You may be surprised to learn that I don’t consider myself a “happy” person. I actually don’t resonate with that word very much. It feels flimsy to me, like damp sheets hanging limply on a clothesline, the breeze whipping the thin cotton about willy nilly. “Happy” feels pleasant, yes. It feels light and airy, for certain. But it also feels transient, fleeting, so loose it could fly away. “Happy” feels like a magazine cover instead of the contents; discussions about the weather instead about when the shit hits the proverbial fan; and polite smiles instead of the kind of expressions your whole body shows, like the way a dog’s entire frame wags when you return home.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not striking down HAPPY. I’m just saying that it doesn’t hit the spot for me. I don’t get off on happy.
And maybe what I am really saying is that happy feels like just the top layer of something that is more substantial underneath.
For me what lives underneath is CONTENTMENT.
Can you feel the groundedness of that word? When I say the word to myself I feel it in my gut with a big sunshine ball of YES. I sense the flow of contentment down through my legs into my feet. Contentment feels like a deep vocalized sigh, a tender moment of inner satisfaction, a sense of “okayness” that is authentic. I’ve never tried to convince myself that I am content, but I have tried to convince myself that I am happy.
There’s too much pressure to be happy. Contentment just is. Contentment has volume, density, capacity. It’s like a container for me to fill with the stuff of life — “happy” or not. Contentment is richness. Contentment is chocolate. Contentment is a good cry. Contentment contains multitudes.
In 2008, when my father learned that his cancer was terminal, I asked him if he wanted anything or needed anything to see, to do, to experience before… (he died — the words I couldn’t say at the time and instead left the ellipsis there in my speech). He said to me, “Everything I need is here: my home, my family. It’s you, my family, I want. Do I wish I could live longer? Yes. I don’t feel I’m ‘done’ yet, but if this is it, I am content to be here with you, with those I love. Everything that is important is already here.”
This memory is not a happy one for me, but it is one of contentment. And I can cry as I write this and tell you that I am crying — and this does not mean that I am not okay or that I feel life is dismal. What it means is that I am being true, just as my father was true with me. Just as you are true to yourself when you put your honest feelings into the contentment container and you can create a lovely satisfyingly deep sigh and say, yes, this is my life, and I am content and okay and balanced and maybe even joyful in this very moment, for right now — and that is enough. Actually, that is damn good.