Sunday, May 04, 2008

UNREASONABLE HAPPINESS: The Existential Question of the Week

1st birthday, originally uploaded by patryfrancis.

The other night around one a.m., I was lying in bed reading, as I usually am at that hour, when I felt so overwhelmed by happiness that I had to put my book aside. I could no longer concentrate on the words. I wanted to go outside and run down the street with my arms wide open. I wanted to lift my creaky voice and sing an aria. But since my health wouldn't allow for the former, and my sleeping family didn't deserve the latter, I just sat in bed and smiled.

Exultant was the word that came to mine. "Perfect joy" was how Ted described it when the energy I was giving off woke him up--in spite of my best intentions. And yes, it was that--indescribably perfect joy--for absolutely no reason. Happiness as free gift. No one had called me at one a.m. to tell me I'd won the lottery, or hit the bestsellers list; I hadn't recently fallen in love. Or maybe I had--though not in the way the term is usually used. Maybe I'd left the shallow, mundane world I usually occupy and fallen through a trap door to the place where being in love is quite simply our natural state.

So what triggered this crazy intemperate fit of happiness? It seemed to be a confluence of circumstances: the peace of the house late at night, the cool wind that was blowing through the window, and the presence of Ted beside me. But most of all it was a passage in the book I'd been reading-- a yet to be pubished novel called THE GARGOYLE by Andrew Davidson which the publisher sent me for review. In that passage, a young debut author had managed to accomplish the highest thing a writer can hope to do, at least for this reader: open the trap door, and reveal the goodness and the love we are meant for.

with my beautiful emma

The next day I went back and re-read the passage, wondering why it affected me as it did, but I couldn't recreate the way I felt the night before. I couldn't feel the cool, dark wind that came through my window, couldn't see the way my reading light illuminated my messy, imperfect bed, or my equally messy, imperfect life. I could remember it and I could smile about it, but I couldn't have it back--not exactly. I guess that's the way it is with free gifts. Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed.

In my late night hour of perfect joy, I thought that this time I might remain exultant forever. This time I "had it." But the next day, the trap door quickly shut behind me. I allowed myself to be offended when a friend commented rather unkindly on my weight loss; and I repeated my petty complaint to everyone I encountered--spreading the negativity. "How insensitive can she be?" I raged. "Would you say that to your worst enemy?" I ranted. But as usual, nourishing my outrage only left me feeling drained and sick of myself. Eventually, I realized all I had to do was shut-up and let it go, and poof! It was over.

So no, I don't yet "have it." I haven't trapped bliss under a hat or captured it in a jar. I haven't moved permanently into the country behind the secret door. But for some reason, I seem to visit with increasing frequency. For some reason, I find myself startled, accosted, flooded by happiness in the damnedest places, at the most unpredictable times more and more often. It comes in hospital beds, and in the bed where I've slept for more than twenty years; it's there when I'm tired and on the wonderful days when I feel a surge of my old energy. I don't know where it comes from, but I can only hold out my humble cup, and say, "yes, please" when it arrives, and "thank you" when it passes by.

So here it is--the existential question of the week (remember those?): When was the last time you felt incredibly happy for no particular reason?

Lexi, right before she nails it

*And speaking of perfect joy, all photos were taken at my grandson Hank's first birthday party.


Patry Francis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carleen Brice said...

Excellent question. I've felt content and grateful a lot but absolutely happy? And for no reason? Probably a couple of years ago. (eek!) I was on a walk on a fall morning and the changing leaves against the blue sky were so beautiful I almost couldn't take it. (I guess that's a reason, but a "small" one; one easily taken for granted.) And I felt like life was unusual feeling for me.

Thanks for sharing!

Sky said...

first, i must say that i just hollered out to hubby to come see the beautiful photograph of you with emma. you look so refreshed and young, and look at that long hair, girl! seeing you looking so beautiful made me a bit envious as i sit here with new wrinkles, feeling like i have aged at least 5 years during the past one!

now about feeling happiness for no apparent reason. i recall three times in the past year. once was in august looking out from pescadero beach, california at the pacific ocean, watching it break against boulders a few feet away. i was transformed into an altered state of consciousness for a few moments. (this happens often when we are on that magnificent coastline.) another was in october in the cascades when i found this amazing, hidden pathway into colors so vibrant my heartbeat quickened. the photos from that experience are on my blog. and the third was in a recovery room with my darling husband who brings me such intense joy and peace. i was at once filled with overwhelming joy in simply being alive and within his loving presence. i became joy in that moment.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
I know that feeling you describe, or at least I connect to that in the mountains, sheer bliss. Trying to bring it home is the hard part. Slowly it seems I do. Kia ora and have a great day.
Ka kite ano,

Zhoen said...

