I’ve Never Met a Happy Person

I really upset people when I casually mention that I’ve never met a happy person. Sorry but not sorry. Most conversations I have with people tend to gravitate toward airing complaints or worries not expressing joy and satisfaction. Maybe I’ve just been hanging out with the wrong people, but I’ve yet to meet a happy person.

Happiness is defined as feeling or showing contentment.

I don’t actually disagree with that definition. Hopefully, everyone has the opportunity at least once in a while to experience feelings of contentment.

My problem is with the modern-day-first-world application of the word happy.

Happy in America seems to mean reaching an almost permanent state of well being. For some, it can also include being romantically in love, deeply satisfied with your job, wealthy, and thoroughly enjoying your spare time.

Clearly, however, happiness isn’t an abundant emotion at least not in my neck of the lower-to-middle-class-midwest woods.

Lots of grumbling going on out there. Lots of furrowed brows. Plenty of unhappily married couples. Mounds of money problems. This is not how anyone would picture happyland.

But let’s be fair, even rich people who’re surrounded by comfort, luxury, and opportunities are often depressed, miserable, and self destructive.

I mean just look at all the rock stars who over the years have destroyed themselves with drugs and alcohol. You can’t help but marvel at the fact that they’d achieved fame and money but preferred to enjoy it all through a drug-induced haze. Do you mean to tell me that a Maserati can’t be appreciated without first getting high. That’s isn’t enough to make you happy enough to skip the drugs and merely drive the car in Hollywood Hills while listening to your own hits on the radio.

The rest of us look at them and can’t help but wonder what it would take to make them happy. We think — if only. If only we were in their shoes that would be nirvana.

Apparently not.

Or look at tycoons like Howard Hughes who reportedly stored his urine in jars and never cut his finger nails or toe nails. I mean with so many options to choose from in life, we’d like to think that we’d do it very differently, but not necessarily so.

So much for the rich and famous being happy.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget that segmant of the population who believe that if they’re not happy most if not all of the time that it’s their fault. They adhere to the philosophy that if they give too much time to negative thoughts then they will reap negative outcomes. What they should be doing is using their power of positive thinking to manifest the life they’ve been told they deserve. This may very well be a new age attitude.

I don’t think by grandma believed that shit.

I doubt that many of my ancestors thought for one minute that they were entitled to be happy or that they could just will happy outcomes into existence. I mean if they didn’t get off their asses and toil on the homestead, they simply wouldn’t have anything to eat in the coming winter

Historically, I don’t see evidence of a lot of happy people.

Life was really hard for our ancestors. The farther back you go in time the less embellished the concept of human existence was. Death was a part of our everyday experiences. Child mortality rates were high. Average life expectancies low.

If you cut your finger, you could die from blood poisoning and there wasn’t a damn thing you could do to stop it.

Houses were cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Water for bathing had to be hauled and heated first. Consequently, we didn’t bathe as often. Dentistry was basic, pull the damn tooth, preferably by yourself. I knew an old woman who is long gone that raised ten kids in the back country of Arkansas. They were poor as church mice. Once she had a tooth that she pried out of her head with a fork.

I kid you not.

Having babies was a regular occurrence. One right after another often resulting in a mom’s death. Ever wonder how a woman managed something as simple as her period back in the day? They coped. That’s all they could do.

Life was grim but people didn’t know any other way to live so I suspect that some were still able to experience an occasional feeling of contentment.

If the larder was full or the potato crop did pretty well that year, or they butchered a hog and smoked the meat, even something as simple as getting a rare gift or eating a orange for the first time most likely brought about a fleeting moment of well being.

People may have been even easier to please because small pleasures were few and far between and so they didn’t take them for granted. I’m just guessing.

Oh, and don’t get me started on romantic love which according to modern day expectations is supposed to carry one away on a cloud of happiness that lasts forever. The minute we lose that romantic glow, which tends to fade rather quickly, and start to annoy the shit out of one another, well, the joy is gone. We’ve grown to expect love to not just conquer all but to give back tenfold. If not, we’re devastated and ready to throw in the towel.

Once again, I’m pretty sure our ancestors had an entirely different perspective about romantic love.

They may have married more than once in their lifetimes but it wasn’t due to divorce. One person in the happy couple died either in childbirth or from a damn finger cut. With six kids to feed and a farm to take care of, well, getting remarried was a necessity. Unless of course you preferred to send the kids packing to a relatives house where they could serve in the capacity of free labor. Hey, at least they had a roof over their head and food in their bellies.

Turns out there is no universal definition of happiness.

Our affluence, improved medical care, better hygiene, and modern conveniences are relatively new, historically speaking. In the richest countries of the world, our ancestors lifestyles have been totally replaced with a way of life that even kings in days gone by didn’t enjoy. Running hot water and a flush toilet alone would have guaranteed a substantial level of royal contentment.

I’ve never met a happy person.

I hate the word happy to tell you the truth. It’s a Disneyland word, a shallow fairy tale. It’s not a grownup word at all. The expectations attached to that word are unrealistic and tend to breed feelings of discontent instead. It has the opposite effect. When we expect happiness, we’re destined to be disappointed.

Because whether we want to believe it or not, life wasn’t designed with our happiness in mind.

Life is a series of problems demanding our attention in order to merely survive. That’s it. In between, if we’re lucky, we might experience a few feel good moments of contentment. If we’re lucky and if we recognize them when they happen. To believe otherwise is unrealistic.

Of course, we have zero ability to appreciate how much better things are today than they were for our ancestors. Zero. We either can’t remember or are too young to even understand what life use to be like for humans. So, we tend to squander those feel good moments more often than not and then bitterly complain that we’re ….

not happy.

It’s funny but when I finally accepted that I’ll never be happy, there was a shift in the way I experienced life. I began to appreciate the moments of great contentment and milk them for everything that they were worth. Knowing full well that another problem was just lurking around the corner, I settled into the feel good moment until there wasn’t a drop left to enjoy. I began to shelve worries that could wait to be attended to and ignore those I had no control over. I assigned problems to specific categories like tiny problem, stupid problem, not my problem, big problem, one less problem and you’re the problem not me. Life’s a little easier now.

Oh, and I still haven’t met a happy person.



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Teresa Roberts

Teresa Roberts


Teresa is an author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. She’s also a top writer on climate change and the future.