You Are Here

“Happiness, and a quick look at the word.

Our primary meaning now is the feeling of pleasure and contentment; a buzz, a zestiness, the tummy upwards feel of good and right and relaxed and alive…you know…

But earlier meanings build in the hap – in Middle English, that is ‘happ’, in Old English, ‘gehapp’ – the chance or fortune, good or bad, that falls to you.  Hap is your lot in life, the hand you are given to play.  How you meet your ‘hap’ will determine whether or not you can be ‘happy’.

Pursuing happiness, and I did, and still do, is not at all the same as being happy – which I think is fleeting, dependent on circumstances, and a bit bovine.  If the sun is shining, stand in it – yes, yes yes.  Happy times are great, but happy times pass – they have to – because time passes.

The pursuit of happiness is more elusive; it is life-long, and it is not goal centered.  What you are pursuing is meaning – a meaningful life.  There’s the hap – the fate, the draw that is yours, and it isn’t fixed, but changing the course of the stream, or dealing new cards, whatever metaphor you want to use – that’s going to take a lot of energy.

There are times when it will go so wrong that you will barely be alive, and times when you realise that being barely alive, on your own terms, is better than living a bloated half-life on someone else’s terms.  The pursuit isn’t all or nothing – it’s all AND nothing.

When I was born I became the visible corner of a folded map.  The map has more than one route.  More than one destination.  The map that is the unfolding self is not exactly leading anywhere.  The arrow that says YOU ARE HERE is the first coordinate.”

Jeanette Winterson ~ Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal