund from Ticketmaster! (When I tried to get a partial refund from Ticketmaster, I failed miserably.) In fact, if my sister and I really want to make something happen, and we can't convince (fill in appropriate party here...caterer, insurance rep, whoever) to do it, we'll have our mother handle it. On the one hand, it's slightly immature. On the other hand, it is very effective delegation.

Because of all of this, and maybe for some other reasons (e.g. she's retired), my mother is a happier person than I am. She's certainly happier now than I remember from growing up (go figure, a stressful job plus raising two teenagers does not equal happy). Now, my mother travels with friends, teaches sewing classes, and gets to attend the wedding and baby showers of her friends' adult children.

Back in my world, I get to do a lot of nice things, too. Captain America and I went to Europe, we spend our weekends with our family and friends, and since we're not raising kids of our own, we get to pursue our own interests in our free time.

I have a really nice life. I have a fabulous husband, a nice home, a good job, great friends, and some time to do things I like. But I'm not particularly happy. I think by nature, I'm just not that happy of a person. At least, I wouldn't describe myself that way. I have a good life, and I try to appreciate it. I would say that I am fairly content.

In thinking about becoming happier (which was one of my resolutions for 2010), I've discovered that I don't actually want to be happier. Really. When I'm despairing over all of the things I want to and need to do and my husband asks what he can do to help, I lament that I don't want help, I just want more time to do the things myself. (Right, really mature...I know...but if you notice I said when I'm despairing and lamenting--clearly not conditions of mature thinking).

But knowing myself, as I do, I know that if I actually had more time, I'd just fill it up with more things to do. (You would not believe some of the things I think up to do. It is not unusual for my to do list to include things like: bring the stuff on the table to the thing, and let AD know. Yes, that's one to-do. At which point my husband exclaims: Nobody even knows what that means!)

What I'd really like is a more leisurely life. I don't like rushing around, always being busy doing things. I don't like feeling hurried. It makes me decidedly unhappy. So I'm changing my resolution. I no longer want to be actively happier. I want to pursue a leisurely life.

I know I can't just not do things. I don't want to not do things. I just want to do them at my pace, when and where it makes sense to me. And I know this may not work at my job. My boss is not a hand-holder. She expects us to get to work and get our work done. And for it to be accurate. However, there are still deadlines. Sometimes I can't do things at the pace or time I want to. That's life. But when I can control it, I'm going to try.

For example, I hate exercising on Sundays. My trainer in Oregon would schedule short (2 mile) recovery runs for me on Sunday and they were harder than the 12-18 miles I had run on Saturday. I don't mind doing stuff on Sundays (my sister and I frequently walk around farmer's markets and such), but something about strapping on a sports bra and making time for exercise on Sunday doesn't work for me.

For as long as I can remember, I thought that I liked having anything I have to do on the weekends scheduled for Saturday morning, so I can get it out of the way. But I've discovered it depends on what it is. If repair people have to come to the house, first thing Saturday morning is perfect. If I have to be somewhere, it's really less enjoyable, and I always end up rushing around.

In theory, if I have a more leisurely life, I'll enjoy it more, and end up being happier for it. In the mean time, I'm going to work on figuring out how to schedule less, delegate more, and skip the stuff I don't like.


  1. Perhaps it is a generational thing, but most of my friends rarely use the work happy or happiness. Louise,for example, in takling about her son Tommy and is wedding in September says, I'm glad for Tommy and Jill, they do well together, and so on.
    I think Virginia, for a month you should eliminate the word happy or happiness from your thinking and speaking vocabulary. You may be more glad, content, joyful, satisfied, carefree, pleased, light hearted, and in a good mood more often then you think!

  2. No, I don't want to take the word "happy" out of my vocabulary. Your constant suggestion that I do this begs the question, why don't you want me to be happy?

  3. Of course I want you to be happy. There are many words to describe happy.