Tell me again, please, what happiness is? I think pure happiness is “the absence of pain, plus a feeling of excitement or a sense of wonder!” “Pain” can be anything from physical to psychological and emotional pain, and everything in between. What d’ya think? As I said in my previous blog, “What is Happiness?” (8/20/15), even when everything is going well for us, life is just “boring” unless there is excitement, an extra zing, or a sense of wonder that goes with it. Now, we can work really hard to keep the pain away and make all things go well for us but only God can create that moment of surprise and excitement or wonder in our dull existence, right? So there, we leave the excitement and wonder factor to God and then we work on whatever we can work on.
Physical pain can be a real letdown. But thank God we have doctors, medicine, therapists, rehab specialists, masseuse, anesthesiologists, etc. But when all those fail, where shall we turn to? How about psychological and emotional pain? Pain that comes from the loss of a loved one, the loss of a way of life (sudden relocation to another city or country), loss of friends, loss of a livelihood, loss of a pet, loss of a valuable property or item with great sentimental value, etc. Or it could be pain from having to relate with a psychotic partner, an abusive father, an alcoholic mother, or living with stepparents and stepsiblings you don’t like. How about stress? I guess that falls under psychological pain? A stressful job situation – picture being the cashier at a constantly busy drive-in or a nurse in ER, being under a slave-driving boss, etc. Or working abroad, far from your family, having to support a wife and kids who live back in your home country. Or being an illegal immigrant, being constantly in fear that the police might notice. We can think of countless scenarios that bring anxiety, fear, loneliness, despair and brokenness that cause psychological and emotional pain!
The reality of life is that we can never run away from pain as long as we are alive here on earth. Whether it’s an illness, accident, financial lack, loneliness, dysfunctional family or stress at work or school; for as long as we are on earth we will have problems. Do you ever wonder why? Well, let’s leave it at that for the moment but let us agree on another thing: Even when we have pain or a problematic situation going on in our life we can still feel happiness, if the level of pleasure caused by something or someone is high enough to relegate or obliterate the pain and/or problem to our subconsciousness. Like, when a parent is dying of cancer and his / her child suddenly decides to speed up his/her marriage plans so the parent can still be around when he/she ties the knot. That parent may be in pain, in great discomfort and sadness, but a happy occasion like a wedding would definitely make him / her perk up, even just for a while, don’t you think so? Plus, the thought that his/her child is going to be “settled” before he/she passes on gives him/her that peace of mind and satisfaction that causes some happiness, too, despite the pain and despair from the illness. So, thank God, despite the earthly sufferings we go through, there are still pleasures on earth that can somehow make us feel happiness, albeit, not “pure happiness.”
The interesting thing is, happy people tend to fall sick less and also recuperate faster when they are ill. That’s the reason we visit the infirmed and bring them flowers! Critically ill people also do better when more family and friends visit often – to bring encouragement, to offer prayers, even bring the family pet – than those who hardly get any visitors. It’s a fact. Happy hormones like serotonin, dopamine and endorphins bring our immune system up and being with people triggers those hormones; er, only the “positive” people in your life, of course.
When I was younger I did not think why there is so much pain or problems in this world. But I did think about how to end illness or something idealistic like that. You know, when you are young, you dream big and limitless! Just as what young people should do! I once thought that if only we eat well – having a healthy balanced diet – we should not fall sick with anything. I once dreamed of being in a job where I can help grow healthy food, process and transport it so it would remain edible for as long as possible, at the lowest cost possible, and that should take care of the most pressing problem at that time – World Hunger!
I was born in the ‘60s and as I was growing up the main problem was really feeding hungry masses in highly-populated and low-food-producing countries. But as I approached middle age the problem was no longer just feeding the masses but feeding them with the freshest, least processed, chemically uncontaminated, healthy food. Foods high in sugar and/or salt, or high in calories but low in nutrients, were identified as the culprits of illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer. Incidentally, our present-day society is still beset with these three biggest medical problems – heart disease, diabetes and cancer – and yes, we’re still dealing with the same causes – high-calorie, high-sugar and/or high-salt and low-nutrient food. We have even complicated it by using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, and they turned out to be more harmful than sugar! Actually, it’s not just our diet. It’s also our lifestyle – too little sleep and too much stress exacerbate the effects of poor diet. I once thought that if only we all eat right, doctors will lose their jobs.
My parents wanted me to be a doctor but I do not like the hospital environment, nor the sight of blood, so, no, I wasn’t meant to be in the medical field. But then again, what do we do with accidents and infectious diseases like HIV, bird flu, swine flu, Coxsackie or Ebola? We did not have those when I was growing up, we only had cholera and malaria. Anyway, no, we can’t do away with doctors. Also, mental illness has become very common and it has lost its stigma – unlike when I was young – but so have divorce, remarriage and blended families, in fact, even same-sex marriage! Learning disabilities among children have tremendously increased overnight, too. Smoking, alcohol and/or drug consumption in pregnancy, oxygen deprivation in the womb or at the birth canal, are some of the causes cited; some people even blame it on immunizations. Some say autism comes from a “creased” placenta in the womb. But what causes the “creasing”? Obesity and other eating-disorder symptoms are also plaguing us. Our societies are evolving because of migrations due to wars, political upheavals, and religious persecution, and also other factors like the domination of technology and media over our lives. Our families and communities are disintegrating, and our diseases are mutating and morphing so that even first world countries with sophisticated technologies and well-organized health care systems are pushed to their limits.
If you are my age, looking back at better times can be very tempting. The truth is, being young and healthy, in themselves are sources of happiness. Some people say, “It’s never too late to pursue your dream.” Really? Not when you’re already sick, chronically tired or in pain, lonely, discouraged and down and out! No, being young, in itself, is a source of happiness. So, if you are still young and full of energy, don’t waste your life. Pursue your dream and seek the meaning and purpose of your life. Don’t wait until you are too devoid of energy to dream. Don’t get sidetracked by distractions – a love that did not work out, a father who abandoned you, a scholarship you lost because you couldn’t keep the grades up, etc. Don’t be defeated by the tides that buffet you. Keep striving, keep hoping. Even if you miss the mark, it won’t be too far below because you kept targeting a high goal. However, at the end of it all, after you went through all the pain and hard work, in fact, you may even get the success, but still, fail to find “happiness.” You ask me, is that possible? Well, happiness is not only an elusive thing, people can be very complicated, too. Once they achieve their dream, they find that life can be meaningless. They get to that place where they say, “There must be more to life than this!”
As for us who are already old, having aches and pains here and there, maybe even battling a debilitating illness, well, being aware of what happiness and sadness can do to us should help us cope with our situation, am I right? I guess it’s for this very reason I’m out here! There is hope for old and/or sick people, or even young but depressed folks out there, here in “Pure Joy Land”! Seek happiness and joy and pursue them for that is how we battle illness, pain, anxiety, claustrophobia and even being “antique”! Here’s hoping this has perked you up a bit for THAT would certainly cheer me up, too!
Now you must be wondering. Why is this blog titled, “Tell Me”? Well, do tell me a good title for this blog! You can suggest a whole new title or complete the phrase, “Happiness is _____________.” Drop me a line, ok? That’s the very reason why I’m out here today!
Reference cited: Belluck, Pamela. (2013, Apr 25). Study Ties Autism Risk to Creases in Placenta [Health News]. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/25/health/study-ties-autism-risk-to-creases-in-placenta.html
If you wish to cite this blog, the citation is as follows: PureJoyLand. (2015, Sept 22). Lifetime Happiness [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://purejoyland.com/2015/09/tell-me/