Happiness – we all seek it and want to know the secret of it. Self-help books on happiness line the shelves of book shops and libraries and there are all kinds of theories about happiness.
Over the years what I thought about and desired as a means to gaining happiness have changed as I have… matured (I like the word matured better than aged). Here is my list, organized by decades.
0-10 I wanted to be cared for, safe, nourished and nurtured to be happy (although I could not articulate all this at the time).
11-20 I wanted friendships, fun, freedom, popularity, a car and someone interesting and sexy to date.
21-30 I wanted a college education, to go to lots of parties, a satisfying career, a marriage partner, pregnancy and healthy children, and a nice house in a neighborhood with a good school system.
31-40 I wanted to further my career as a Social Worker and Educational Consultant, a happy marriage, and healthy, independent kids.
41-50 I wanted to understand what spirituality meant, to know the meaning of life, to go beyond my self and live in an altruistic manner.
51-60 I want freedom, health, prosperity, deep friendships and to simplify my life more and more.
Throughout these decades there have been some things that did not change from decade to decade, including:
- health, love and happiness for myself, my family members, friends and all people
- stimulating work that helps people
- a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing home
- good friends, a happy marriage and independent children
- peace in the world
- that everyone have food to eat
For the past ten years, my quest for happiness has focused on things that, at younger ages, I would not have thought important, including:
- a spiritual practice and community
- deep friendships based on caring, trust and mutual generosity
- a life simplified by having less – fewer material things, a small living space
- simple pleasures – watching otters and ducks on the pond by my cottage, watching the seasons change, spending time in natural settings, cooking for friends, phone calls and visits from my kids
- peace, tranquility, compassion, and acceptance of myself, my children, my friends and acquaintances
- acceptance for all that is
- living mindfully, ethically and compassionately
I realize happiness comes from what I value most, what brings me pleasure, challenge, contentment and peace.
Whatever is on your list of things or values that bring you happiness, I hope you revel in them.
Dear Saddhamala, this is a lovely article. The first item (0-10) on the list of what you desired by ages truly touched me, particularly because I have a young baby, and that is exactly what I feel I want to give her. I was also interested to read “independent children” on your list of things that did not change from decade to decade. There is a lot of talk about interdependence in Buddhism, so I curious to hear what you mean by independence.
Thank you for writing. Your note touched me. I remember when my two sons were young babies, it’s such a wonderful, close time.
By “independent” I mean both my sons are living independently and have found careers that they love. They are secure within themselves
and like to travel and make their own decisions. That being said, we are truly interdependent. We stay in touch regularly, get together as often
as possible and are able to talk about anything without censoring what we say. We are very close and what affects one of us affects all of us.
We offer emotional support for one another, and I am happy to write that my sons are best friends.
Thank you for making this distinction between independent and interdependent! I hope this answers your query.
May all blessings be yours,