Once you know the way, the door opens more easily. I don't know how to keep it open, either. But knowing it is there makes a difference.

LitPark said...

It is almost always driving, when I can't hold on to any one thought or agenda for any period of time, and I just see something spectacular out the window - hawk, clouds, trees. I think the biggest obstacle to happiness (or mine, anyway) are goals and expectations and agendas.

Interesting question. I look forward to reading the answers here, because I have much to learn in this area.

katrina said...

Beautifully articulated, once again, Patry.

These moments for me seem to come in clusters, and seem to be a mix of gratitude and awe. It is in these moments I feel large and small at once and they are very intense during the brief time I'm visited by them.

And I'm sorry your friend was insensitive.

Aimee said...

Driving to work after a good day at home, windows rolled down, maybe driving a little too fast, listening to a cheesy song that I love on the radio a little too loud. For whatever reason, I feel no sadness or worry and pure, 100% joy. Has to be a warm, sunny day. I get to experience it maybe twice a month.

Laura Benedict said...

I suspect that your family wouldn't have minded a song from you at all, Patry--even at one in the morning!

I felt inexpressibly happy just a few weeks ago, wandering through my house (even though it's torn up with de-construction). I'm very much a homebody. I don't know where it came from, but I remember telling Pinckney how happy I felt. And, like Susan, I feel bouts of wild happiness when I'm driving, alone. Last time, I turned on the soundtrack to the Sound of Music and sang along at the top of my lungs!

robin andrea said...

It's a wonderful challenge to describe that happiness, especially after reading your moving and enlightened words.

I felt it just the other night, after feeling panicky about selling the house and moving. I was suddenly filled with an incredible elation, a positive knowing that everything would be okay. The perfect moment moved through my body viscerally, like a spark of gladness, and then was gone.

robin andrea said...

BTW, you look absolutely beautiful.

Ric said...

In the afterglow just yesterday, when the kids had left and Mom gone home, the joy of a day well spent, of flowers picked, bluejays at the window, knowing perhaps just by chance, my sons will make their way in a difficult world, doesn't get much better.

To be perfectly happy... The bliss I feel reading your take on the world is pretty damned close.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

I love this question, so often we're asked to focus on the negative,but to ponder bliss?

Yesterday, I was happy. My children's voices chattered around me, my husband clanged pots in the kitchen, my dog sat beside me enjoying a good scratch, and I was curled on the couch reading a long sought after book, sipping a cup of tea. When one of my children passed, stopped beside me for a kiss, another to give a hug before skipping off to paint, I was utterly grateful to be surrounded by all of them, for a chance to read, to be warm and well-fed.

Bliss can be quite simple, the antithesis of life which is complex and painful. But we can't know one without the other, can we?

Speaking of bliss, happy birthday to Hank. Funny how children never ponder these questions.


Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

The last few days, I have been enormously happy about having piles of books to read; by having the windows thrown open and the fresh air coming in; and by having lots of ideas for writing, and expecting a package of books from my mother.
My home has been quiet the last few days and I've been relishing the peace while at the same time knowing my husband is coming home in a few days.
That's been a very balanced joy.
Questions like the one you posed are so very important.

Perfect Virgo said...

I am reminded of the Bright Eyes song "Lua" and the line: 'what was normal in the moonlight by the morning seems insane.' It's hard to recapture an emotion but I can remember feeling bliss - or was it profound sadness, they are so close - at the Isle of Wight Rock Festival two summers ago listening to Richard Ashcroft singing "Lucky Man."

Good to see you relaxing with your family Patry. (btw, I finished that short story.)

Amber said...

"But for some reason, I seem to visit with increasing frequency."--

This is good.

