So many people optimize life to find happiness without knowing why. It’s an assumed right thing to strive for. But do we really wanna be happy or do we want to enjoy life ?
Are you happy when that delightful linner- the food you eat when you cannot wait for dinner but it’s not quite lunch time — touches your taste bud?
Is it really happiness you feel or a sense of a life you are enjoying?
I know, it’s easy to jump in and say:
“they are one and the same!”
“I cannot be happy if I am not enjoying life!”
So how do we explain the happiness index being high in third world countries? Is it true that a poor kid rolling his self crafted unicycle around a busy dirty Lagos street is happier than a multi award winning Hollywood actress that committed suicide.
She had sex and all the orgasm money can buy. She had the best fillet mignon on offer. She flew down to Beverly Hills, the best Brazilian chef straight from Brazil to make her assorted BBBQ — Brazilian BBQ.
But, at the end of the night every night after each major experience was complete, she was alone in her bed, sad. More than sad, she was lonely. More than lonely, she was depressed.
“It’s hard to enjoy today without a lover I can call my own”
In that moment of fillet mignon and Chardonnay’s joint caress of her lips, her body felt a delight like few things money can buy. Make no mistake, money did buy this moment, that taste. Infact money did buy happy.
Happy just did not last.
Happy is a mood, a feeling. Enjoyment is a choice.
It’s a choice to be happy in this moment and the moment that comes after. It’s a choice to do more things within the confines and limitations that grips me today that make me happy.
More importantly, enjoyment is a choice to surround myself with people that fill my happy cup so that I don’t run out or run low.
The danger here is to immediately go- aha! I do need a _______. No you don’t, but you most certainly need a community.
Chinedu is the poor Lagos kid. When I observed him, I find that he was not playing with his roller toy alone. He was racing kids around his block. They were also preparing for a tournament with other kids on blocks in their neighborhood. These kids have never seen the olympics but they essentially are playing in one.
Chinedu is the worst roller amongst these kids. His best friend Ampadu is currently the second best roller in the entirely neighborhood. Ampadu is obsessed with winning. So much so that he is depressed. His parents keep reminding him of the best roller in their neighborhood. It’s consequential because the family of the kid that wins the high roller award for the yearly competition gets a bag of rice.
Ampadu is part of the exact same community but he is depressed. Rolling is not enjoyable because there is an expectation on himself that depends on the performance of the other kids in the competition. Ampadu has chosen to only be happy when we wins the competition, and thus chosen to not enjoy the process to win or not. His family needs the bag of rice and he wants to support his father.
When the media shows pictures of happy kids in Africa, they often times omit to show the sad kids in Africa. The kids sitting alone or at home starving and cursing life. They don’t show the kids fighting and bullying their friends. Because it doesn’t fit the narrative.
“If this poor kid that has nothing can be happy, why can’t you ?”
It makes me puke. Happy has nothing to do with circumstances. It has everything to do with expectations. Let me repeat.
Happy has NOtHiNg to do with circumstances, but everything to do with expectations.
So I ask, what do you expect of yourself? And how is it robbing you of enjoying life?
This is what I am doing right now. That is two Thai meals. Chicken red curry and Pineapple fried rice. Because I am hard to please, I order two separate meals just so I can replace the white rice that usually comes with the curry with the fried rice.
Except for days when the salt is too much or the chicken is tasteless, or the combination tastes like cardboard, I ALWAYS leave this restaurant on Sunday afternoon, right after church, happy.
I love food.
A whole lot.
Once upon a time, I bought into the hype around saving a lot of money by eating at home. You see, I was scraping and cutting out excesses so I can save as much as possible in order to live the life I want in the future!
But I enjoy sitting at a table, having expectations of what a meal will taste like, waiting for it. Seeing the food make a dramatic entrance, having it Grace my table and most importantly, taking my first bite. What I love most about that whole exercise is having my lofty expectations met without having to do much work besides showing up, sitting down and bringing a hungry stomach.
When all these things converge, great! But even when the food doesn’t hit the last nerve that oozes out unending happiness. Can I still enjoy the waiting, the tasting, the driving my butt to wait, and the satisfaction of my calorie starved stomach? That is enjoyment.
Enjoyment says, given what I have, I will find what puts me in a good mood, I will spend time doing it. I will find more people to do it with and find new adjacent things they add or take away from it and try to do more things that make me feel good. And when I cannot do what I love to do, I will choose to enjoy what I get to do and see the quirks of who I get to do it with.
Maybe I will be happy, maybe I will not but to enjoy life is within my grasp. It often starts with the people. Being present with the people around me. Finding ways to mutually exist in the same moments by doing more things that feels good to do.
Lastly, remove the when from happy. Enjoy the moment and happiness will bring her bed and knock at your door. Happiness is picky but she likes to cuddle too.