“I learned a long time ago not to go for happiness. It’s too elusive. Contentment is all we can hope for.”

One of my guy friends made that comment over dinner recently–a guy who has had a rich life by anyone’s standards– and I mentioned it to a girlfriend. “Is happiness elusive?” I asked her.

“Well,” she responded, “everyone’s definition of happiness is different.” And I think she’s right.

I knew someone once who was what I call a flatliner. She took great pains to avoid the highs of life because she didn’t want to also feel the lows. She seemed, in many ways, cold. Nothing seemed to impact her. Maybe that was true or maybe it wasn’t and she just looked impassive. It’s not like anything really awful had happened to her–not that I know of, and I knew her as well as anyone. (Then again, I only knew what she let me see.)  But it seemed to me that by staying in such strict control, she was missing the fullness of life. I imagine she’d agree that happiness is elusive.

I know someone else who has had a very difficult life. If there’s such thing as a black cloud following someone around, that’s the case here. Every high is followed by a horrible low, a low with so many complications it would make anyone spin out. Any iota of resilience that might have been there has long been beaten down.  Is it any wonder that they’ve put a force field around themselves? It’s hard to fault someone for protecting themselves from additional bad experiences. Or for thinking, themselves, that happiness is an impossible goal.

Maybe I’m a bit of a Pollyanna. I can’t live in darkness very long–I get sick of myself. I love the highs of life–I might even live for them. The bright side is usually or eventually accessible to me, at least so far. But then again, I have been luckier than many.

Defining happiness–I’d never thought about it. How do I define it? Is that rush when something really amazing happens? Is it an overall feeling of fulfillment in our lives? What IS happiness? It’s certainly hard for me to grasp what it is.

But– is happiness elusive?

And contentment — it has that air of, oh, I don’t know, maybe “settling.” Settling for “less-than.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts AND your definition. It might spark my own! Feel free to comment below.

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