Many years ago when I was around 20 or so I remember reading the National Geographic magazine. It was special back then and had great photos from around the world. There was a story about a woman gathering rice in a rice paddy of Southeast Asia. I remember the journalist asking this woman if she was happy. Now the woman lived in a native hut made from local trees. Her life had no running water or any of the conveniences we take for granted. The journalist noted the puzzled look on her face when he asked her this question. She answered that “being happy was something that happened between the time you were born and the time you died.” It happened. It wasn’t a goal. It wasn’t a state of mind. It wasn’t analyzed. It just happened. Maybe the rice gathering was easier that day and it made her happy. Maybe the crop was good and she felt happy. From the time she was born until the time she died, she did the best she could do and experienced being happy.
This is not a notation about happiness or seeking happiness or having it as a goal. Think about it. What kind of goal is it to strive for happiness. I really think the rice gatherer had it correct. It is was happens and we go on our way. If you live long enough, you will have many random events in your life. There will be losses and gains. Many of these we will have no control of. Losses of jobs, spouses, children, friends, mobility, financial, dreams and of course, what might have been. Along with these losses are bouts of happy; gains of money, great children, loving home life etc.
Since we can only manage ourselves–not others or time itself, it really comes down to “all you can do is all you can do”. You do the best you can with what you know how to do at that time. That is why we learn over and over to forgive ourselves. If we had known better, we would have done better. We didn’t, but now we do and we can move on to behaving better, making better and wiser decisions and experiencing happiness. I think it should be a motto for all the marriages and unhappy homes that if the parents had known better, they would have done better. We seek redemption for our past mistakes and we learn to also give it.
The wiser we become, we realize it doesn’t take too much to make us happy. Our needs and wants change, our priorities and values mature, we take less for granted and we learn not to assume. We start to surrender to a greater force that has always been in control here. We ride the winds of the force and we learn what the woman in the rice paddy knew. Between the time you were born and the time you die, happy will be there along the way.