A Better Question Than “Are You Happy?”

So often I’ve said, “All I want is for my kids to be happy.” What mother wouldn’t? We humans ask each other all the time, “Are you happy?” The assumption is if you answer no, you’re doing something wrong. You need to get back on the happiness track. For almost 55 years now, I’ve believed that, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s the question we should really be asking.

Because to answer that question honestly, we’d have to say, “Sure, I’m happy sometimes. I’m even joyful. But other times I’m sad, angry, frustrated, worried, annoyed.” There were times I didn’t like my jobs. In other words, I wasn’t happy at work. But for various reasons I had to stay, at least for a while, and often I learned something from the experience. There were times I was not happy with my husband or children, but that didn’t mean I loved them any less. There were times I was not happy with my health, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t grateful to be alive.

And that’s how it should be. You can’t know true joy unless you’ve felt great sadness. You can’t experience real love without knowing deep pain. You can’t have people in your life for whom you care without realizing you may someday lose them. You can’t feel safe unless you face your fears.

When we were in Ireland, my husband asked a fellow patron at the bar if he was having a good day. “Any day I wake up, put two feet on the floor, and stand is a good day,” the man said. It’s entirely possible that when he stood, his back hurt. Or he realized his furnace had gone out. Or he heard his grounded teenager sneaking back into the house. Regardless, to be able to stand, to know you can get that furnace fixed, to have the privilege of raising a child, those are all good things.

Am I happy?  Sometimes. Very. More importantly, do I have a good life? Absolutely! Aches, pains, worries, and all.

By Teresa R. Funke

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