To feel true happiness, one must also be prepared to consider the rest of the emotional spectrum. Only then can we define what happiness is and be present enough in the moments that we actually feel it—to appreciate it. A great bowl of pasta is only as good as its comparison to other meals that may have missed the mark because the intention of the pride of it is missing. Then it's just empty carbs.
Moments of happiness are, in fact, earned gifts of contentment. These full "rapture" moments are rewards for being vulnerable enough to accept the full human experience in all its layers and complexities. Striving exclusively for superficial happiness is a bit like expecting a sexual orgasm every time you have sex. You hope you have one when you're engaged, but it doesn't always happen. Yet, to not feel the joy of intimacy if it doesn't include it means that the true layers of the physical experience will always be elusive.
For me…happiness is a fulfillment of earned answers. It’s that feeling that I’m doing the very best I can and knowing it to be true. It’s those moments when I’m not dodging; I’m not pretending, and I’m not in denial of anything. It’s an earned awareness that I’m open to feeling the entirety of what being human is--- the hardest journey known to humankind.
Happiness is not and cannot be a sustained state. It can be an affirming crescendo, a moment where empathy, humility, and grace come together in those rare moments that move us, lift us out of our messy human individually and into a momentary state where we understand that we are all, in fact, connected. It’s that rare moment when we, for a split second, drop our drama, our ambition, our egos and transcend the confines and the mortal web that is the social behavior trap we collectively have built and perpetuate.
Like a great dish of pasta, happiness is sensational (if not euphoric) now and then. However, as a steady diet, it quickly grows tiresome. Like carb-overload happiness can become unhealthful if not addictive. Suddenly the special thing it once was--loses its “treat-factor”. The more we force to sustain it, the more guilt we eventually feel. More guilt leads to self-incrimination, then to resentment and finally self-recrimination.
Perhaps it’s the most complex state of “Joy,” that better serves us. Joy in knowing we are destined to fail but the odds of excelling are just as plausible too. Joy is the ability to learn how to do things well no matter how seemingly mundane. Joy is the ability to be grateful at all times because gratitude allows us to prioritize better the short moments we exist here, putting “meaning” at the top of the list.
“Joy” is the ability to understand that life is a journey, not a competition. It’s the capacity to re-think ‘chore’ by employing our natural creativity to take what might be considered beneath us or mundane and elevating it to an act of creativity.
A great pasta is not only in the taste. It's in the rows basil picked in the hot sun. It's the tomatoes ripened just right. It's in giving the sauce the proper time and patience it deserves to mellow in its complexity. Only then, for one brief moment, in the company of friends with happiness emanate…is it ready to be shared. It’s one, disproportional moment, where only you can truly appreciate that the plate of pasta they will consume in a matter of delicious moments, took an entire summer of toil to get there, does fleeting happiness reward the sustainable joy.