For my birthday last month, I took my girls downtown to spend some time together, enjoy the sunshine, and visit a cute little pet store that opened recently. They actually sell puppies at this place – a practice that has fallen out of favour thanks to the puppy mills that often supplied such shops – and people can pop in for a visit whenever you need to put a smile on your face.
The puppies are kept in baby cribs at the front of the store and go home with the store owners each night. When I walked in with my girls, we wasted no time scooping up each and every one of the jumping, tail-wagging, cuter-than-cute pups. Let me say that it was no easy feat to leave that store, particularly without a newly-bought puppy in tow.
I couldn’t really think of a better way to spend a birthday. With my daughters, cuddling adorable pups, breathing in that perfect puppy smell.
Was I happy in that moment? Sure I was. Was it a lasting happiness? Not really.
Our feature story this month on happiness vs meaningfulness got me thinking a bit more about it. Is life simply about perpetually chasing those fleeting moments of happiness that can be found by kissing pups at a pet store?
Society today seems almost obsessively driven in its pursuit of happy. We post our best shots on Instagram to prove we are happy; we listen to podcasts promising it; follow mompreneurs who claim to have found it; read magazines devoted to it (I didn’t even know Live Happy existed!); and even pray to God asking that he grant it. It makes sense that we’re all chasing some idea of happiness, but how is it actually manifest? Is there an agreed-upon idea of happiness? Can someone else’s idea of happiness work for you? Is it a never-ending endeavour? Can we ever be truly happy? How do we define happiness? How do we define meaningfulness?
The answers to some of these questions, of course, are nearly infinite. I know over the last year, while clawing my way through the aftermath of the end of my marriage, being happy often seemed elusive. Impossible even. I remember, in the few months immediately following our break-up, sitting on my bed weeping, telling myself – and fervently believing in those moments – that I would never, ever be happy again. That there was no way out of this. That I would never meet someone new (or even want to meet someone new) who could put a smile on my face. That my new life, my new reality, was simply sad. Lonely. Empty.
It was a dark place.
But it didn’t last forever.
And was it cuddling puppies that did it? Nope. It’s much deeper, of course. Volunteering did it. Strengthening relationships with friends and family did it. Relying on my church community did it. Eating good food did it. Meeting new people did it, and in those new connections, discovering that everyone has a painful story to tell.
And with that discovery came the realization that I am not alone.
Isn’t that what we all want? The feeling that we’re in this together? That someone has our back? That we’re part of a meaningful community? That you “get me” and I “get you.” That kind of connection creates a contentment and joy that isn’t fleeting. That sticks around on the darker days. That doesn’t crumble when things get tough.
While poking around online, I came across this lovely quote: “Happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”
Is happiness a puppy? Sure. For a moment. But there’s more to it than that.
Happiness is a life lived with others. Honestly. Truly. Authentically.
“Happiness is . . . .”
How would you finish that sentence? Write to us and let us know!
Have a wonderful, happy summer!
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