The Perfect Life or the Happy Life?

Sometimes, most of us wonder about the quality of our lives.  Are we satisfied with life?  Are we happy?  Is something missing?  Could life be better?

I suspect that when these questions are asked, like around birthdays or significant changes, we become aware of the ways that the lives we lead just aren’t perfect.  I get that.  My life isn’t perfect.

I’ve been with my life companion for fourteen years.  It’s not the relationship I imagined.  We are very different from each other.  Among other things, since he is from Hong Kong, his food of choice is sea food.  If he had his way, the day would start with fish ball soup and continue with fish or sea food as part of every meal.  Me?  I grew up in Western Pennsylvania in a time when the water ways were polluted.  I’m fine with ocean fish — but that’s about it.  But from my Slavic heritage, I consider sauerkraut to be the food of the gods.  For some reason beyond my comprehension, he thinks it’s nothing more than stinky stuff.

Then there’s work.  Yes, I appreciate much of my work with graduate students and watching them grow, excel, and master skills in research.  But the university is always changing policies and procedures. Just when I get one set of procedures down, it changes again.  And of course, I should be paid three or four times what I make!

There’s also my denomination.  UCC has wonderful vision statements and stands on social justice.  I’m proud of that.  But have you been to a church function lately?  How much fried chicken and jello salad can anyone eat?  Really?

Yes, I’m intentionally being trite with my examples.  But that’s to make a point.  We are always aware that things could be better in our relationships, our workplaces, and our communities.  After all, at times we’re each a bit like Goldilocks:  this one’s too hot; this one’s too cold; this one’s too soft; this one’s too hard.  To have a good life, to be happy and satisfied in life does not require that our situations in life are perfect.  Instead, a life characterized by happiness and satisfaction depend on out outlook on the lives we lead and our openness to enriching experiences in each moment.

This morning, I sipped a cup of coffee while sitting on my front porch. I watched the sun rise over the tree line.  The air was cool and birds were beginning their day.  A few squirrels scurried around. I breathed deeply as I took it in.  I recalled Emily’s words from the play, Our Town:  “O Earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you.”

My life is worth living, meaningful, and good not because it’s perfect.  No one’s life is perfect. Instead, life is worth living, meaningful, and good because we chose to focus on what nourishes us in deep ways.  Happiness is possible not because of the events and circumstances of life.  Events and circumstances easily change.  But happiness, well…happiness is about each of us.

We are more likely to be happy when we give up expectations that we’ll have perfect relationships, jobs that are always fulfilling, or communities where everyone is compatible with our likes and dislikes.  We are more likely to be happy when we are present to and appreciate life as it happens, not trying to make it the way we want it to be.  After all, the only change that we can make are changes with ourselves.

Yes, my life is good and I am happy:  even though my partner will never like sauerkraut, no university will pay me four times what I currently make, and jello salad will keep showing up at church events.  Even in the midst of day to day irritations, life is very good.  Yes, finding that goodness is really up to each of us.  Our lives are worthwhile because we make them so.


Photo source:  CCO license

© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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One Response to The Perfect Life or the Happy Life?

  1. The purpose of living is to give glory to God in all we do, to sing of his splendor and love every day, giving glory to Him for a suffering and all joys. You speak of happiness, but happiness is transitory. I remember when I was a boy that strawberry ice cream made me happy. Now it is a good book that makes me happy, and tomorrow, it might be a good cognac. What we should be seeking is joy, for joy is the gift of the Holy Spirit…not happiness. Francis of Assisi is a good example of joy for in the great suffering he experienced, and that includes the stigmata on his hands and feet, Francis exuded great joy for he offered all of suffering to Christ in reparation for all sins. Saint Paul says it the best when he writes about the importance of unifying ourselves to Christ on the cross. There, in that most difficult space, Jesus calls his disciples…that is those who thrive to do His most holy will. The way of Saint Francis of Assisi is a beautiful model to follow and a great model to emulate in your own personal way. But to truly understand Francis is to understand a little more the God you are trying to follow. Francis’s embrace of poverty is a testament to the importance of divesting oneself of the worlds lures, attractions, distractions and noise. Many modern preachers have failed to understand the state of nothingness that one should preciously maintain in order to approach the cross. Pierre de Caussade, the famed 19th century spiritual director writes: ” When the Lord approaches, He weakens. Francis approached the cross where he was weakened. Not many before him, not even the apostles approached the cross except John, Mary the mother of God, and the two other Marys were there at the foot of the cross. In fact modern preachers preach about empowerment as a sign that God is guiding us. Not True says Church Fathers. Saint Germaine Cousin whose life story I wrote about (see my website) gives a beautiful account about the true meaning of life

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