Member Rara Avis
I think many of you touched upon it in this thread, but Sharon pretty much nailed it, explaining in just a few words my earlier response.
When I was a bit past thirty, two events that were separated by seven years came together and forever changed my perspective about happy. Many of you have heard at least bits and pieces of the story.
Boots was one of my closest friends, and I introduced her to Don, another good friend. Everyone was surprised when they married, and even more surprised when Boots turned up pregnant. She was 42 when Donnie was born, so it was sadly no surprise that he was afflicted with Down's Syndrome, a hole in his heart, and more ailments than any child should ever face. I was lucky and got to know Donnie better than most because, when he was about a year old, I married his much older sister, Annette.
Fast forward about six years. I had quit a lucrative job managing a restaurant chain in San Diego to return to college and learn a little something about a new-fangled thing called computers. "Chasing a dream," my soon-to-be-ex-wife called it. We were already separated, Annette in San Diego and me in Orange County, I was major broke, there was a lot of stress, and I just plain felt miserable most of the time. At one point, I pawned my prized studio camera, an expensive Mamiya RB, for $75 so I could eat. Life pretty much sucked.
About a month before I was to graduate, when everything seemed darkest to me, that hole in Donnie's heart finally caught up to him. Boots asked me to write something to say at the funeral, and I don't think I've ever dug deeper for words that could give his brief live some semblance of meaning. Donnie had spent seven years mired in Hell, in and out of the hospital several times a year - so much pain, so much suffering. Only to die.
You know what I eventually wrote? And finally realized?
Donnie was happy. In spite of all the pain he suffered, in spite of the hills he climbed every day of his life, in spite of a nebulous future he couldn't hope to understand, Donnie was without question the happiest person I have ever known. He laughed just as hard when he fell down as he did when tickled. He smiled and gurgled and screeched for no other reason than he could. Donnie was happiness incarnate throughout his short life, and I have no reason to believe anything changed with his death.
I thought I was miserable because I was alone, flat broke, and questioning the choices I made. Donnie reminded me that being miserable, like being happy, has very little to do with external things. External is transitory, fleeting, and whether it brings joy or pain, those are equally fleeting. There will always be people worse off than me who are immeasurably happy, just as there are always people better off who are miserable.
Some things please me, others displease, but nothing can make me happy. Happy simply isn't part of a Cause & Effect equation. I'm not even sure Happy is really a condition. I think, instead, Happy is a choice. I spent half my life chasing Happy, wondering why it never lasted beyond the moments of fleeting pleasure.
But I was lucky. I had a Donnie in my life, if all too briefly, to teach me his Truths.