There's a kid who plays for Texas Tech's football team named Happiness Osunde. Unfortunately, he suffered a horrific injury against Baylor last night so his name is more than a little ironic at the moment. I was watching last night's game (Sic 'em Bears!) and I started to think about Happiness, the player initially and then the idea, while the television announcers were showing images of Happiness' knee folding gruesomely in the wrong direction.
How can you not be struck by a name like Happiness? I know nothing of his background, but my initial reaction, although I'm not sure I'd name one of my own children Happiness, is that it's a wonderful name. How many times do you say your child's name from the time he is born to the time you never say anything again? Even calling him to dinner is, although I'm sure at some point it becomes routine, a subliminal reminder of the joy his birth has brought into your life. Happiness the person, just like happiness the idea, is something that requires(d) nurturing and patience and practice. Maybe you didn't get it right on Monday, but there's always Tuesday. Maybe you didn't get it right in January, but there's always February. Maybe you didn't get it right in 2011, but there's always 2012.
I'm coming to grips with this after some recent and spectacular personal failures. Without getting into details, I've spent the better part of the last 10 years waiting for happiness. When this debt gets paid off....When I meet the right woman...When I find the right job...When I find the right city...When I lead a healthier lifestyle...When...
The tricky thing is, none of those things happen unless you commit to making them happen. The trickier thing is that none of those things happen unless you create a context in which they can happen. You can't commit to meeting your soulmate. What is that? You may as well commit to walking to the moon. A commitment to something as massive and intangible as that fails almost as soon as you've articulated it and then where are you left? You're left in the same spot you were right before you committed to it. Stuck. Waiting. Finally, after some alarming and painful wake up calls, "when" has become right now. Failures have become starting points from which I can commit to the thousand little things that eventually, after time and practice, add up to the idea of happiness. That's the hope anyway.
On a long run this morning in a cold rain I found myself smiling at nothing in particular. The run, in and of itself, wasn't that gratifying. I had stepped in a few too many puddles and the rain was picking up as the temperature was dropping. If I hadn't been running regularly for the last month or so, I would have been cold, wet, tired, and miserable. As it was, the work I'd put in on sunny days in the early fall had accumulated in the form a ludicrous, beaming smile on my face. I must have looked ridiculous to anyone who drove past me. It occurred to me that gratification and happiness are not the same thing and things I've been doing for the last 10 years that I have found gratifying have not gotten me one step closer to being happy. In fact, in many ways they've kept me waiting. Gratification is what you feel while you're doing something, but it stops as soon as that something stops.
I started to form a list in my mind of things that over time and with practice create a context in which I can nurture happiness. I'll spare you the details because I'm sure the list makes for boring reading. Promiscuous, booze fueled sex didn't make the cut. I'm not upset about that. This is going to take time and it's going to be hard, but finally, finally, finally.