“Actual happiness looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesquness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.” – Brave New World
I’m a romantic, for whatever reason. I’ve always believed that real happiness is a feeling in your chest and in your gut. The feeling that if bad things started happening to you, it wouldn’t matter, you could handle absolutely anything with a smile on your face. When a person goes through relational problems and it comes down to happiness of one, or both individuals, those individuals will be told, ‘you have to ‘happy’ on your own before you can be ‘happy’ with someone else’. I’ve heard those words spoken to me and I’ve spoke those words to other people. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it, you can’t rely on anyone else to make you happy because their agenda will always be make themselves happy first, after all everyone is being told the same thing. So that’s why you should make yourself happy, so you’re not relying on someone else to do it, because they don’t have your happiness in mind. That’s not so romantic.
When I first got married I can tell you I was absolutely not complete. I was not happy on my own. There’s no way I could have been. I was too young to know who I was and consequently unable to know what would make me happy. I used my wife to complete my happiness, for lots of different reasons; some good and some bad. Over the years as I’ve learned about myself I thought I understood happiness, but in the place I’m in right now, I have no idea if I learned what it was or not. Brave New World is one of my favourite novels. The quote I posted above is probably the most depressing quote about happiness that has ever existed for a romantic like me. But I’m not sure if Aldous Huxley is right or not. On first glance, he absolutely is. Compare what a couple feels after being married for 30 years to what they felt on the first date when they had to fight to impress their new potential partner. Or think of it like this: two people are at a party telling the story of how they got to be at the party. Person A was simply born here in Canada and works with the host of the party. Person B is a refugee, they fled a war in their home country and nearly was killed on several occasions, the host of the party works in a centre for new immigrants and that’s how they came to be at the party. Now this example has nothing to do with happiness but which one of the stories is interesting? Which person would you like to talk to more? Person A is not ‘grand’ just as Huxley suggests happiness isn’t. Person B has an interesting story. This produces problems for a romantic like me. The me that wants the ‘grand’, the ‘picturesque’, the ‘spectacular’, and the ‘glamour’. The me that also wants to be happy, but is not sure how to get it with along with everything else. Is this the definition of getting cake and eating it too? Am I cursed by a personality with goals that reality cannot facilitate?
Well this is going to be a cyclical argument but I refuse to believe that it’s impossible. That real happiness has to squalid. Because I’m a romantic. I have to believe that feeling in my chest and in my gut isn’t just because I have a good story to tell or because my life is overcoming some type of negativity. I want the happiness that includes the glamour, the grand, and the spectacular. I don’t want this happiness to be fleeting. I want to wake up every day filled up with this kind of happiness, and I want to understand that if it doesn’t happen, it’s my own fault. I control everything I do. At the same time, to some degree, I choose what makes me happy. And that makes life seem difficult. I put responsibility on myself to make myself as happy as I can be.
What happiness actually is can be hard to define. I can provide a list of small things that make me happy, certain activities or events where I get that happiness feeling. But do those things mean I am happy? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. And that’s what seems so elusive. That’s what is squalid according to Huxley. But what does that feel like? Do I have that and not even know it? Have I had that for a long time? Have I just gotten little tastes here and there? Did I have and it and lose it? Am I just too much into my own head and asking too many questions? I’m not really sure. Those are hard questions, they seem almost existential in the fact that if I was given an answer I would question how accurate it could be.
So I keep on living, really doing what ever I can, just to be. Trying my best to make the best out of each situation. Some of which I wish I wasn’t in at all because it feels like happiness wouldn’t have to be so complicated. But I put myself into all the situations I’m in. I’ve compensated for misery, I’ve chosen instability, I’ve fought misfortune, I’ve struggled with temptation, and I’ve been overthrown with passion. Here I am still questioning happiness.