“Happiness is not something I ever took for granted.” M.Monroe
Marilyn’s turbulent and difficult childhood contributed enormously to this sentiment but perhaps unbeknownst to her she was simply expressing a very simple truth. One of the Four Noble Truths taught by Buddha in fact. According to him all existence is dukkha, meaning ‘suffering’, ‘pain’, ‘anguish’ and ‘unsatisfactoriness’. Our lives are a constant struggle and we don’t find ultimate happiness or satisfaction in anything we experience. Now at first this may seem a little harsh, even a little nihilistic, but if you take a step back and take a closer look at what is being said, I think there is a lot of truth in these words but also a lot of comfort in this truth. Striving to be happy all the time is both exhausting and demoralising, but if we could set aside such an unattainable goal, would it not, paradoxically, make us all the more happier? Just knowing that it is ok not to be happy all the time, or even most of the time, is a huge relief because too often we set for ourselves this ideal that we should, ought to be happy and yet we are not which in turn makes us feel like a failure. That there is something wrong with us, our lives; that there is no way of fixing our lives other than to make dramatic changes that can bring about more unhappiness and more dissatisfaction. We are under a constant bombardment of images and messages telling us to be happy, that contentment lies within all our grasps if we just do this, buy this, look like this, have this. That there is a perfect life, an ideal life that can be attained and this heaps the pressure on making us feel all the more like a loser when we fail to achieve this; when we feel blue, unhappy or just plain blah about our lives and ourselves. We are often afraid to say this openly for fear others will also see us as failures which only compounds the problem as everyone hides behind a veil of pretence, a desire to be seen by others as living a charmed life, a happy and therefore content successful life. Realising that not only is this false but that happiness is not guaranteed or a measure of success is in itself a source of joy, of elation. Now we are free to experience the whole range of human emotions, to feel a wanting, a desire for something that we can not articulate and not feel inadequate. Ultimately just being aware that because we are not always happy does not mean that there is anything wrong with us, this is what is important, and what can even make us just a little happier.