I needed to read this post, and think about this... You know, with some crap lately that has made me sad, it did make me realize how little I am really sad lately. The sadness made me greatful, actually, for allowing me to see what a stranger sadness has become to me.

But it would be good to make not of the joy. To stop and say to myself, "This moment is joyfull." I bet I would be happy to notice how often that is...


Left-handed Trees... said...

This morning I sat in the windowseat at my favorite cafe I felt a similar joy for no reason. A blank notebook page sat there before me...the owner of the cafe just said to me in her lilting accented voice, "I cannot wait to read your book," handing me a cup of chai on the house and I told her, "I'm working hard on it so that you can." The sun was shining and the tree on the other side of the glass had nearly heart-shaped leaves...

Your words were beautiful--and so are you.

Larramie said...

Patry, I was also able to get an ARC of THE GARGOYLE by Andrew Davidson and will look forward to that passage when reading...eventually.

In the meantime, joy comes from contented moments during the day but blissful happiness is probably being on the streets of Manhattan and feeling THAT energy! :)

Leah said...

i love when moments of bliss strike. they come randomly and like you i have the urge to dance (and i often do!) over the weekend, i had some moments like this, making pancakes in the kitchen with my hubster and dancing to made up tunes in my head with a big goofy smile. :-)

Heidi the Hick said...

Yes please and thank you!

Awesome. Love it.

I felt that happiness yesterday when my horses were brushed (relatively) clean and I opened the pasture gate to let them out on the grass for the first time this year.

They started off at a trot, let off a very short crowhoppy gallop before settling down for some serious eating.

I felt so lucky to be a part of their lives, lucky to have a place for them to live, happy to know them. They were ecstatic about plain old grass and it rubbed off on me.

Taradharma said...

this happens to me a lot when I'm listening to music...i am easily transported to bliss and pure joy. I've been know to cry tears of joy while listening to any version of Cohen's Hallelujah, or any version of I Shall Be Released.

Tish Cohen said...

What a great question. Last weekend we were up north for our first weekend at the cottage. We had no furniture or real supplies up there yet, but Steve and I spent both days painting, cleaning, and running out to the hardware store while the boys climbed to the top of an abandoned ski hill and searched forest paths for deer poop. The first night we lay in bed listening to a wild storm and the waves crashing on the shore--we were unable to believe we were actually there, we literally giggled ourselves to sleep.

I was definitely happy all weekend, but didn't realize just how happy until we popped into a Walmart for something and as I passed the book racks I was hit with (just as Susan said) the return of "goals and expectations and agendas." I'd forgotten all that existed for a couple of days and had been busy just being and observing.

I, too, have much to learn.

Wonderful post, Patry. I love picturing you with that moist Cape air blowing in your window, surrounded by family.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post, beautiful as always and by the way you are very beautiful and not too thin at all :-). I feel that bliss often and though I can't recall the very last time, it happens mostly when I am running or putting my face in the fur of one of my animals :-).

Anonymous said...

The ease with which your moment of unreasonable happiness appeared speaks volumes to the experience itself. I don't know about you but my moments of unreasonable happiness often sneak up and surprise me when I least expect it. Sometimes even in the midst of great sadness.

Anonymous said...

Strange that you should ask this question patry, because during this week gone; when I gave in to my current state and said ok, I can't make myself get better, but I can live each moment and stop worrying, and most of all when I stopped taking medication prescribed and began to feel much better, more energy and my appetite came back. Then, I realised that the medication I'd been given was a precaution against infection, and I may not actually have needed it at all, but I'd done what I was told.. and the meds made me ill, when maybe I could have done what I needed, like listening to myself and not the docs.

And in those moments, since I stopped trying to will myself to be normal again, I have felt happier, freer, lighter, have more energy and a whacking appetite.

As I read your post, and thinking of the trap-door, it reminds me of the doors between worlds, like the one in Phillip Pullman's, His Dark Materials triology. Sort of like you are saying, we can access our world of contentment, bliss, when we are least aware that it's about to happen.

Wonderful to hear you again, I think you look darn good in that photo, I like your nose, it's got elegance and you have spanish looks.

wishing you more time through the trap-door, much hugs

Patry Francis said...

carleen: Changing leaves against a blue sky, and life feeling easy. Sounds like heaven.

sky: Thanks for the kind comments. They more than negate the unkind ones--though, i also feel as if I've aged more than my share in the past year--both in good, and not so good ways. I love your three moments of happiness. I can almost SEE the first, too. And knowing both of you, I can feel the third.

