No, this won't be a discussion of the Declaration of Independence, or of the excellent movie with Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness.
I want to think about the lifelong pursuit all of us have for satisfaction, for joy, for happiness. Of course, this isn't restricted to the retirement years. As a youngster most of us want nothing but happiness; chores and duties were to be avoided at all costs. As we got older, we often experiment with things that might bring momentary happiness: alcohol, drugs, sex.
Later it becomes the search for deep love and commitment to someone or something. Too often that is followed by the belief that money or possessions equal contentment. "If I only had......I'd be happy."
Honestly, I fell for all these false gods at one point or another. If you grew up in middle class America it was hard to avoid. Even my religious upbringing stressed the rewards God would bestow on me if I believed completely and followed the "rules," both written and unwritten.
I am quite certain that retirement is a journey, not a destination. Along the way, I have learned that much of what I accepted with blind faith in my younger years might have been well-meaning, but it was wrong, or at least requires a critical review.
I am in the midst of a rather intensive study of spirituality. That has caused me to question and broaden my understanding of what makes the universe and me operate the way we do. It has given me a much wider, more encompassing, and frankly more joyful worldview than I receieved from my traditional upbringing. Facing the possibility of eternal punishment wasn't exactly a happy place.
I am more questioning of the forces that drive our society and culture. Some of the not-so-attractive parts of our history that were glossed over during my school years are too powerful to ignore. Other parts of what made us who we are remain empowering and encouraging.
A post of a week or two ago stimulated some tremendous comments with back-and-forth exchanges of concerns about our future. Frankly, it was not all "sunshine and roses" but was a necessary conversation.
With all that being said, this post is ultimately meant to be uplifting. Through the disappointments, false narratives, even a questioning of the foundation of my faith life, I have reaffirmed the possibility...no, the likelihood, that the pursuit of happiness (or its more permanent cousin, joy) is both possible and can have a positive conclusion.
What I would like to suggest after 17+ years of the retirement life, is that happiness is a concept that changes over time. What made me happy at my grandfather's farm at age 7 was not what made me feel good at 16, or 22, or 27, the year I married the woman of my dreams. What made me feel successful and satisfied at 40 or 50 holds little interest in my 69th year.
Maybe that is why we refer to the "pursuit" of happiness. It is not a single moment in time. but in constant evolution. Probably the saddest thing to see is someone who chases his or her vision of happiness that has remained unchanged since teenage or young adult years. Being locked into just one version of satisfaction almost guarantees a life of disappointment, chasing something that can never be grasped, or an outlook on the unfairness of life that is, to put it politely, misguided.
|A balance life can be a joyful life|
Joy is an internal condition that tends to be longer-lasting. It is the feeling of contentment, satisfaction, of parts of one's life being in balance and working together, of being comfortable with one's self. While the happiness of an event, holiday, or special occasion ends, the joy of being with loved ones continues. The feeling that your life is unfolding the way it is meant to, that you are strong enough to face what may come, is joy. The peace that a spiritual awareness brings is joy.
The pursuit of happiness and joy. One is temporary, one is more long lasting and life-centered. Both are worth pursuing. How is your journey going?