This is my response to Saving Ninja’s Thought Experiment #7. I am grateful for this because I have been in a post writing slump for a month or two. The blog has been living off of my post stockpile and it is nearing depletion.
Anyway the gist of the question to be answered is; “I’d like you to think, and I mean really think about what you want and need to make yourself and your family happy.”
This question is a problem for me because in my heart of hearts I know I probably can’t be ‘happy’.
Oh I can have moments of joy and laugh with the best of them, but underlying all moments is the return of Nidhogg. (Old Norse Níðhöggr, literally “Curse-striker” or “He Who Strikes with Malice”). He is the foremost of several serpents or dragons who dwell beneath the world-tree Yggdrasil and eat its roots. This is highly injurious to the tree, which holds the Nine Worlds of the cosmos. Nidhogg’s actions have the intention of pulling the cosmos back to chaos.
I think it all falls back to problems in my late childhood, but I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. All of my quirky issues (Hoarding, Prepping, FIRE, Misanthropy) seem to stem from this same place. Insecurity.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a basket case. By any objective measure I am winning. I have everything I want. I am able to achieve what I set my mind too, but always with the sinking back into gnawing concern over things I can not control.
A big part of the problem is me being stuck in the past. If you have ever heard of the whole ‘Are you a Past, Present, or Future person?’ I am clearly mired in the past.
Here is a link to what I am talking about if this is the first time you are hearing this; The Time Paradox.
I Dwell So Hard in the past that I still waste time fantasizing about revenge on High School Enemies!
Anyway, the supposed hierarchy of happiness based on where you fall in this particular version of categories goes something like this;
- High in past-positive time perspective
- Moderately high in future time perspective
- Moderately high in present-hedonistic time perspective
- Low in past-negative time perspective
- Low in present-fatalistic time perspective.
I live in the second from the bottom. Yikes!
All this being said, let’s review what does help me get closer to happiness.
#1 (Pills) I finally came down off of my high horse and starting taking 20mg of ‘Lighten Up Francis’ pills. Not enough to make me drool, but enough to ’round the corners’ off everything. I like this place, it makes me grind my teeth way less. If you are a guy that still wont take aspirin for his headache, get over it. Better living through chemicals is a real thing.
#2 (Places) My wife can ‘go to her happy place’. She means ‘The Cottage‘. This strategy works for me too. I am happy in the woods, the lake, and my backyard hammock. Clearing one’s mind is learned skill. I had to spend a lot of time learning how to let go of my thoughts and just be in the moment.
#3 (Things) I am no longer insecure about money. Wow, say that again. I am no longer insecure about money. I have enough that if I need or even just want something I can get it. Materialism still does make any sense to me, but buying things or eating well are creature comforts that make a weekend that much better.
#4 (People) Herein lies my big hope. I enjoy my children. I live vicariously through them and experience my truly Zen moments when I am casually observing them at play. Even out of sight, just hearing the sounds of childhood makes me happy.
In the abstract, happiness for me would be free time and getting my brain to slow its roll.
But as far as a picture for an answer;
I think my best bet for happiness is this; I am sitting on the porch at the cottage. Retired. Beverage in hand, watching my grand kids splashing in the water. That works for me.
Side Story; I have a friend named Tom. He smokes too much, but he asked me this very same question once at a law enforcement seminar. His answer was this; To build a big round table by myself and have all my adult children sit around it to share a meal. Then he would feel content. I liked this image, I wish him luck.
Here are all the other people who have answered the question about happiness for themselves already;