Robb: It seems as if it would be hard to escape bliss living where you do!

zhoen: I suppose it's not meant to stay open all the time. But as you say, knowing it's there is often enough to sustain us.

susan: I think l remember you saying at a conference that you often had breakthroughs in your writing while driving. Am I right? Bliss and writing inspiration all at once? I'd be in the car all the time!

katrina: "...large and small at once" Yes, that's how it feels, isn't it?

aimeepalooza: There really is something amazing about singing in the car--especially with other people.

laura: A lot of my happiness descends at home, too. As you say, just wandering around the house (talking to myself, at least in my case.)

robin: It's always bittersweet to leave a place we've
loved. But I love the affirming image of a spark of gladness that passes through the body. P.S. Thanks for the kind words.

Ric: I can't think of anything that makes me happier than those moments you describe--when you get those wonderful flashes of insight that your children.

...more later.

Melanie Margaret said...

oh it looks like a beautiful day out for the party. Maggie turns four on Wednesday and I hope it is nice and sunny for her pinata to be hanging from a tree like that on Saturday!

I feel Joy more and more. I was just thinking today about how it is not something that you can bottle and take out, but you can expect it and then it comes more and more.
Wishing you more and more Joy and beautfiul days!

Anonymous said...

I think I'll forgo the existential question. I'm a hard sell when it comes to bliss, tho I know I've felt it. What I'm really thinking about in that post is what you said about your friend, and how focusing on her negative comment diminished you rather than bringing you the support you thought you might find or need. That's a deep, radical, useful insight. Also, that photo of you. Wow. You look so beautiful and alive. When I saw it, at first I thought, "oh, that must be a photo of her before she got sick." But no. That's you just a day ago. Pale? Thin? Wan? No way.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

"...the country behind the secret door"
Oh yes Patry! I've been through that door and back out again many times. For me, love or music or the act of painting can make it happen but as you said, sometimes it's for no tangible reason. It's a lifetime search to get back in there and I think it's what drives most creative people. If I ask myself "Why *don't* I feel that joy more often?" my answer has to be: because I'm focusing elsewhere.
You have expressed so beautifully and clearly an essential truth. Thank you.

rdl said...

Happy Birthday Hank!! and you look particularly stunning in that photo i might add!

MB said...

There is a difference to me between "regular" happy moments and the almost luminous sense of bliss you describe. Those moments of bliss are a little more elusive. For me they often have to do with light, wind, color, music, but also to do with feeling connected and very much in the present moment. They can happen with others or alone. I realize that's a very vague description -- if I could say more precisely, perhaps I'd be able to conjure them up on command. But I can't. They remain occasional gifts that arrive of their own accord, sometimes even in the midst of tough situations. I'm glad they are happening more frequently for you, Patry.

Unknown said...

Well said. The moments are preserved by sharing them, expanded. We all benefit from your exultation, and hopefully go on to share ours with others.

Patry Francis said...

Amy: Warm and well-fed and surrounded by your beloved few: sounds like my definition of bliss, too. Yes, it is sometimes so simple.

theelementary: Yes, to piles of books, just waiting for you to open them! There's not much that makes me happier than that.

p.v.: I think I remember photos from the Isle of Wight Festival on your blog. Clearly the song was prescient. You ARE a lucky man.

Amber: I like it when you say that sadness, when it comes, reminds you it's not your usual state. However, there are some things worth being sad about, and to react to them otherwise would mean being less than fully human. Does that make any sense?

Delia: I'm so glad (and inspired) to know you were in that cafe writing, observing the heart shaped leaves, and being gifted with encouragement and hot mugs of chai. I can't wait to read your book either!

larramie: I'm glad to hear I will have someone to discuss The Gargoyle with when I'm finished. I have a feeling I'm going to need it.

--I would like to say more, but I'm trying to start a new habit of "getting up early" (which these days would mean sometime before noon) so I'm going to *try* to go to bed now.

Fred Garber said...

