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  • Writer's pictureKhawla Shehadeh

Not Happily Ever After

Every human being wants to be happy. The American Declaration of Independence (4 July 1776) lists Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as undeniable rights of every human being. Every being wants to grow towards the light. It is the motivation for everything we do, isn't it? We go to great lengths to experience happiness in our lives. Each of us gives it our own interpretation in our lives, perhaps, but the intended goal is the same. One has a busy job, expensive car and maybe goes cycling 100 km every weekend and another has a part-time job, 2 cats and reads a book on the couch. We all make different choices. But what is being happy?

How reliable are we in determining what will bring us happiness? And why hasn't everything we have chosen so far made us happy ever after? We are striving for a goal that is not entirely clear what it is. What gives happiness and for how long can I expect to be happy with it before something else is needed to make me happy again? Today, it's this partner, this job, this house, a family, this car and tomorrow it might be another partner, job, house, car, etc. Not only does the feeling of happiness melt away like snow when we have a desire fulfilled, it can even backfire in the long run. What is or appears to be a source of happiness today can actually become another source of worry, stress, tension, pain, sadness and illness tomorrow. I remember losing 18kg after a crash diet, what an accomplishment, but I couldn't enjoy it at all as I fell into a (mild) depression due to a vitamin B deficiency. Or the time I was overjoyed that I had a new job after my studies only to find myself unhappy in the office in the first month because it turned out not to be what I expected.

Besides the fact that things can turn out differently than you thought, everything is constantly changing. As you get older, gain new insights and through life experience, you yourself are constantly changing. You react differently than you used to, you hold different principles, you interact with people differently, you make different choices, you have different goals, your tastes have changed (in clothes, food, ways of relaxing and entertaining, etc.). So what seems to bring happiness today is already obsolete tomorrow.

And oh dear if things don't work out for a while.Then you want to run even faster to be happy again. Especially in the West, it seems a taboo to not be happy. You have to hide that and rectify it as quickly as possible. This is how bad habits are born like smoking, drinking, over-eating, drugs etc. If you're having a down day, if you feel small and anxious in the big world, if you get cramped by your own and others' expectations, if you're sad for no reason, if you don't live in a perfect body, or if you can't always be extroverted or assertive, or simply don't know what you want, in this Hollywood-style notion of a makeable world, it's tantamount to failure. It can only be your own fault.

Finding happiness fast, that's where consumer society likes to help. All kinds of products that promise to bring you salvation. Like this tube of Rituals that promises "peace and tranquility in your life". By now, I have used a mountain of jars, tubes and bottles in my life without any significant or lasting results.

Between being happy and not happy lies the boundary of contentment. The fine line between having enough and not having enough. Contentment does not require much. In fact, you can be content in any moment, simply by being mindful of your breath or the moment you are living in. It is hard to describe what it is but it is so big and has such an impact on your peace of mind. It sounds so bland and tasteless "contentment" but it is anything but. On the contrary, it is powerful, all-encompassing and soothing. It is a release from my slave-like pursuit of always wanting more. But how does one obtain contentment?

My Buddhist master once gave me this tip: Think "I don't need this" more often. I don't need it, no, because I am already set. Ok, this doesn't apply to your basic needs obviously nor to things you really want to go for in your life, but maybe you can ask yourself more often, "Do I really need this to be happy/satisfied?" And very often the answer will be "no". What a peace of mind this gives. You don't have to run after it, you don't have to do anything for a while, you can just relax, that bring you directly to where you want to be.

Thanks for reading this blog, if you want to read more blogs, please check here.

Warm regards,

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