I started this post as an extended review of a book called The Happiness Project, that got my wheels turning over the active and determined pursuit of happiness. Turned out that it was a much bigger topic and focus of my life than just one little essay.
Reading the book made me realize how happy I am right now, in my life exactly the way it is. I’m well aware that many other people would not at all be happy with this, perhaps would not even be able to endure it. I’m often perched on the edge of broke, when I work for money it’s at a job I don’t love, I’m living in my very unfinished converted barn without running water, windows or constant heat. But in downward comparison, I have more than some of the wealthiest Cubans have. Cuba is much better off than a lot of Africa. Relative poverty in Canada is still unattainable riches to the third world, and the great thing (that I’m quite grateful for), is that I rarely forget it. I feel rich, almost all the time. I have an abundance of time, good credit, my health, the unflickering love of friends, wood to burn and a stove to start fires in, beautiful wheels, plenty of food, clean air and water. I live in one of the most beautiful chunks of the most beautiful countries, and I really love the things I do for free.
The few aspects of my life that aren’t ideal don’t bother me that they’re not ideal, and I think that that is the real definition of happiness. The non-ideal elements don’t throw you off the balance. One is never going to get every aspect of your life into total alignment with your ideal vision, certainly not living as small pieces of a greater whole that is collectively terribly out of ecological harmony. At the very least, putting off happiness until arriving at some ideal is an unreasonable expectation.
I also realize I’ve done a huge amount of work to become what I think is pretty damn happy. I am deeply proud of being in this place, now, with a quick backward glance at struggle that at times, I barely survived. It is not an exaggeration to say I am lucky to be alive, several times over. But beyond luck and endurance, I am here and happy, and that is my own doing. It does take work, and deliberate attention, and that is the gold of this book.
Oh, there’s lots more