The last time I felt bliss was when I read this post! Before that it was when I had for first sip of espresso this morning. Before that it was all those connected ordinary moments....Patry it is hard to remember these moments...when you are checking the oil in the engine and the light hits the oil just right...when you go to early evening mass and the priest holds the host over the cup of wine and a reflection of light over the wine creates an image of a flame on the host and the woman next to me gasps as if in the presence of a miracle....all these moments...all miracles...all of it bliss

Anonymous said...

Careful, or reasonless happiness might become a habit. It's addictive. :)

It's as you said: this was just a free gift, and I don't think you should analyze it, just enjoy it and the memory and the knowledge that you can in fact get here.

But happiness is like humor.

There's a great Gary Larson cartoon called "Analyzing Humor." I hate to describe it to you, because that will kind of kill it for you if you haven't seen it already, but I can't find it online. So...sorry...but basically it shows a classroom, like a science classroom, and there's a guy in a white coat up at the blackboard with a drawing of a clown and a bunch of notes on different aspects of the clown, and it's clear that he is very involved in explaining it all to the class.

On the back of the teacher's white coat, someone has pasted a sign that says "Kick me!"

Happiness is kind of like that. No textbook applies. No lecture can give it to you. It's just this wonderful thing that exists, that you can just have.

I suspect it IS our natural state and that all this other stuff just obscures it. But I'm going to take my own advice and shut up about it. ;)

Meanwhile, I'm happy for you.

julochka said...

wow, i just found your blog. what a wonderful posting on a moment of perfect happiness! i'll carry my own musings on happiness through the rest of this day! thank you!

Anonymous said...

What a gift you have for making me stop, think and then go out and live my life with joy. You are a bright light Patry.

Lisa said...

I know that feeling and I have a vague recollection that it usually comes to me when I'm still and maybe outdoors. That I can't remember the last time I felt that way is a wake up call to me that I need to make something change. Thank you for that. And I agree with everyone else. That photo of you is stunning, just beautiful.

Kay Cooke said...

Ah Patry - that is worthy of an essay - or poem; more than what I can write here in the comment box anyway! Put it this way: I recognise what you are saying ... and find it hard put to think of the last time I experienced that feeling of 'oneness' with the universe. However through the days ahead I will keep trying to pinpoint some memory. When I do, then I might have something to write about. Until then, I will share your moment captured as always in your very readable, enjoyable and inimitable style. Wonderful.

Maryanne Stahl said...

thank you, again, for lifting me up first thing in the morning! I've just returned from a long weekend visiting my 19 month old grandson, and I can say that perfect happiness is watching his face.

as for the spontaneous joy you mention--for me, it has usually occurred in nature--looking at the moon, for example, when I can feel its energy wash through me, or the sea, or the sky through pine boughs. and it is fleeting, of course, as everything is transitory. everything. but something like it will come again. and again.

PS: you DO look beautiful. I guess joy suits you!

Maryanne Stahl said...

thank you, again, for lifting me up first thing in the morning! I've just returned from a long weekend visiting my 19 month old grandson, and I can say that perfect happiness is watching his face.

as for the spontaneous joy you mention--for me, it has usually occurred in nature--looking at the moon, for example, when I can feel its energy wash through me, or the sea, or the sky through pine boughs. and it is fleeting, of course, as everything is transitory. everything. but something like it will come again. and again.

PS: you DO look beautiful. I guess joy suits you!

Tish Cohen said...

Just wanted to tell you I keep clicking back on your blog just to see that photo of you that Emma? I've never seen you look more serene, more beautiful, or more natural. You look younger than ever to me. And your granddaughter looks just tickled to be wrapped up in you. Also, the photo of Hank - I love the intent expression on his face and the way his cousin is looking at him, watching his reaction to the cake. There's something about the expression on her face I find fascinating, but I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it's just her absolute acceptance of this new person in her life. Anyway, thanks for posting these, I've spent much time staring at them.

Anonymous said...

this is so beautiful! here's to more of those moments.

Taradharma said...

these kinds of moments come to me often while singing or listening to music. Finding the right harmony and going for it, and listening to how it resonates with the melody.

Your openess and big heart no doubt cultivate these moments for you -- and they will keep coming, be assured.

Lisa said...

