Home > My Blogs > Being Happy

Being Happy

Posted in: Blog by amy on February 18, 2013

While recently enjoying a cup of tea and reconnecting with a friend after 20 years of being out of one another’s lives, he asked me: “Are you happy?” Of course, this is not a surprising question to ask while in the process of catching up with one another after two decades have passed. Yet, it is not a question that we are asked too often as we hurry through our days, often surrounded by our friends and family who know us well. They might ask us how our day was, if we slept well, how our workout went, what the kids are doing, etc. That question about our state of happiness, however, is just not often posed to us.

So it made me pause.

Am I happy?

What a great question.

I like to think. I like to analyze. I like to review and learn from the past. I like to anticipate and plan for the future. I sometimes even like to stay up in the dark of night to think some more. So, one would assume that I would be ready to answer that question with a quick and certain reply. There have been many changes in my life and many loops and turns on my path, many of them made in the “pursuit of happiness.” Yet, now, that question stops me in my tracks … Am I happy?

Can YOU answer that question immediately? And, if so, what did you consider and include in your thought process? Did you think about your health, financial success, relationships with friends, love, children? Or, did you think about the overall peacefulness, joy and laughter that you experience or hope to experience on a daily basis?

My answer came after a 10-second pause (which seemed like 10 minutes). I replied with an unenthusiastic, unsure “I think so. Yeah, I’m happy.” Then, I started listing the aspects of my life for which I’m grateful. And, it all sounded wonderful. Yet, like I said, I like to explore and analyze. So, that question was not left on the table at Starbucks. It followed me into my car, then into my home and finally into my mind in the middle of the night.

What does it really mean to be happy? And, is there a formula that works for all of us? If one is in love, successful and healthy, is that person unequivocally happy? Not necessarily, of course. There are so many factors that affect our happiness. There could be a sick relative, unresolved issues from the past, pressure at work, anxiety about the future, drama with a friend … The list goes on and on.

That’s when I remembered something that my treasured adviser taught me when I went to her in tears one Christmas morning: I was so sad and felt so empty as I considered this morning on which so many people have the expectation of being happy. People are supposed to wake up surrounded by gifts and loved ones and hope and joy and boundless food and laughter. Yet all I could think about were the children waking up on Christmas morning who had been abused the night before. I thought about the homeless people cold and hungry. I thought about the spouses whose partners had died recently. I thought about the sadness and grief, and it overwhelmed me as I personally was surrounded by so much fortune and joy. There was a wave of guilt and an awareness of the disproportionate fortune in people’s lives that made me feel so heavy-hearted. Then, this wise woman pointed out the fact that I was applying MY definition of happiness to their feelings this Christmas morning. She suggested the theory that a homeless man going to a shelter and getting a warm Christmas meal might very well feel happy in that moment.

It’s challenging to see the world through others’ eyes. Yet that reality opened up my eyes and my mind and my heart. It made me realize that happiness is relative. A great example of this was brought to my attention years ago when I saw The Diary of Anne Frank at Steppenwolf Theater. As I watched the family hiding in an attic, with death and fear lurking beyond a small door, that concept of the relativity of happiness made me sit up and pay attention: In that moment, huddling together in the attic, they were happy. They were thankful to be together, and Anne’s abounding optimism filled the room.

Now, after much reflection, that question (“are you happy?”) seems a bit easier to answer. I have thought about what is important to me. I have considered what I value the most. I have remembered that much of happiness is relative and also in my control. So, yes, I can now say with confidence and conviction: I AM HAPPY.

And, when I am feeling unhappy, I have the power and freedom to shift my focus, to change my path, to reconsider my goals, to redistribute the weight of my priorities. There is joy to be found somewhere … there is a possibility of a brighter light ahead … there is happiness around me, which is within my grasp. So, choose happiness. Focus on happiness. And, know what it is that makes you happy. Then, when you’re asked that question about being happy you can reply with passion and conviction: “Yes!”

Share This Page

3 Responses to “Being Happy”

  1. Linda Jacobs says:


  2. Sue love says:


  3. Jennifer says:

    I have a quote in my house….it says, “We tend to seek Happiness when Happiness is actually a Choice.” I so agree!!!!

Leave a Reply


Close [x]

Newsletter Signup

Get my newest blog posts and book news sent to your email by signing up here:

Email Address

Thank you!
(And, for those who like a tidy inbox, no worries: I will only send updates about once a month.)