Friday, August 24, 2007

The rest of the "happy" story...

I had the rare opportunity to watch about 10 minutes of the Oprah Show yesterday. I was outside mowing the grass {I LOVE the smell of earth and fresh cut grass!} while my girls played with chalk and bubbles, and got to a point where it was too hot and humid and we all needed to take a little break. We went inside to the coolest spot in the house...the downstairs family room. I turned on the tv and flipped to the Oprah Show- just to see the topic of the day. It happened to be about happiness...so I stayed to watch and listen for the last 10 minutes of the show. That is where my thoughts and this post come from today.
I can't say I am an expert on happiness- I haven't written any books on it or done lengthy studies on it- remember, I didn't even see the whole show yesterday. However, I can speak from my own heart and experiences and hopefully offer another perspective- one that if it even touches one soul who needs to hear it differently, will make this worth my time.
I first have to say that I admire Oprah and all her efforts to make this world a better place and to encourage others to 'live their best life'. I think a lot of what she says and does and how she spends her time and money are very honorable and inspiring. She brings out the best in so many people, and her presence seems to lift hearts and souls so often. We need people like this in the world- people willing to seek out good and to make changes where they see needs. I love that about her.
However, at the end of yesterday's show, I couldn't shake the feeling of sadness for some of the people that might have been watching and listening to the thoughts on happiness and how to have it in life. The part I happened to catch was 'feel good' and even inspiring...basically telling people that happiness exists inside of everyone. You just need to let the past go and look inside to find your happiness. Sounds like great advice, right?! I admit, it did sound good and I believe it might even be the best thing for some people to do in their life. But I just couldn't help but wonder if maybe this equation isn't quite the 'one size fits all' answer for everybody.
I thought first about my own life and my past. My situation is extreme compared to some, but still, it made me stop and think. I couldn't help but imagine that there were people in the 'viewing audience' yesterday who might be in the midst of one of life's extreme hurts. No matter if it is self-imposed or not. As in my own case, being happy just by looking 'inward' never would have been enough to pull me through to the point in life where I find myself today- a place of contentment and peace.
My mind raced thinking of the different people whom I have 'met' just through this blog in recent months- all sorts of stories and hurts in life that people are struggling with- from car accidents and deaths of loved ones, to cancer- from babies to adults, to broken marriages and relationships, to devastating losses of jobs and the reality of financial struggles. Others have shared stories of infertility and the ache that never ends in their hearts for the longing of a baby of their own. Then there are some who have written about hurts and mistakes of their past- things that affect the way they see the world every single day. Without even looking beyond those people in my circle of family and friends, and those who email me after reading this blog, I can see that there is a lot of hurt and 'unhappiness' in this world. It made my heart ache a little bit and it just didn't seem as though this "happiness is inside you" solution was enough for the people I imagined hearing it's message yesterday.
It got me thinking. Really thinking, about what IS happiness and where DOES it come from. It seems like such a simple concept- something that the basis of this American nation is founded upon- the idea that everyone has the right to pursue it. Yet we can't deny that there are thousands of unhappy people in this country. Something isn't adding up here.
While I totally support the idea that everyone deserves the opportunity for happiness in life, it seems that it isn't as easy as it sounds. Back when it was actually put in writing I think there were a lot of people with a clear vision and Hope for this nation and its people. Since that time a lot of things have happened...a lot of things have changed.
Define happiness.
I'll bet every person has a slightly different (or even great) definition to happiness. There is a wide spectrum of what it takes/what it means to be happy- each individual determining their baseline on their own experiences and circumstances. Therefore, what makes me happy doesn't necessarily make you happy. So, how do people begin to find something that is based on 'happenings'?
I've written in previous posts here about happiness and contentment and joy. I think there are some important distinctions between these three seemingly similar characteristics. It is far too easy to confuse them at times.
One of the things I have come to learn about happiness in my own life is that it is temporary. It is based on what is happening or going on in life. When things are going well, it's easy to be happy. There are various things that bring happiness- but I have learned to be careful, because things and circumstances can change all too suddenly.
The idea of just 'looking inward' to find happiness is a great concept. But I couldn't help but jump back in time just over 6 years ago to the last meal I shared with my little girl. We were eating Sunday brunch; enjoying a perfectly sunny, summer afternoon. Teagan was eating chocolate chip pancakes, when suddenly, without warning our lives were shattered, her life came to an abrupt end, and our happiness was shattered.
We hadn't taken our eyes off of our immediate state of happiness. We did nothing to deserve such unsettling, life-altering circumstances...yet they touched us in an ugly way and altered our lives forever.
It is out of such experinces that I have learned that while, yes, it is a nice theory, that happiness is just inside of us, the truth is that we are ALL broken people who live in a broken and fallen world. Our happiness is limited to the actions and courses of others who cross our paths, or simple the fallen state of this broken world in which we live. Which, at any given time can cause hurt, destruction, pain and shatter our happiness without warning. I am thinking just in the past few weeks of the MN bridge collapse which touched so many people are caused hurt and grief...I think of the deaths of the troops in a helicopter crash, or of my new friend Christine- whose young husband has brain cancer, or of the tornadoes and flooding in the midwest, the hurricanes and earth quakes. All sorts of 'acts of nature' or tragic accidents that struck without warning, innocent- maybe happy even, people.
{Okay. This is getting really long...so if you're still reading, I thank you for staying with my thoughts and ideas here!}
I guess what I felt after watching those few moments of Oprah is that I can support the idea of everyone deserving happiness in life...and even support people trying to find it. But to think that it is something that simply comes from within us just didn't seem fair for me to accept as truth. So I write here, at Nitty.Gritty. to tell the rest of the story- to offer my perspective and insight. Because I think there are too many people that need to hear that there IS more to happiness than just looking inside.
For me, as I've mentioned before, there is the idea and reality of Joy and contentment. These two concepts are very different than happiness, but I would argue are worth seeking, far more than simple happiness because they have lasting impact. Happiness is often short-lived. It is a feeling we get when things go our way, or when something happens to create a sense of well-being, it is based on our immediate circumstances- whether they are affected by person, places, or things. I like to think that it is infinitely more important to have a sense of contentment and Joy inside- which I believe only comes through faith- because life really can't create happiness and bliss and euphoria for all of us all the time. It's not reality- as I have said, we live in a broken world. We can't control everything that comes our way.
But, we can determine to rise above situations and circumstances that threaten to steal our happiness, our joy, our peace...and in so doing, I think we find strength and it is this 'freedom' then, that we can live no matter what may befall us in this world- good or bad. {I wrote about this earlier this week.}
I hope that after all this, that something here makes sense- if even to one person who is seeking to understand happiness, contentment, joy and peace. Without faith, and looking to something beyond myself- something bigger than me- I know I wouldn't be living the life I have today. Teagan didn't sacrifice her life and happiness simply because she failed to look inside herself. No. I don't believe that for a second. But I do believe that her life has meaning and that her soul lives beyond what I can see in this world. To me, that brings comfort, joy and peace. My happiness has been affected- sometimes more than I ever imagined it could be...but my faith and Joy have not been shaken. I have looked deep inside, and I know that is a big part of finding real Joy. I have learned that I am one small being...but by leaning on God and handing Him the hurts of my life, I have learned therein lies the strength I have needed to live with happiness and joy. Not just on the good days. But everyday.