Aha! I remembered. It was last July and I had just checked into the Shadowcliffe Lodge in Grand Lake, CO for a week long writers' retreat. I didn't know anyone and I went outside to sit on the huge wrap-around deck. I was looking out over Grand Lake and I realized I couldn't hear any road noise. I couldn't hear anything but the wind blowing through the leaves on the trees and the water rushing in the stream below. At that moment, everything was perfect.

i beati said...

It's in those little things really that the big joy resides.. sandy

Bill said...

Bliss caught under a hat wouldn't be the real thing.

sky full of stars
just for a moment
it is about me

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

I'm much older than you are, but these feelings of utter happiness, almost euphoria, come more often than when I was young. But, I know that these moments of nirvana come and go. But at least they come. Kathryn's post sent me here.

Anonymous said...

Happy first birthday to Aaron - what an adorable birthday boy - and his buddies are pretty cute too.
I love hearing (and seeing) about your moments of happiness. It's one of those elusive things, like the butterfly of love :) - but when it happens it is so sweet. In answer to your existential question - tonight, as we finished dinner - which wasn't anything special, sloppy joe's at home...we'd been taste-testing the difference between a regular version and a veggie version, laughing at one another's reactions...As we started to clear the table there was something about the light from the sun setting, and hearing a the birds calling one another back to the trees in the quiet (we didn't have music on for once), and there it was...
Was it as simple as the slant of the sunlight, hearing the birds in the quiet after the noise, gratitude for the food and the laughter? I don't know...but I'm glad for it - and I'm very glad you've been experiencing it. Hope it happens, more and more often...

Lorna said...

happy? right now---to see you looking smashing and to find another thought-provoking piece. Apart from that, "Nesssum Dorma", any one of my 3 grand-daughters, coming unexpectedly on Dave or one of my kids on a downtown street, finding forgotten photos of my mum and dad, the first time I could get my grey hair into a braid, the evening I heard a trumpet solo in a ruined church. I wish I could anticipate spiritual, God-related happiness, unreasonable or perfectly reasonable.

Anonymous said...

When I dance, I feel happy. :)

This beautiful sentence of yours made me cry (in a good way): "Maybe I'd left the shallow, mundane world I usually occupy and fallen through a trap door to the place where being in love is quite simply our natural state." Thank you for this!

Wow, Hank is already a 1 year old?!? Babies grow so quickly.

I hope you have a wonderful mother's day, Patry! :)

Anonymous said...

I couldn't sleep and just came back by to peek in - I feel so silly, but I have to correct my earlier coment - apparently some miscommunication went on the other day, between my fingers and my brain - and 'Hank' became 'Aaron' - which I realize now looking at it - the two names are probably filed away together in my memory bank, because of the baseball player. Thought I'd share my thought process (or lack thereof) with you, in hopes it would bring you a smile. Hope your grandson had a happy birthday - from the wonderful photos, it certainly looks like it was fun. Wishing you happiness and bliss and wonderful Mother's Day weekend~xox

Sustenance Scout said...

Late to the party but so happy to be here, Patry! I used to capture those moments in poetry and recently am feeling the need to return to that familiar old habit. Not surprising you're the one to guide me back. Happy birthday hugs to Hank from Denver! And yes, you look stunning. I'm reminded of the NYC photo of you outside Tiffany's. "Happiness becomes you," a friend once told me; it becomes you, too!

Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

Oh, what a beautiful post! Those moments of pure joy over nothing are precious, and they come when you least expect it, triggered for no cannot be forced.

You look fantastic, I'm so glad to see you!

Laura (and Fred sends his best too!)

Anonymous said...

I think these moments come upon us spontaneously and unexpectedly.

I was recently up in Maine, taking care of ill relatives, and I badly needed a break. So I went up to the lake and just "was". I just sat there, looking out at the water, listening to the birds sing and the trees whisper and suddenly, in spite of everything . . .I was happy.

It was a quiet happy, not that moment of exuberance you describe, but it was happy.

The last time I felt that sort of exuberant joy was in Iceland last year. Standing in the middle of the vastness, and I was just . . .joyful.

We can't be there all the time, but boy, when we do, we photograph those moments with our hearts, don't we?

DivaJood said...

