Today we’re going to talk about lifetime happiness. What comes to your mind?
When we are young we make two major decisions – choosing a career and choosing a spouse. I just found out lately that here in America there’s another crucial decision before those two – to stay or to go, i.e. move to a big city or stay in my small town; or, move to another big city or stay in my own. The moving does affect the other two decisions very much – career and spouse. Often, a high school sweetheart is left behind or leaves. Rarely, both lovers leave together. Somebody might move to New York to be a runway model, another to Silicon Valley to be a start-up nerd, and yet another to Nashville to be a country musician. Along the way, they meet a fellow model, nerd or musician, or a manager/agent who turns out to be their soulmate. Others go back to their hometown to marry their high school sweetheart and make the new place their home. Eventually, they all live happily forever after. However, for many of us, it’s much more complicated and long-winded than that. Will your story fill a whole book, chapter or paragraph? I guess it all depends on how elusive that dream of lifetime happiness turns out to be for us. Most of the time we don’t really have happiness in all three areas – marriage, career and place of choice. Some people stay single or marry but get divorced; some go back to school and change careers or just totally dump a well-carved out career for a passion or dream that had always been eating them on the inside; and still others move to the countryside to raise a family far from the bustle and decadence of the city. Sometimes we get all three in our basket. We get a happy marriage or blissful singlehood, a successful and gratifying career and our dream home in the best place in the world, if such a place exists. For many of us, though, we only get two out of three, or one out of three, or zero out of three. Still happy? Some people may be unhappily divorced, single or married, but they have meaningful careers that give them so much happiness and fulfillment and they are able to contribute much to society and are thus, honored and much at home where they live. Some people never marry and are unhappy about it, or marry but get divorced, fail in all the business endeavors they pursue but somehow scrape by, but they love their city, their community and they are happy and contented with life. Some people fail in marriage or are unhappy with their singlehood, fail in school and career, are living on the dole or buried in debt, maybe living in the streets of a city they don’t even like or care about. Still happy?
How about the other sources of happiness that we don’t really think about when we are young? As youngsters we never think of these things; we just believe they will fall into place from the sky, simply because we are young and inexperienced. I am talking about things we take for granted – our health, having kids and length of life. We just believe we will have those things, why wouldn’t we? So, when later on in life we start having failing health, problematic or handicapped kids, or can’t even have kids or we have the sudden departure of a loved one, or have “early retirement” ourselves because of unforeseen circumstances, would we still be happy?
If you would rank your first three sources of lifetime happiness what would they be? We always mention family, finances, career, health, friends and community, recreation, travel, etc. Did I miss anything? Let us say we consider family, finances/career and health are our first three sources of lifetime happiness. So, if we lose our spouse through death or divorce would that be the end of the world for us? If our business folded up leaving us bankrupt or our company terminates us with just enough cash for three months and nothing beyond, would that do us in? If we hate our job so much but family demands cannot allow us to pursue an interest or passion that makes life meaningful for us, would that slowly kill us? If we or our spouse or kid fall debilitatingly or psychologically ill, or we move out of our loving and supportive community, would that send us into depression (that’s another debilitating illness)? These are things we usually don’t think about when we just graduated from high school, right? Or maybe we saw it in our family a lot while growing up such that by the time we finished school and have a job, we dawdle here and there, mope around and just refuse to move on and make crucial decisions that incur taking responsibility, because we already had too much pain growing up and are just too pessimistic and cowed about life ahead? What if we grew up in a dysfunctional home where there were drug and alcohol abuse, there was divorce or death in the family, there was poverty, there was a long-term serious illness of a loved one, there was rejection from family, friends and community? What if that was the only world we knew and we thought that was normal? What if on top of those we have to flee our country because of social, political or economic upheavals? What if we took drugs or alcohol for breakfast, were sexually or physically abused by a parent’s lover as a kid, were in the streets at fourteen, never knew real friends or family who cared, dropped out of school and can’t hold on to a job? What would our concept of happiness be like? Would we still be able to dream? I know many who do and have succeeded in reaching their dreams but I know there are many more who can’t, or did, but hardly got out of their nightmare.
So, what is lifetime happiness? Is that even real? If it eludes us do we have hope? I believe, no matter what background we come from, or in what stage of life we may be, we are still able to find happiness, at least in the small and momentary things in life, even if the lifetime happiness seems to keep evading us. Again, I believe God gives us refreshing moments of happiness just as He makes the sun shine and the rain fall on both the sinner and the righteous, don’t you think? I’m sure even for the homeless man sleeping in the streets, a simple kindness like a warm meal, a smile, a little cash, or even dope, would make him happy – momentarily happy, eh? (Now don’t get me wrong, I am not encouraging you to give weed to the homeless person you pass by every day.) Or, we may have lost all hope, have become cynical and unbelieving, such that even an offer of a hot drink on a cold, dark night would send shivers down our spine because we have been let down too many times in life or duped by a tad too many people!
