Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happiness is Like a Butterfly

I’m not that happy. There. I said it. I have been happier in my life. The last few years have been filled with changes and sorrow, and I’ve struggled to find my balance and my joy. I love my little girl, but I loved my life before her. I love writing and the publishing industry, but I also love reading, watching TV, and spending time with friends—all things I have to give up or cut back to find time to write.

But we aren’t guaranteed happiness in life. Even the Constitution only gives us “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” So we’re free to pursue happiness. But what does this mean? How do you go after happiness? Is it a tangible thing you can grasp? Is it something to be achieved?

For me, happiness is an ebb and flow. I try to find joy in the moment. Honestly, I can’t do it for every moment. But I won’t do it for any if I don’t make an effort.

And I find that some things make me happier than others. Routine and schedules make me happy. I do not like surprises and chaos. If I know how my time will be filled and I am able to control it for the most part, I’m happy. My husband hates having to have a plan for every day. That’s fine. I just make the plan and don’t tell him, so then it seems spontaneous to him.

I like accomplishing things. I like crossing off everything on my to-do list (I like making lists!). I like to feel that I have done something every day. I think that was one reason I didn’t find much happiness as a teacher. I never felt like I’d accomplished anything. Every year I’d teach the same thing again, and in my mind, I’d think, how can you not know this? I taught it already! But of course, the kids were new and the material was new to them. But I wanted to cross off commas and be done with them, not revisit them year after year.

What else brings me closer to happiness? Writing. Writing this blog is making me happy. I’m getting my feelings on paper. E.M. Forster once said, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” Writing is a learning process for me. I learn a lot about myself through the novels I write and even these blogs.

Okay, so how do you view happiness? Are you happy?


  1. I am ecstatic! I sold two more books to Sourcebooks (9 & 10)! It's going to be a horrible day at work, like it was yesterday. Too many patrons, too few of us to deal with the volume what with vacations and all, and yet I'm ecstatic! In a short while I'll be going to my son's wedding and conference, enjoying Disney World. I just finished writing Dreaming of the Wolf and am rereading. The yard is overrun with weeds and I'm plucking away, futilely it seems often, yet, I'm gaining ground! We make our own happiness despite the difficulties in life, I believe. And so yes, I'm happy!!! Very, very happy!

  2. Hey, I'm still breathing. Sometimes that's all it takes.

  3. I LOVE crossing things off my to do list. I have a specific highlighter to do so :) Sometimes, even when everything isn't going great, you've got to find the little things that bring you joy. Great post, Shana!

  4. Congrats, Terry! I should have added that selling a new book makes me happy!

    I hear ya, Cheryl.

    I love colored pens and post-its and highlighters, Danielle. It IS the little things.

  5. It's summer time! I'm generally happy in the summer. I get very, very depressed in the winter and require long sessions in front of a phototherapy lamp. I will move further south one of these days! Hopefully, in the next couple of years. I don't "do" winter.

    I also love making to-do lists and planning every minute of every day. I seldom get through 1/10th of anything in my grandious plan, but I enjoy making the plan.

    I've found the secret joy in teaching (it took me a few years of misery to figure this out)... it's interacting with the students more than teaching the subject, though by the end of the semester I'm burnt out and done, TYVM. Then the next semester starts and I get new students to amuse me... or annoy me. But yes, sometimes I think if I have to explain the scientific method one more time, I will explode.

    Major congrats to Terry!!! WOOT! The happiness of others makes me happy. It's infectious.

  6. Great blog, Shana~

    You list makers are sick, sick puppies. But then, you must pursue whatever floats your boat. For me, lists make my ass twitch. Happiness would be never having to make another to-do list but I can get behind writing a list of things that make me happy.
    Finishing a book
    Spending time with family
    A beautifully poured Dirty Martini with 4 olives
    Spending time with friends
    Reading a great book
    A perfect fall day

  7. Hi Shana,

    I guess we have to have a few bad days so we can really, really enjoy the good days. I love surprises--well good surprises!

    Terry! Woo-hoo! Congrats Selling books would make anyone happy!


  8. Come on down to Texas, Olivia. We have more sun (and heat) than you could ever want. Depression is one reason my family moved here. My mom couldn't handle the winters in Michigan. Now they summer in Michigan and spend the rest of the year here.

    LOL, Robin! I know! It's a disease.

    Good point, Amelia. So true.

  9. Very thoughtful post Shana.
    Every time I want to wallow in a pouty mood, I remind myself that I have a great family, terrific friends (in real life & on-line) and I can still hit the crap out of a tennis ball a few times a week. As long I can still read, I'm happy. I'm so glad you posted this because my vacation is over on Monday & I still haven't won the lottery. I may have to revisit this post LOL.

  10. I hear you Shana. I think it is healthy to acknowledge how you truly feel, not just how you think you "should" feel. And sometimes just doing that helps you feel better!

  11. Happiness is fluctuating, I think. But overall I love my life and can't think of too many things I would change. Well, maybe being 50 pounds lighter would be nice..... :)

    Keep pursuing, Shana!

  12. Talking about happiness makes me happy, Shana. :} Great post!

  13. I am incredibly happy, and incredibly blessed. I have a wonderful and healthy family and a Positive Psychology company that helps people be Happier, for free. It is very gratifying to see the difference our work is making.

    Thanks, and Be Happy,

    Gregory S. Barsh, Esq.
    Chief Happiness Officer
    ruHap, The Happiness Company
    Follow our blog, How to be Happier, at