14 comments:

hollybird said...

Thank you! I saw part of that show too, and I felt the same way. When we were in the waiting room during our son's 6th surgery of the year, someone said this to me (you just have to look inside to find happiness, holly). You know, the thing I found when I looked inside of me wasn't happiness but strength, perseverance, and yes, contentment- even in the hard times. It was God Himself living in me that did it. If people don't have Him inside, they have nothing to draw from in there. It's not about being happy. It's about being His.
thanks for the reminder!

Jody said...

Thanks, Holly. I love the way you put it. "It's not about being happy...It's about being His." Do you mind if I quote you on a scrap page?! Best to you and the journey you've been on growing stronger and more contented in life.

Tara said...

Jody!! Thank you!
I just emailed you something. Your entry was like you were reading my mind but you went a bit further!
God is the answer! If it weren't for Him, the pain and discouraging things that happen on a daily basis would be almost too much to bear!

Anonymous said...

For me, the knowledge that I am God's child gives me confidence to face the challenges in my life. Living life with confidence in turn gives me a life of joy. When I see God in people all around me, I'm happy. But God inside of me is the strength that I cannot live without.

karen in ca

Anonymous said...

Well said! I think you should send your blog comments to Oprah.

hollybird said...

Of course you can quote me.. what an honor! It is truly amazing how God molds us in the tough times, isn't it? A year ago, I never would have thought I would be this content, this passionate about life. But He is faithful. His GRACE has gotten our family through some really hard times. Being His is the only way we could have done it. no doubt about it!

Anonymous said...

