I don't think that we, as human beings, are equipped to recognize happiness: instead, we're hard-wired to strive for more, for better. Generally, it's not a bad trait, but sometimes, there are unintended consequences. Take antibiotics for example: 100 or so years ago, scientists were determined to figure out a way to fight infection, and now, because of their work, the world is a much safer place as a whole, and people live longer, healthier lives. Well, except for the whole antibiotic resistant bacteria thing.
I've spent the last two-plus years since my mom died trying and failing at figuring out how to be happy. Some days I feel as if I'm just not built for happiness. Other times I feel as if I'm a victim of circumstance. As with most things, the truth likely lies somewhere in-between.
By way of contrast, two years ago, my father made a point of saying that he was going to try to not be unhappy -- and, by all objective indications, it seems as if he's been quite successful. I think the end result of my quest for happiness is that I find myself even less happy than I was to begin with. And the end result of my father's quest to not be unhappy has yielded some sort of happiness.
It's not until RIGHT NOW that I've realized that the two things are distinct. Not unhappy is not precisely the same as happy: the Venn diagrams overlap somewhat, but the circles are not the same.
I have many things to be thankful for. I have a home, a car, a job, an education. I have more than enough in the way of material possessions. I have friends and family. But I still find myself looking at what I don't have and it tears me up. I don't have enough leisure time, or the money to do what I want whenever I want to do it. I don't have children. I somehow manage to surround myself with people who have an expert way of making me feel second-rate or second-choice or just not good enough. And, when push comes to shove, I'm not even sure that I have a person that I could really rely on to take care of me in case of emergency.
Am I wrong for wanting more than what I currently have?
Don't get me wrong: I am extremely grateful for my current situation. I like my clothes and shoes and CDs and DVDs and books; I like my condo and my car. But this is not happiness: things are not happiness. If push came to shove, I don't think there's much that I would fight to hang on to. It would be very easy for me to let go of things, people, and places and move on: there are so few things in my life that I am particularly tied to, and even less that is irreplaceable.
On a very basic level, I am a traveler. And not just for work -- which I do, a lot. Somewhere, in my personality, I have some kind of nomadic streak. At this point in my life, I've been a lot of places. Still, there is so much more out there for me to see, and I desperately want to get there, before it's too late. If I could, I would start tomorrow -- just get on the plane and go. The where doesn't even matter anymore.
It's the logistics that get in the way. I have a job, responsibilities. I have a mortgage. I have family, more or less. Still, other than my material possessions, what is anchoring me to any one place?
Maybe that's the solution to all of it: I should let go of things, get rid of the clutter that weighs me down and holds me in one place. Be ready to go on a moment's notice, whenever the whim strikes.