Well-intended / Creating a culture of contentment
Published 2:39 pm, Thursday, November 11, 2010
In high school, I was voted, "class day brightener." I marvel at this as in my adult life, I've become increasingly susceptible to the blues. I try to avoid sadness. (Don't we all?) But sometimes I slip into self-pity, doubt, worrying about things I can't control, and anxiety over the future.
Intellectually, I know this is silly. Studies about happiness cite statistics we understand intuitively. You can't buy happiness. In fact, once ones basic needs for food and shelter are met, income bears no influence on self-reported contentment. On a listless morning, I tend to stare in my closet and wish for a new dress. Yet, I've had new dresses before and they only help for a minute. It would seem prosperity and contentment are not directly related.
Other studies suggest that if we know someone who is happy, or even if friends of friends are content, we are more likely to be as well. Perhaps happiness is a habit. (Or all the happy people hang out together.)
There are people we all know who sustained horrible disappointments and yet maintain their hope. I admire them greatly. My grandfather was like that. He never had a negative thing to say. I never heard him raise his voice or heard him complain, though his life was washed with the usual tides of pain and joy. I long to be more like him. I am in no way discounting depression or the genuine darkness that clouds so many of our minds. But, the habit of happiness is something we tend to neglect.
A friend of mine, Saul, and I started a conversation several months ago about Facebook and how the culture of happiness is evident in our webs of digital friendship. I grew up in southern California but have lived adult life mostly on the east coast and consider myself a New Englander. I love the change of seasons and the quiet charm of our main streets and country roads. And I have acquired some New England stoicism as well. Saul and I noticed that the Facebook posts from our friends on the west coast were significantly cheerier than those of our New England neighbors.
One afternoon we compared posts. The following are posts originated from the east coast:
I just had lunch alone.
Out of energy and stamina. Guess I'll go to bed. How sad my life has become.
Is thankful it's after midnight, because yesterday was a ridiculous day, even considering how ridiculous days have been lately.
10 pages from finishing and maybe 6 pages away from losing it.
Ouch... I got shampoo in my eye. I hate when that happens... it is a bad... bad feeling.
Two days and counting till the hubby is traveling to England for a week -- God save my soul with these three little minions. Thank goodness for Grandma coming to visit.
Isn't curling just a fancy way of saying "Ice Bocce?"
Well, that was "interesting."
The TV is blaring, the computer is humming and my hand is holding a huge cup of coffee!
Is not feeling 100%.
And these are from the west:
To commemorate one month being vegan, Bret and are having a delicious dinner at the Loving Hut in Ladera Ranch. I feel great!
Thank you for the birthday wishes, I am grateful for every one of you in My life! Had a wonderful day.
Walk on the beach; taught a Yoga class, Chatting with friends, and dinner with family.... doesn't get much Better than that :)
Tonight was amazing! Everyone did an awesome job! I am so privileged to work with all of you!
On our way to whale watching on this gorgeous Sunday morning.
Feels blessed to have spent the day with my family today.
Just enjoyed a fantastic night at the Hard Rock Cafe in LA.
A day at Disneyland with my baby girl. Doesn't get much better than that.
It's Laker day! Go team!
Yum, yum, dim sum!
What an amazing day in Orange County workout done ready for a great Saturday.
While both coasts also posted several adorable pet pictures (I love those!), you can see that based on this anecdotal sampling there is a difference in the experiences and ideas we choose to communicate.
This morning, after dropping my son off at school, I discovered that he had artfully extruded an entire tube of Tartar Control Crest into the bathroom sink. This simple act of nine-year old hijinx inspired me to post a photo of the gooey mess on Facebook. I didn't mean it as a complaint, although sure, it was wasteful and would require a bit of cleaning-up. But it wasn't the nicest thing that's happened either. The following other things also occurred this morning: I baked a loaf of whole wheat bread for the first time since the weather changed to autumn and the house smells wonderful. My daughter is home as she was sick yesterday but is feeling a bit better. I was able to enjoy her lovely company as we each had a warm cup of tea. She has grown as tall as I am. The sky is gorgeous and the sun is bright. I woke early, still luxuriating in daylight saving's extra hour.
I don't want to be glib. I know that sometimes the little irritations of every day life such as finding a sink filled with minty fresh goop is actually kind of funny. And there are moments when we struggle and need to reach out for genuine support from our friends. I would like to practice optimism and attempt to enjoy the now of life. I guess, what I desire is to be genuine. I want to be compassionate enough to offer and accept help when needed, and wise enough to see beauty in challenge.