I just finished reading The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World. In it, author Eric Weiner turns the world over to learn what makes the pronounced happiest places in the world so, well, darn happy. The basic conclusion, as you might guess, is that happiness is subjective and defined differently by different people. And subjectivity varies greatly as you cross borders and time zones.
Happiness may be tied to culture and ethnic pride, family, money and possessions, career fulfillment, a sense of community, adrenaline-packed adventures or spontaneity, love and maybe even a little drug use (you have to read the book to understand). For some, it’s even rooted in embracing and making the most of that which makes you absolutely unhappy. Even places you’d expect to find no happiness — like Qatar and Iceland — have unbelievable amounts of happiness levels.
This much I know: I don’t have what Qatarans or Icelanders harbor, at least I didn’t nearly a year ago. I wasn’t happy.
This is where I’d typically go into the dysfunction of my past relationship, which is a big part of this project and the roller-coaster year I just endured. I’d talk about our age difference, her cat that (to put it nicely) got on my nerves, the house she bought that was a continuous weekend project or her independence that ultimately deterred her long-term commitment. In fact, I had written the first excerpt in what I had hoped would be a series on those topics, but I received a phone call a few hours after I had posted it.
Needless to say, she was little pleased with what I had written, albeit it truthful and unintended to be slanderous. Normally in my editorial liberties, I’d ignore requests to take down a blog post. It’s my story, damn it, and I want the truth to be heard. But I also never intended to drag anyone’s name through the mud, to humiliate another on the Word Wide Web, to cause unneeded suffering when we’re all just trying to move on.
I have struggled with this issue for some time, as I know that my perspective, opinions and story will eventually require mentions of other names, and the people behind those names may not take kindly to what I have to say. At the same time, authors must portray a certain level of disclosure if their words are to hold any weight or resonate with a reader base. Life is about compromises at times, and this is my compromise.
Let’s fast forward through the relationship portion of my life, shall we? I don’t need closure; I already have that. I don’t need revenge; it wasn’t that type of relationship. I don’t need to feel better about myself; my confidence has been slowly on the uptick. So here’s what you need to know: The move to NYC was no longer happening, and my relationship had hit the rocks, prompting a long-overdue move into my own place. The search for my own place had become my own little quest for happiness.
All of a sudden, I found myself living alone for the first time in three years. Translation: lots of free time – free time to do whatever I wanted. Free time often prompts boredom, not happiness, but I learned to embrace the quiet. Because I now had separation. I could breathe. Independence. And I could more closely examine myself and the pitfalls of a relationship.
Deep in her heart, she may have hoped that we would somehow work this out, yet remain living apart. Love isn’t some convenience you can keep at arm’s length, only to fall back on when you want or need it. I knew deep in my heart that we had reached a stalemate. We could remain friends but nothing more. We had a good run. But the train had left the station, and I hitched a one-way ride.
Once in awhile, life will be graced by someone who “just gets you.” With that person, there is no pretending or disguising. He or she accepts the cold, naked truth without running in the opposite direction. Your past. Your personality. Your sense of humor. Your idiosyncrasies. Everything that makes you you. But that doesn’t necessarily create a recipe for long-term happiness, does it? Sometimes, opposites attract, and like-minded individuals are too polarizing to coexist. I speak from experience.
She had been there for me, picking up the pieces in my life that had seemingly fallen apart. When they say that timing is everything, they are obviously referring to her being there at a time I really needed someone, anyone, her. You see, I had lost my father to a drug overdose. Then, my own life went awry with a divorce and a bankruptcy, plus surmounting guilt engulfed me and my outlook on the future.
When I first told my mother and stepdad about my divorce, they were confused, probably due to their devout Christianity. Yet they remained steadfast in their dedication to me, knowing that I wasn’t truly happy. I took a vow, yes. But I didn’t feel like I was glorifying God or anyone by pretending, living a loveless, argument-laden marriage? Soon the conversation progressed into tales of their own divorces, which ultimately led them to one another and the happiness they now claim.
Needless to say, I had become a vagabond, a lost traveler searching for answers on life’s highway. In this girl, I found respite for my weary body. A soft place to fall.
With so much working for us, it’s unfortunate that we caved into all that was working against us. We ceased to be complementary. We had forgotten that one plus one equals one. We, who were alike in so many respects, had let our similarities repel us.
After three years, I learned much. I think what I realized most is that we have to be happy on our own, first and foremost. In the words of one of my favorite Blue October songs, “I’ve got to learn to live and dream before I go and get myself in love.” Most often, we cannot fall on someone else to fill a void. With the time that is given us, we must cherish experiences, build connections, try new things, whatever it is that equals happiness. Because when someone special enters our life, he or she should only complement the inner happiness we have already achieved. If we leave it to one person to fulfill us, aren’t we just setting ourselves up for disappointment if things go wrong?
A well-known boy band once sang, “All you need is love.” Maybe, but not necessarily love for a person. Perhaps the famous lyrics refer to love in all situations: love for life, love for what you do, love for your neighbors, love for a hobby, love for your partner. If you apply love to everything, it’ll ultimately be the bridge between unhappiness and happiness, no matter your calling in life.