Jody, I think you are awesome and I love reading your blog everyday. You are truly inspirational and I love the way all things come back to the role God plays in your life. With that said, it is hard for me to understand how you admire and respect Oprah. She will dedicate numerous shows to the book "The Secret" but will not mention the bible. And her "people" encourage guests to limit,if at all, their talk about faith and Jesus Christ. It would be interesting to see how much of her OWN money is used to help those in need. So much of what she does is sponsored. I am happy for those on the receiving end of her so called generosity, but I wish she used her platform to truly change peoples lives with the message of Jesus Christ. I can't help but think most of what she does is to self promote and say "look at all the great things I am doing".
I have been a Christian most of my life and I have also been a long time Oprah fan. It has just been the last year or so I have really been challenged to watch her show with a different perspective and I am disappointed and often disgusted with her positions and reasonings on issues. So much of it goes directly against the teachings of Christ. Just my two cents and I would love to hear your opinion.

lize said...

Jody, your thoughts are shared by many believers and I'm one of them. It is only through Christ that true happiness, joy or contentment can be found.Thanks for remembering the lost souls out there. God Bless.

As far as the Oprah show I think she puts things out there and you take from it what benefits you and leave the rest. Our world is filled with things we oppose or dislike so we learn to cope and deal, and at best try and change what we can.

paige said...

jody the lord has definately given you a platform to show how HIS grace is sufficient.
i can only imagine your heartache.
i did loose my first husband & during those sick days i knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the lord saw my every tear. that one day joy would come in the morning.
peace be with you.
thanks for being such a light & sharing your faith with boldness.
xo

Anonymous said...

Jody, I love reading your blog regularly. You have been a great inspiration to me. You are so right! Faith truly is happiness, joy and peace. I know that without my faith facing my Mom's passing from cancer would have been much harder. I have a sister who doesn't believe in God and I can see how much harder it is. We are dealing with the same situation and yet with God's help I can see the joy in knowing she is with Him and feel His comfort in my life and all my sister sees is the loss. So sad! You give me some very good food for thought!

Susan in VA

Jody said...

In response to the my thoughts and opinions on Oprah, I want to say {very nicely =)} that I am learning and trying to grow everyday. Better. As a person, as an indivdual, as a Mom, as an American, as a scrapper, as a blogger...basically I seek to be better everyday. Do I fail? Yes. Am I perfect? Never.
But it keeps me humble. And I have to say that I try my best to not judge others. No matter who they are, no matter how "popular" they may be, no matter what sort of platform they have to express themself in life.
Oprah is no different. To me, she is just a person- another human being. She makes her own decisions based on her circumstances and experiences. I can love and support the goodness that she seeks to share out of the abundance of her life. I'm certain there are things we don't see eye to eye on. There couldn't possibly be another human on this earth that agrees with everything I do and say. But I am not one to judge the hearts and intents of others.
As I stated, I rarely even watch her show...I don't get her magazine. I was a guest on her show and have personally met her and talked with her- and that was a positive experience in my life. She was warm and sincere to me and my husband. Just as I watched this recent show and didn't feel it told the 'whole story'...so it is with so many of the messages and media- whether tv, movies, magazines, books, news reports, anything.
I believe that I need to be on guard to all messages that come at me, and I seek truth, to me it is most often biblically based. The Bible is my guide in life. But as I said, I am not perfect...and I don't expect anyone or anything else in this world to be either. My greatest hope is that people will give me this same respect. And not judge my life and the things I say and do. But rather that we can learn from one another, encourage, inspire and share truths.
Thanks, as always for your thoughts and comments and the discussions that ensue. It makes me better...and as you can see, I love expressing myself when questions come up. SO thanks. =)

SingerMamaMelody said...

Amen sister! I too saw part of that show, and was also saddened by how shallow it was. True happiness, true joy...it can only come through our faith. In fact, it has been through some of my toughest life moments that I have experienced joy...and eventually happiness. Thanks for sharing your heart, which so incredibly coincides with so many of my own thoughts. You're such a neat blessing! Have a terrific week!

occuban@sbcglobal.net said...

Jody,

I really enjoy your blog and I wanted you to know that your words are such a comfort. I was know that when I am feeling a little lost, I can read your blog and find a little solice.

Thank you for taking the time to share your heart.

Margarita

Gina said...

I saw a thread about it on 2Peas and clicked the link. I stopped watching Oprah and all tv (except sports) several years ago so I hadn't seen it. I felt sad about it too. So many people are searching (that is the way God created us) and grasp at anything they can to find happiness. I can't help but think of a statement that Chip Ingram made in one of his teaching programs (not sure which series, but I know that you listen to him because I read a comment from you on his blog.) He said, "There is no happiness apart from holiness." That stuck a chord with me and I won't forget it. I definately think it is true. Psalm 112:1 says, "Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands." blessed=happy
I to stop by your blog occasionally and think you are a wonderful inspiration. I loved hollybirds quote too! =)