Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Good (Enough) Life

Today I got up early and took myself to the library as a special treat. On the way, I listened to my hand-picked happyish songs, and mused, as I am wont to do. Some lyrics that stood out, from Natasha Beddingfield's song Happy:

Got my dreams, got my life, got my love
Got my friends got the sunshine above
Why am I making this hard on myself
When there’s so many beautiful reasons I have to be happy

At the library I picked out the book Learning from the Heart, by His Wiseness Dan Gottlieb, Philly's favorite therapist-author-columnist-radio personality-quadriplegic. One section that stood out is about wanting. How we human beans are so good at it - the arrival fallacy, the belief that if we can just bark up the right tree then finally...fill in the blank. Finally we will be OK, be secure, be happy, etc.

And of course, sometimes we get what we want, and sometimes (often) we don't. And even when we do, sneakily, the wanting doesn't go away. It just affixes itself to something new, like a virus settling into a new host.

Dan Gottlieb is very mature and zen-like on this topic, and doesn't come up with a tidy take-home point with respect to our wantyness. He basically just says, yup, we often want things, sometimes really badly. Comes with the territory. And with desire frequently comes disappointment, and you're still there, and then what?

He encourages us to loosen our grasp a little bit. And that's where I'm trying, with reasonable success, today, to be.

It goes deeper than just counting your blessings, although whenever I do get around to it the results are always encouraging. It includes, but is not limited to, appreciation for a roof and regular meals and enough money to live on and loved ones intact for now. It also includes accepting that your life, today, is not different than it is. It's not what it was at some point in the past, and it's not the way it might be if all your wants were satisfied, it just is the way it is right now. These are the materials you have to work with... so let's see what you can create.

So if there is some philosophy of happyish, which I'm not sure there is, I think it includes the good (enough) life. An outlook that acknowledges wanting and wishing and desire that may or may not be vanquished with Siddhartha-like discipline; as well as how much you already have that, if you didn't have it, you would want. You can say thank you, or not; you can appreciate it, or not; you can enjoy it, or not. But if you are at a party, and they're serving hors d'oeuvres that you like reasonably well, why not eat up, instead of hoping for a different kind of party that may or may not materialize and may or may not, in fact, be better or even exist?

And for that matter, why aren't you out there on the dance floor?


schoolmarmalade said...

The theme of inner resilience was gratitude. I realized that, in a sense, gratitude = happiness.

I agree with you: make the most of what you have.

Oscar said...

"Wantyness"!! God, I love it!

And, by the way, you might want to think "loved ones INTACT" not "loved ones intact FOR NOW." You know, good enough!