Happy now

October 3rd, 2007

two-scoops-sugar-cone“Momma, are you happy now?”
ā€“ A certain pipsqueak

Someday, I will write a book about happiness. Oh wait, I already did, in a roundabout way.

This week I’ve joined the chattering class, the quotable notables, who make their life’s work out of happiness. Three days and I’m nearly done. I don’t quite understand how anyone can make their life’s work out of it. I don’t know how you can make a project out of something that takes less than an instant. You can make a project out of writing a book. You can make a project out of writing about writing a book. But happiness itself takes no time at all because we possess it already.

But let’s clarify what we call happiness. Let’s get wise to it. Let’s discern the difference between pleasure, which is sensory and fleeting, like an ice cream cone, and happiness, which is our fundamental nature, like an ice cream factory. Let’s not confuse the double scoop, which is temporary, with its source, which operates 24/7. So let’s call the factory of happiness by a different name (choose any or all): joy, contentment, satisfaction, bliss. Put your name on it. It’s you.

You can make your life’s work out of finding pleasure (and we do). It takes up your whole life because pleasure doesn’t last, there’s never enough, it takes a lot of work, and I can guarantee it doesn’t satisfy. You keep running around, making lists, checking them twice, trying one thing and then the other to produce the feeling of pleasure. Now maybe this pleasure isn’t tied up in a fancy house or jet skis. Maybe it’s just the feeling of being “better” or “good enough.” What a terrific feeling! That doesn’t last either, and how I wish it did! This is not a contemporary problem. Remember how the founding fathers called it the “pursuit of happiness?” That’s what human life consists of. A pursuit of something rarely found and never kept, but still, we’d all prefer to be free to keep looking fruitlessly.

When you stop pursuing and settle where you are, when you smooth your brow and unclench your knuckles, when you give yourself a break from finding the next, next, next great thing, your lucky day, the open sesame, the magic flute, when your little one looks into your haunted eyes, your perpetual frown, and asks “Are you happy now?” all you have to do is say “Yes.”

Say yes.

And then you can all go out for ice cream and be happy six ways ’til Sunday.

Could it really be that simple? Tomorrow I’ll give you one more clue.

This is the third in a series of posts on happiness. If you haven’t read the first two, look here and here or just keep scrolling down.


  1. Yes! Yes! Yes!


    Thanks for participating. I thought it might be something that would put your fingers to the key.

    Comment by Shawn — October 3, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  2. I just read yesterday’s and I’m going to paste, “stop blaming the whipped cream” and “you are an ice cream factory” at various places all over my house.
    thank you!

    Comment by Ginger — October 3, 2007 @ 3:39 pm

  3. It’s kind of embarrassing for me to admit this, but it took medication for me to finally be happy. It seemed all I could get was fleeting happiness, I didn’t know how to let go, stop and just be happy in the moment. If you asked me then if I was happy, I’d say no.

    Now, I am. It’s been many years since I’ve been able to take a deep breath, relax, be in the moment, and be joyful. To feel happy. To feel contentment in what my life is. Just realizing I’m finally happy, makes me even more happy.

    Comment by Momma_Phoenix — October 3, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  4. indeed, though i would be even happier with that ice cream cone pictured. i have a friend who is a family physician and he used to put prescriptions for ice cream on my desk to make me laugh.

    Comment by Wendy — October 3, 2007 @ 7:03 pm

  5. MP, no embarrassment, no shame. Medication is a teacher. For me, my poor tolerance of it taught me that I’d have to be happy on my own. Hence, I began my practice.

    Wendy, never let it be said that I stopped you from having all the ice cream in the world! Doctor’s orders.

    Comment by Karen — October 3, 2007 @ 7:31 pm

  6. Stop blaming the whip cream – brilliant!

    Comment by Mama Zen — October 3, 2007 @ 10:00 pm

  7. “settle where you are” – i love this. being in the now, in the here…that is truly happiness, truly the happiest way to live. thanks for this great series!

    Comment by phyllis — October 5, 2007 @ 3:14 am

  8. How lovely.

    Comment by Stacie — October 5, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

  9. What a beautiful post on happiness, Karen. I love your writing and can’t wait to delve into Momma Zen.

    You are so right when you say that we need to settle where we are. I need reminders of this and am glad I found that today. Today is just what I need and I need to open myself to that more often.

    Thank you!

    Light and blessings,

    Karen Beth šŸ™‚

    Comment by Karen Beth — October 6, 2007 @ 8:08 pm

  10. I don’t think any of the work or effort I do is to “pursue” happiness. Success and acceptance and money and loads of other things–sure. But happiness is something like a dream for me–look at it too closely and it makes no sense.

    I’m happy when my son laughs and when he points something out to me I’ve never noticed before. I’m happy in evening sunlight. I’m happy when my novel works. I’m happy when a friend notes my work or something important to me or makes me laugh.

    I love to laugh and am easily amused. I’ve said I have a low humor threshold. And this makes me happy.

    Ice cream ALWAYS makes me happy. People who say to me, “You’re so lucky. You can eat that and it doesn’t show” do not make me happy.

    Comment by marta — October 8, 2007 @ 5:23 am

  11. I keep reading this post and struggling with it, wondering how to apply this when someone is grieving. Not that I am at the moment, but I’d like to hear about being happy when you have a hole in your life. Or is it the same? I’ve been pondering this for some time and would appreciate seeing your thoughts on the subject some day.

    Comment by Moanna — October 10, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

  12. Moanna, good prompt. If there is something particular you want to refer to, always feel free to email me personally (through my profile) and tell me so that I can make my response relevant. Otherwise, keep in mind that happiness is not the opposite of sadness. (Only conceptually). In real life, happiness is happiness and sadness is sadness and neither has more value than the other. And here I’m referring to the fleeting state of happiness,not to the state of contentment that underlies all. So don’t think I’m arguing: Happiness or else!! I’ll take up the topic of sadness soon, and maybe next week.

    Comment by Karen — October 10, 2007 @ 7:54 pm

  13. Yes. Sometimes it is a whisper, sometimes a scream, but it is always a YES.

    Comment by denise — November 9, 2007 @ 5:55 am

  14. I just wanted to say, this post has stuck with me ever since I first read it. I love it, I refer to it and link to it all the time and it just makes me happy every time I reread it. Thank you for writing it.

    Comment by Mrs. B. Roth — March 4, 2009 @ 12:36 am

  15. Mrs. B. Roth linked this post on my blog when I wrote about feeling down. It was very uplifting and helpful, thank you!

    Comment by j4luck — March 4, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

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