That elusive thing called happiness

HappinessImage by Caleb Roenigk

I read a blog the other day that reminded me: Happiness is not a completed puzzle with all the pieces glued into place, varnished, framed, and then hung on the wall—as though once you find that last piece and arrange it in the missing space, completing the puzzle “just so,” you will have achieved happiness and that quest will be finished.

What a great image! As though happiness could be contained in a still, framed, lifeless image.

I liked it. I liked it a lot. It’s so easy to think that if I pad my cell with the right set of philosophical bumpers, I will avoid sharp objects and intrusive voices that wreck my peace.

I thought about it more.

Happiness is not just “joy in the journey” of hunting for puzzle pieces either. The hunt implies that there is some key, some magical understanding that puts everything together in such a way that you know you’ve arrived. So the quest for the pieces is part of that vision that you might find the end point. It’s hard to have joy in a journey without a destination (who wants to just drive around all day without arriving somewhere?).

So that’s the problem with “joy in the journey” thinking. We still try to get somewhere so that we’ll finally feel justified in having that feeling of joy or happy.

What if “happiness” is utterly different than we’ve been led to believe by advertisers, experts, and advice-givers?

Happiness in homeschool, as I’ve observed it, and as I’ve lived it at times, is the experience of being okay with my homeschool exactly the way it is today—unfinished, messy, incompleteness spilling out of the sides, and running down my legs, and busting through the neat graphed lines of my schedule.

Happiness in my homeschool looks like slathering a big thick layer of yummy love across my imperfect self and my silly, sometimes struggling, sometimes thriving bunch of little rascals that live their own version of happy in the middle of the mess.

It’s forgiving myself for my lacks and inadequacies and recognizing that I don’t have all that it takes to homeschool. Some days I don’t even have half of what it takes.

Happiness comes when I’m least expecting it—when a moment stirs me or catches me off guard, like a hug and kiss, or a brand new word read, or a note pinned to my pillow, or a pair of kids playing without arguing for ten whole minutes.

It comes when I give up and give in and let today be what it is and trust that tomorrow will be okay too and I look back at yesterday and think, “That wasn’t all bad. It looks even better in hindsight. I can build a memory from that one thing—that little breakthrough or that joke or the way we all teared up at the end of the read aloud. That’s enough to take from yesterday.”

Happiness is a state of being not a goal achieved or a mindset created or a philosophy rigidly followed. It comes when you let go and float and let the waves of your life ride.

Think of labor—yielding, trusting, crests, and valleys. But oh so good, and leading to the oh so right, and messy too.

If you’re in that space of self-recrimination, where you can’t figure it out, can’t identify what’s going wrong, if you wish you were better at being a mom or teaching math or having big juicy conversations… stop. Go inside and let yourself fall a part a little bit.

While you do, be your own best friend for a moment. Notice your limits and love them. Let them be. Blow them kisses. They are part of what make you, you… to yourself, and to your children.

You don’t have to solve it. You can keep going, you can embrace the uniqueness that is your life…. trusting that over time, everyone will find their way when you stop pushing so hard to make it all fit into that framed puzzle.

Be good to you. Accept who you are—hug yourself, wrap that hurting self in a pair of big strong arms. You’re okay. I know you want to grow and change and be better. We all do. One way to get there is to stop trying to fix it. Simply be where you are, as you are, living with the magical people entrusted to your care.

Happiness may find you yet.

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