If You’re Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands!

Surfing, I found me this interesting little bitsy:

Chances are if someone were to ask you, right now, if you were happy, you’d say you were.[1] Claiming that you’re happy—that is, to an interviewer who is asking you to rate your “life satisfaction” on a scale from zero to ten—appears to be nearly universal, as long as you’re not living in a war zone, on the street, or in extreme emotional or physical pain. The Maasai of Kenya, soccer moms of Scarsdale, the Amish, the Inughuit of Greenland, European businessmen—all report that they are happy. When happiness researcher Ed Diener, the past president of the International Society of Quality of Life Studies, synthesized 916 surveys of over a million people in forty-five countries, he found that, on average, people placed themselves at seven on the zero-to-ten scale.
-Sue Halpern, NYT Book Review

Yep. Happiness. What everyone is, but isn’t. Like we’re all really “fine” when we’re asked. “Just fucking ducky” doesn’t tend to go over so well, eh?

Me, I’d have said 5-6. Working on it, baby. But that was the whole thing. Last summer, I asked myself if I was happy. I said no. I quit my job. I lost 25 pounds. I’ve painted my apartment. And I’m still not happy. But I will be. :)

It’s funny, though, just an hour ago, towards the end of one of those Impromptu hang-outs with dear buddy GayBoy, and it’s nights like these I find myself hoping we always live 5 blocks apart, ‘cos… hey. It’s when the best hanging out happens: By accident.

So we were chatting as we checked out Facebook, and I pointed to a friend and go, “Sigh. Her.” “Sigh, Her” is currently in Memphis after being in Austin after having sold everything in this fair burg order to take off and jetset the world for X many months. She’s one of those people who goes everywhere, and when she travels, she meets everyone, has great experiences, takes awesome photos. She just lives one of those Rare lives. It’s awesome. But she’s able to be Of No Fixed Address and No Place To Hang Her Hat. Me, I need a home. She has her priorities, and I admire the fuck out of them, but I have mine.

I’m wistful when I see her reporting simple things like, it’s raining in Memphis. “Aw, that’s nice. Walk in it, baby.”

But GayBoy goes, “Oh, I hate people like her. I do! I fucking do! I hate people like her. They’re out there living that life, doing all that shit, and, yeah, I hate ’em. I know I’ve chosen this life, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want that one, too. I mean, everyone wants what they don’t have. They do!”

Then he probably went on a little longer, but that’s pretty fuckin’ bang on there. (Later, he would point at Matt Damon the awesome Sarah Silverman/Matt Damon “I’m fucking Matt Damon” video and comment, “Doesn’t he make ya just wanna sit on his face?”)

So, is GayBoy right? Do we secretly always say Yeah, I’m Happy*. Like, we have an asterisk by “happy”, as if it’s reliant upon some complicated formula for quantifying it. Secretly, it’s THAT life we’d rather have right now, but all things considered, and this being the lesser of evils, well…

“Sure… I’m happy. Yeah, well, yeah, of course I’m happy. I mean… [chuckles awkwardly] …I chose this life, right? Sure! It’s exactly how I expected it… Precisely what I thought I’d be getting myself in– huh? Oh… uh, on a scale of ten? Oh, seven. What, honey? Eight, yeah, solidly eight. Yeah, coming!”

Dude comes jogging back after a beat.

“Make that a seven.”

Considering everything we have, are we happy? If we had to keep our heads grounded and our dreams in check, would we consider ourselves happy? Well, duh.

I think “seven” is bullshit. I suspect there’s a lot more 5s and 6s, if not lower, out there. People don’t want to admit the reality, that they’re unhappy, because then that’d mean they’d fucking well need to do something about it.

“Sure… I’m content. Content is the word. I wouldn’t say satisfied, but I’m happy– uh, I mean, content, with what I have.”

Right. That’s a seven on a real strong grading curve there, man.

If you could reach into a magical bag of friends, would you take exactly those you have now, no more, no less? If you could reach into a magical bag of jobs, would you sign up for yours again? Is your home a great home you’d take in a heartbeat given a do-over? If you could be mysteriously whisked off and confronted with a daydreaming version of you at 17, is who you are now the person you wanted be? Is it who you’ll be glad you were at the other end of your life? Will you, on your deathbed, wish like hell you could’ve said “No, this isn’t enough for me” and taken more for yourself?

If you would change things about your life, you are not all that happy. So, the question is, what are you getting out of lying about it?

That’s a whole ‘nother posting, isn’t it? Well, that’s all for this broadcast, batfans! Tune in for more exciting shenanigans next time, at the same bat time on the same bat channel!

PS: Oh, and, uh… if this posting has taken you rudely to the realization that happiness eludes you, then… um… April Fool’s?

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