So, what can we do to prevent ourselves from failing at all the avenues of lifetime happiness? How do we make sure we don’t make the wrong choices on the major decisions? How do we make sure we choose the right career path so we get both financial success and personal fulfillment? How do we choose the right partner who would end up as our “love-of-my-life”? How do we make sure we end up living in the place we love, or at least a place we don’t hate? How do we make sure we end up having children or not having any (as our preference may be) and raise them up the right way so we don’t end up with problems? How do we reduce the risk of having serious illnesses, accidents, or mental breakdowns, for ourselves and for our family members? So many things to think about. Just thinking about them already brings stress and takes away the happy feeling of reading this blog? *Smile!*
If you are still young, you must have heard it all; if you are old like me you must have already made all the right or wrong moves. For career, some of us may choose (or have chosen) the line we are interested in doing, no matter what the financial returns, and despite the wisdom and concerns of our elders. Most of us would pick the “easy” path by going along with the tide and listening to our parents, especially if they are the ones paying for the education. We take what the market demands and that which is not too far from our personal interests either. Hopefully, that would give us the edge when we look for a job after school and give the remuneration we expect so we can settle down with the one we love and start a family. Ooops, along the way we keep our eyes wide open for the right partner for life. They say the best place to find them is in school. Once you start working your social circle gets reduced to the few workmates you will have, the few friends who are still in town and are still single. Your opportunity to meet the right one shrinks tremendously! So, what do you do? Panic as soon as senior year rolls in and you still have no boyfriend/girlfriend or even just a date? Phew! Becoming an adult becomes really stressful, doesn’t it?
Let’s presume we find the right person and settle down soon after we find the job and raise the money for the wedding. How about finding the right place to live in? How do we pull off a winner on that? Most of the time we just live wherever the job is, right? Not many of us really have choices. Usually, the real choice is whether to live near the job or to commute a distance everyday. Usually, we prefer to live in a neighborhood where we like the environment, the community, the amenities, etc. Again, our choices can be limited by the rent or mortgage we can afford or if we need to be near elderly parents we need to look after. If we want to have children and involve extended family in raising them up, we would probably consider staying near those extended family, too. If we plan not to have children, that would be simpler. But if they come anyway, as children always have a way of coming, what do we do? Do we “terminate” them or give them away for adoption? I’m talking about babies here, er, humans, not pets, ok? These are things young people don’t think about too much when they are dating, are just having fun, or even just settling down. But they are part of the realities of life that affect the outcome of lifetime happiness! So many things to consider, hu? Ah, life!
Now we presume you married the love of your life, settled down with a good-paying job in a home you are able to pay for and in a place you love. Now you are raising a family, there are more mouths to feed, the maintenance costs go higher, life gets stressful. How do you manage the stress, pay the mortgage, keep your spouse happy and move ahead of everyone else in your career? You try to cut down the commute by moving closer to work or finding a similar job near home, you move to a cheaper house, get a smaller car, go to less social functions, date your spouse once a week and get a second degree online? Or you don’t do anything to cut down expenses because that’s “demeaning” and lowers your self-esteem but instead you get a second job, still work on the second degree, neglect the spouse and kids and keep driving on the fast lane? Or maybe you don’t get the second job but run up a debt instead. Before we know it, things, people and relationships start breaking down and, “Boom!” we know how the story ends. “Lifetime happiness” soon evaporates into thin air and then we improvise from there. It sounds too familiar too soon but that is really what it is!
So, where do we go wrong? Stress. We call it stress. We know it’s stress. And yet we let it happen. Why can we not live without stress? Why do we allow stress to steal away our lifetime happiness? Do we know how to deal with stress? I just Googled “how to counter stress” and I got 182 million results! Click here for the top on the list. Just check it out and see whether those ideas are really fool-proof. Are they even practical? Walk the dog as stress reliever? That sounds cute but having a dog in itself takes up a lot of time and effort. That’s like adding another baby to your already burgeoning brood. You don’t just walk it to relax, you’ve got to pick up its poop, bathe it, groom it, take it to the vet, not to mention having to stretch your budget as well. Manage stress with an exercise routine and more socialization? Those sound really fantastic. But how do you grow the time to do those and how long would it take before you drop out of those routines? The frustration of not being able to keep to your resolve may even add to your stress! Are we getting the picture, yet?
Maybe we need to address the real issue. Do you have enough money for the whole month ahead, the whole year ahead, your whole lifetime ahead, three lifetimes or more ahead? How much money in cash and/or assets do you need to make you feel like you are on top of things? Or, maybe the right question is, how badly do you need to be in control of things and circumstances around you? If you only have enough money for the next day’s expenses can you sleep soundly tonight? Or you need at least a year’s or month’s expenses to be in your bank account right now? Is money your security in life? Why or why not? If you are single it doesn’t matter too much. If you have a family to feed, clothe, shelter, and keep happy, it’s a totally different story.
So, how do we deal with the nemesis of lifetime happiness? That would be a good next topic, eh? Keep tuned-in to this space! Thanks again for dropping by and reading this far. I would love to hear feedback from you on this important topic of lifetime happiness. For the young ones, I pray you make the wisest decision at every milestone. For the rest of us who may still be struggling to find lifetime happiness may we find Hope (and Joy!) as we face the staggering outcomes of our decisions and circumstances (some people call it Fate). For those of us who have more years we know that lifetime happiness doesn’t just depend on our choices alone. It also depends on the cards we are dealt with and the choices of people around us. That’s why some people say, “Life is a gamble. You win some, you lose some.” Or, “I may lose the battle but I will still win the war.” Hopefully, we will look for Happiness, Hope and Joy in the right places. I do pray you find “Pure Joy Land” is one of those places. May we all have a happy and restful weekend and God bless us all! Cheers!
If you wish to cite this blog, the citation is as follows: PureJoyLand. (2015, Oct. 30). Lifetime Happiness [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://purejoyland.com/2015/10/lifetime-happiness/