I have been pondering this question and am interested in hearing from my readers: If you had to describe what you want from life without using the word happiness, what words would you use to describe a life well-lived?
“Our culture is steeped in a kind of pop psychology whose obsessive question is: Are you happy?” – Rebecca Solnit, from the book, The Mother of All Questions
I started reading Rebecca Solnit’s book, The Mother of All Questions, and came across the above sentence in quotes. It was as if a switch was turned on in my brain and I experienced one brief moment of clarify.
“Happiness is often described as the result of having many ducks lined up in a row — spouse, offspring, private property…” – R. Solnit
Aside from being out of work, life has been good for me lately, according to this formula of happiness. Yet I know life can change, and I have this tendency to think about what happens if one of the ingredients for this one-dimensional definition of happiness is lost. Especially for women, who have historically been forced into a very narrow existence where their version of happiness is meant to be derived solely from another’s identity.
“The problem may be a literary one: we are given a single story line about what makes life good.”- R. Solnit
We all know that there are plenty of people out there who have all the outward appearances of the “good life”, and yet they seem to be miserable, or spiraling out of control in a vicious cycle of self sabotage. The unraveling of this formula for happiness happens more frequently and easily than one might expect and is rooted in a dissatisfaction with the one-dimensional definition of what makes life good. Deep within oneself is the awareness that this one short life we are given is much more complex than outward symbols of happiness.
“There are entirely different criteria for a good life that might matter more to a person – loving and being loved or having satisfaction, honor, meaning, depth, engagement, hope.” R. Solnit
Living life according to my own set of principles and values, having compassion and concern for future generations, and caring about more than my own small dot on this planet is what I strive for in my short time on earth.