Happiness is not getting what you want, but wanting what you get.
Happiness was the topic of the meeting I was at last week. I believe that happiness is a worthy goal, and that very few people would stick with Alcoholics Anonymous if happiness was not a major by product of working the program. Someone at one of my meetings loves to quote one of the books that says something like, “We are not a glum lot.” We aren’t! The group also discussed how at meetings in general and among alcoholics we can laugh about things that happened to us, things that other people might not find at all funny.
The person who brought up the topic was the woman I wrote of earlier. She seems generally happy, but one of her children has ongoing issues, and at times the daughter isn’t well. Most of the people I know who have grown children have at least one they worry about from time to time, and for good reason. Lots of our children have mental illnesses, and they aren’t always safe.
I know people who suffer with chronic pain. I know people who are unemployed, unable to find a decent job. I know people who have issues with their looks, having skin conditions, serious weight problems, and disfiguring disabilities. I know people who owe lots of money for student loans or from spending too much. I know people who have been to jail or are waiting to find out if they will go to jail for things they did while drunk. I know people who have suffered traumatic events, childhood abuse, or who have even lost children. I know people who watch and try to help as their parents get sick and die. I have a few of these issues myself.
At first, when I’m disturbed, I think my mind reaches for serenity as quickly as possible. While serenity is a kind of happiness, I think there are differences. In an emergency, I try to do what I need to do, if I need to act. With action under way I try to still my heart and mind from racing. Kind of like the Bradley method of childbirth, where you try to relax in response to pain.
I ask God to guide me. I don’t ask for outcomes, but that I be able to know and do God’s will. As time goes on, I think of how my situation could be worse. It can always be much worse. I talk to people. I write about it.
When I’m not dealing with a crisis or something bad, I try to pray and make mental and formal gratitude lists many times a day. That has become ingrained for me. I try to give thanks for everything, good and bad.
For me personally, I know that I need to balance days and most days I need time to do “nothing.” I try to avoid doing something at night if I had to work all day, if possible. Plenty of times that’s not possible, and it was much more difficult when my kids were young. Then I would look at a week, and try not to schedule things two nights in a row. If I go much beyond two days and nights of lots of activity, I’ll find it more and more difficult to be calm and serene and happy.
I’ve come to know there are some things I just don’t like, and I try to avoid them if I can. Among those things are football and sports, being outside in hot weather, cooking, singing, parades, mob scenes, large numbers of people I’ll never see again (meeting lots of new people – something many people enjoy, but not me). When I have to do those things, I try hard to be pleasant, for my sake and for others. I don’t always succeed!
I try (but not hard enough) to meet my responsibilities. Life feels better, and I’m happier, when I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. When I’ve walked the dog, and taken the kids to the doctor, and made my doctor appointments, and have gone to work and done my job and cleaned the house at least a little.
AA has made all this possible. More than that, I think it continues to ask me to improve and grow and consider what it is I am expected to do and what I should do. I hear how other people achieve balance and how they decide what is theirs to do in their lives. I also hear how they deal with tragedy and difficulty, and sometimes I see how they fail.
Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.