Happiness, Please

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing.

~John Butler Yeats, 1909

Is there a difference between pleasure and happiness?

I had never really thought much about it until today.  My husband sent me an interview by Dr. Robert Lustig, who just recently published a book on this very topic.  He is actually quite well known for his stance against sugar and processed foods (which, as a side note, is something I wholeheartedly agree with) and it seems that this is where this topic stems from.

I encourage you to watch the interview HERE.  But if you don’t have the time, let me summarize his main idea:

Pleasure is not Happiness.  In fact, pleasure is the opposite of happiness.  Pleasure can never lead to happiness.

Does this seem counter intuitive?  Well, perhaps it is… until you understand the mechanisms in the brain that control these experiences.  One experience is rooted in need and addiction; the other stems from satisfaction and contentment.  Can you guess which one is which?

I’ll keep it simple, because this idea spoke to me today on very simple terms.  Pleasure is a quick fix that leaves as quickly as it comes: it always leaves you longing for more.  Happiness, on the other hand, is a state of being and can only be realized when you stop searching for that fix.

 

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A Break From Authenticity

Last night I picked up my copy of Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. This book has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for almost three years.  My mandate to begin “Living Authentically” started shortly after I read Brené’s earlier published book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Since moving, starting residency, and having another baby, my goal to read Daring Greatly kept getting pushed to the bottom of my list.  Within the midst of my current existential life crisis, I decided it was time to pick up the book and stare Wholeheartedness right in the face.

I didn’t even get through the prologue before realizing that I no longer live, or even embody, the qualities of wholeheartedness and authenticity.  Maybe I used to, but in the struggle to keep up and keep going, I’ve let these important aspects of my life fall to the side.

Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection

~Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

The one thing I know for sure is that right now, I have no clarity of my purpose.  I am filled with fear and disconnection from my life and my purpose.  I feel confused and I lack direction because my viewpoint on life is clouded by outside expectations, judgement, and comparison.  My internal dialogue is lost and disguised by everything that defines fear and vulnerability.  These definitions were very well delineated by Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection and I know that reading that book changed my life.  I blogged about that change on the old blog and I will find that post to re-post here in the coming days.

Ironically, The introduction to Daring Greatly literally reminded me of these imperfections and what needs to be shed from my life:
1. Letting go of what people think
2. Letting go of perfectionism
3. Letting go of numbing and powerlessness
4. Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
5. Letting go of the need for certainty
6. Letting go of comparison
7. Letting go of exhaustion of a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
8. Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
9. Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
10. Letting go of being cool and “always in control”

Each of these ten imperfections, every single one of them, comprise the mental roadblocks that I am struggling with right now.  These imperfections are preventing me from committing to the decisions I am faced with in my life today.  I need to lean-in to my fears and rediscover my vulnerabilities.  I need to embrace them and re-discover my own authenticity

 

On To Book 10

  
This weekend I am off on a quick “all expenses paid” trip to an Oceanside side city for a conference planning meeting. I’m not as keen on going as I was two months ago when I agreed to the trip; I am tired and nauseous and I just want to lay low and sleep. 

Regardless, I am committed and I’m going to make the best of it. The hotel is right next to the ocean, so hopefully I’ll get in a beach walk. But even more exciting, is probably the opportunity for some time to myself: to do anything I want!

This book has been burning a hole in my bookshelf for a long, long time. I’m excited to get into it and see how much I can read over this weekend!  

Here’s to 2015’s Book #10!

“This is Happy” – Book Review

It has been a long time since I’ve started and completed a book in less than 4 days.  This is Happy by Camilla Gibb is one book that had me captivated from the first few pages right until the acknowledgements at the end of the book.

I don’t know where to start with my review of this book, except to say that it is simple yet profound all at the same time.  In 270 odd pages she manages to tell the story of her entire life, from her early childhood to her current life. It seems like a short amount of space to dedicate to almost 40 years of a person’s life.  However, she manages to capture everything that is meaningful, powerful, emotional, and human while succinctly conveying the struggles and triumphs of her life.

I feel like the biggest reason I was so captivated by the simple and straightforward writing in this book was because sometimes I felt like she was describing the exact same emotional and mental struggles that I, myself have had throughout my life.  Camilla Gibb shamelessly recounts her multiple struggles with depression, including her hospitalizations.  She discusses the mental health struggles of her family members, the rise and fall of her relationship and marriage to her wife, her sudden and unpredictable desire to have a child, her failed pregnancy, and then her successful pregnancy… all that and more.

What I found most profound was her struggles with pregnancy and parenthood; specifically, how she felt so drawn towards having a child and then spent her entire pregnancy wondering how she was going to love and care for her child.  After the birth of her daughter, she continues this emotional journey and expresses her fear of having to “be alone” with her daughter – like she doesn’t know if her version of parenthood and the emotions she feels towards to role are proper and acceptable.  Yet, she feels compelled to try again for another child.

For the first time I feel I have finally read an expression of parenthood that is similar to how I can feel at various moments in my life.  Instead of the overwhelming “Mommy Wars” that I see happening everywhere around me, I have found someone who expresses their fears, uncertainties, and truths associated with parenting: Am I doing this right?  Am I doing it for the right reasons? And, is it okay to feel like I’m not doing it right?

Camilla Gibb’s recollection of her struggles with parenthood is only one of the moments that seemed to parallel my life.  It seems most pronounced now, given my recently new pregnancy and all the uncertainty I feel around a decision that I thought I was happy to make.  Some other important parallels I found including the sudden and somewhat unexplained loss of an important relationship in her life.  While she desribes the rise and fall of her relationship with her wife, I can claim a similar emotional experience in the rise and fall of my relationship with my old friend and mentor, Kay.  Another area that is overwhelmingly familiar: the constant struggle from an early age with the dark and unpredictable tendrils of depression.  Camilla’s rendition of her multiple struggles with depression throughout her life seemed to echo strongly inside of me.

And yet, with all of this difficult times written out on paper and shared with the harsh and unforgiving world, she made the decision to title her book, “This is Happy.”  This is Happy: struggles with depression, anxieties and uncertainties around parenthood, loss of relationships, mental illness… But there is also the beauty of her life that shines though: Her Daughter.  Those unexpected relationships that she formed in her life and became the most meaningful and influential.  Her success in life, academically and as a writer.  She is someone who made her life what she wanted it to be, despite everything that she struggled to overcome.

This book resonated with me in ways that I am still discovering, even as I write this review.  Life is messy, unforgiving, full of struggle and heartache.  Despite all of that, however, life is beautiful, meaningful, rewarding… and Happy.