What’s your happy place? This past Wednesday I was at the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio’s annual Keyholder event at the Ohio Theater, and Goldie Hawn was the noted speaker. She has been seen recently on Oprah talking about her involvement in the positive psychology movement. She said that night that children in the United States are the second-least happy children in the world, after children in England. For all the wealth and power in the world, why are people, and especially children, discontent? I think it comes from a lack of thought and thoughtfulness.
In the fall, I talked about how gratitude is one of the top methods of increasing happiness, but I am now concerned with why so many people feel like baby’s diapers’ blowout. I know one thing that Americans do well: consume.
“Materialism is toxic for happiness,” said University of Illinois psychologist Ed Diener. We sell children materialism instead of depth and charity. If we pause on consuming worthless entertainment and start being present in our own lives, the happiness factors may change for people’s lives.
The happiest people are those who pursue personal growth and intimacy. These people do not look for the validation of others but have come up with their own rubric.
I recently had a conversation with my friend Rachel, who is a nurse. She got married to her husband and now has a beautiful baby girl. I got married to graduate school.
I was telling her this past weekend that bell hooks was on campus the past two weeks, and her presence is a present and always makes me introspective. I told her I love her choices but those are not the choices I want to make with regards to marriage, baby, house and dog. I disclosed that I was not confident that marriage and settling down was for me. I like my freedom and ability to do what I want (within reason).
Well, just like a best friend should, she said what I needed to hear: “Patty, you don’t have to do what I or anyone else is doing, you have to do you…” I am not the “American Dream” kind of woman because I know too much about the pitfalls of meritocracy and the range of social injustices. I want to help children but not procreate any. I cannot get my heart off the fact that so many kids need good homes, why have more children if I can love the ones who are invisible? We do not have to take part in what makes others happy because we may never tap into our own happy.
If we wait for circumstances and other people to feed and provide our happiness, we always will be searching and coming to the conclusion that there is nothing worth celebrating. Our own personhood is provocative. We can bring our own merriment by investing in others joy and sharing their triumphs. We can also participate in the activities that make us feel well. Something I started doing was taking myself to the movies. At the AMC theaters, if you go before noon the cost is five dollars. I do not have to coordinate a gathering. I just go when best fits my schedule and I enjoy my own company.
Most people do not know how to be alone. I am not talking about loneliness and isolation, I am talking about solitude. Being alone with your own thoughts and wrestling with your own darkness and inner musings. When I take the moment to bask in the colors of my own personhood I check into the creative space, put my tutu on, and as Asher Roth said with his one hit wonder, “be by myself sometimes.”