Found you by way of Robin Andrea and Roger. This is a wonderful question, because it begs another - how do we remember that moment of absolute happiness?

Joy is the natural response to beauty, but is joy happiness? Contentment is another emotion that is similar to happiness - but not quite the same. I know that when I am sitting with my 3 year old granddaughter, reading, and snuggling, I feel absolutely right with the world. Is that happy?

Perhaps it is all part of the same. I think, most of the time, I am happy. I am much more aware of the times I am NOT happy, like today - on edge and restless. But in balance, I have these periods of restlessness, irritability and discontent far less than the feelings of joy, contentment, and, yes, happiness.

Anonymous said...

I think it was an instance of all being right with the world.

I had a similar experience not long ago. Although, mine was even more fleeting. I was meditating on a passage I use often by Lao Tzu. The last lines go: "They begin to fill with the Tao. The Tao endures forever. Those who have it never lose it, even when their bodies die."

For a a few moments, I heard those lines in a whole body way, like I had never heard them before, and I think I considered that it was true. We can never lose what we truly have, those things more valuable than materials.

I think you look great. Within a week's time I will be the grandmother of a new baby boy too.

steve on the slow train said...

Party, I can only agree with the other commenters on the beauty of this post. the line that really strikes me is, "In that passage, a young debut author had managed to accomplish the highest thing a writer can hope to do, at least for this reader: open the trap door, and reveal the goodness and the love we are meant for." It is one of the truest sentences I've ever read.

Almost any feeling of bliss I've had involves my wife, Kathleen. The last time was when I watched her sleeping.

Beryl Singleton Bissell said...

How wondrously you've shared this moment of indescribable exalted happiness. Perhaps (no, certainly) you touched God's presence at that moment.

My most recent such experience was while gazing upwards at the great sequoias. Almost like hearing a Bach cantata. Wanting to fall on my knees and expire.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about you a lot -- and hearing that this is one thing you've been feeling, and seeing these photos, made me so happy. There were times after my cancer diagnosis when I felt like life was so beautiful, and its beauty so clear, that I almost couldn't bear it. And that, I think, was a kind of happiness I'd never expected to feel.

xo, Lily

Cara said...

The last time I felt genuine, unabandoned happiness? Just a week or so ago, biking. I wrote about it on my blog in this entry:

Liquid said...


i beati said...

great pictures sandy

Moby Dick said...

Sometimes (maybe all the time), the best solution is to just let it go!!

S L Cunningham said...


Enjoyed this very much. Happiness sometimes sneaks up on us, especially when we've had to contend with the kind of circumstances we are sometimes faced with in our daily lives. When we let go of being worried, and accept being in the moment of whatever it is that we are doing, that sense of euphoria that we experience almost seems like a gift. Maybe it wasn't any particular passage in the book you were reading that triggered the experience you felt. Maybe it was because you were simply enjoying yourself with a good book in the moment of reading.
Wishing you well,


Unknown said...

Firstly, you have a grandson? I had you pegged at 35 ish. You must have started YOUNG!
Secondly, happiness hits me in waves. Sometimes it is a little detail, such as a personal insight that finally dawns on me, to the epiphany in the night that wakes me up out of a dead sleep. Other times, the opposite, which I dread, extreme UN-happiness can hit for no reason, and a tear will come to my eye for naught. I don't know, as humans we are here to feel the contrasts of everyday life, the joys, sorrows, ups, downs. I guess that is why Buddhists strive for the Middle Way. No up, no down, no joy, no sorrow. Just an even keel.

I think I like the ups and downs myself.
I hope you are feeling well, and never try to catch that fleeting happiness...just be open to the next wave lest you should miss it trying to catch what's gone.


Kim Antieau said...

I love your blog. Thank you for your great words! Sometimes I "have it," too, and I always think it's going to last. Perhaps one day it will! Take care. Kim

Victoria Cummings said...

I loved reading this. I think it takes the opposite side of this coin to make us really appreciate these moments when they occur. An Indonesian friend of mine once told me that they have a saying: 'On the other side of pain, is hope."

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Anonymous said...

5 minsback i felt it and wanted to know the reason.. surfing for the cause i came across this passage :)
In my case, i think it comes because i saw a bleak ray of hope and something going my way in these stringent and hectic times.