Happiness: I May Be Small, But I’m Scrappy
May 12th, 2010

In case you missed it, I wrote an extra post yesterday to get me back on schedule with Momalom’s Five for Ten week.  Every now and then I like to post on days other than MWF just to keep you on your toes.  Or because I forgot my homework assignment and had to turn it in late.  Take your pick.

Lately my attention span in church is comparable to that of an 18-month-old.  This is probably because I spend about half of each service entertaining an 18-month-old.  This past Sunday in between Cheerios, sippy cups, and Dr. Seuss books I managed to catch a few bits and pieces of the actual sermon.  Victory!

Our priest spoke about peace.  He spoke about how Christ’s peace differs so completely from the way we refer to peace today.  He explained that to Jesus, peace was something comprehensive.  We, on the other hand tend to think of peace as something momentary and fleeting.  Peace is what we have when all the housework is done, or after the kids have gone to bed, or after the holidays are over.  Peace, for us, is highly circumstantial.  Peace, for Jesus, was all-encompassing, despite His external circumstances.

I bring this up not to get all up in your face about Christianity.  (I absolutely do not care what your faith life looks like.  That’s your business.  In fact I hardly ever talk about my faith, but I figure since this is Five for Ten week, maybe you’re still with me…)  I bring this up because I’m curious about how the same theory would apply to happiness.

When we say that we’re happy, what does it mean?  Does it mean something different when spoken from the lounge chair of a beach vacation than it does when spoken from the sofa of your cluttered living room at the end of a chaotic weekend?  If I take a bite of the most delicious thing ever and say, “I’m so happy,” does that cheapen the sentiment?  Should the bar for happiness be set higher?  Should it be reserved for statements that reflect a life that is harmoniously balanced?

I didn’t have to think about it very long to decide that this theory (which I’m still struggling with as it relates to peace – I disagree with our priest a lot…) makes a mockery of the very essence of happiness.  Happiness is entitled to be fleeting.  Happiness can be momentary and temporary and finite.  And quite frankly, maybe it should be.

For starters, my life will never be harmoniously balanced – partly because that’s unrealistic, and partly because it would be fantastically boring.  My life is busy.  I have a husband to love, a son to raise, a career to manage, friends to see, hobbies to do, books to read, recipes to try, trips to take, and Bravo’s West Wing marathons to watch.  If I’m shooting for harmonious balance some of those things will almost certainly get chucked.  And that would make me decidedly unhappy. 

Its ability to sneak into small moments is what makes happiness so powerful.  It can be small.  It is changeable.  It can find you wherever you are.  It doesn’t need to be big or sweeping.  It doesn’t need for everything around it to fit inside its structure.  It is wily and scrappy and creative.  Like a droplet of water it can seep into a tiny crack and soften you when you most need it. 

I am happy every time I kiss IEP.  I am happy every time I make GAP laugh.  I am happy every time I eat an oyster grinder at my favorite Cajun dive bar.  I am happy when Albert Pujols hits a home run.  I am happy when I get to sleep past 7:00.  And I am happy when the Bradford Pear trees bloom every spring.

I am happy in bigger, broader, ways too.  But isn’t it ultimately the accumulation of tiny happy moments that make a happy life?  Balance and harmony are all well and good.  But if all the little things in my life bring me happiness, if haphazardly, then that’s enough for me.

This post was written as part of Momalom’s Five for Ten week.  For more great posts on Happiness check out all of the other links here.

20 Responses to “Happiness: I May Be Small, But I’m Scrappy”

  1. Amber Says:

    I am seeing this theme a lot in these happiness posts. The idea that happiness is a collection of “tiny … moments.” It makes sense. All the grandiose things that make us happy (graduation, marriage, babies) wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t, you know, went through all the preparations (homework, planning, pregnancy). And, during those preparations, happiness is indeed fleeting.

  2. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities Says:

    I love this. Happiness can so often be small and scrappy and sneaky. It can alight upon us when we least expect it. It can bubble up in the cracks of our busy days and cause impromptu smiles. It can also be big and broad and bright. Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes. This is what makes it so amazing and so fascinating.

    Very much appreciate your sentiments here. Thank you.

  3. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    I think you’re right–the beauty of happiness is that it sneaks up on us in the small moments, when we least expect it. And an oyster grinder? Give me one of those, please!

  4. becca Says:

    Yes. The tiny moments. The tiny moments are so much EASIER and simpler to grasp onto and enjoy. I feel like so often I’m searching for the BIG lasting things to make me happy when if I just added up all of the smaller, maybe fleeting moments, I’d be happier more. Thank you for this post.

  5. Justine Says:

    “Its ability to sneak into small moments is what makes happiness so powerful. It can be small. It is changeable. It can find you wherever you are.”

    I truly believe that, and maybe that’s why even without the money, the dream house, the trip to Paris, I can genuinely say I’m happy because with my little one and her dad, I have many, many moments like that. Every day.

  6. Alisha Says:

    I’m starting to see a trend here; I think it’s so great that we’re all realizing that happiness comes in the form of the little moments we experience day-to-day :)

  7. C @ Kid Things Says:

    I’m happy when I get to sleep past 7, too. It very rarely happens, so I try to find those brief moments of happiness in other places.

  8. Jenn M Says:

    “But if all the little things in my life bring me happiness, if haphazardly, then that’s enough for me.”

    Amen to that. I often dream of really huge, life-changing things that would make me happier, but when I really stop and take a good, long look at the life I already have, I realize that it already makes me extremely happy. A good day isn’t just when you win the lottery or publish your first book–a good day is a great cup of coffee and some good conversation, or my children cooperating for a fleeting moment.

  9. Christine LaRocque Says:

    I LOVE this post, so refreshing. I’m embarassed to say I can’t exactly remember where I commented, but I did say to someone’s post that to me, it is the small things, but even more than that it’s about finding happiness from the accumulation of all the small things. Just as you say here. Fleeting is okay, and like you said, probably entirely right, it’s just that there need to be ENOUGH of those fleeting moments to keep us going right?

    I loved reading your list of things, some of which have to get “chucked” on occasion. Gosh, how I struggle with this. So many fun, meaninful things to do, so little time. It never occured to me that without them I would be bored. I like that perspective!

  10. soccermom Says:

    Funny that you mention church. I too have been distracted at church lately.
    I havent really taken the time to figure out why.

    But you nailed it.

    While I truly love to hear my preacher speak, I havent really been there, in mind or in spirit. Just in body.

    Great Post!

  11. Anne Says:

    Love thinking of happiness as scrappy and sneaky! And sometimes, it crops up in weird places. Last night as I cared for my hubby who was sick as a dog with food poisoning, I felt happy. Happy that we have each other and that I get to take care of him. Weird, but happy.

  12. Kelly Says:

    “Happiness is entitled to be fleeting. Happiness can be momentary and temporary and finite. And quite frankly, maybe it should be.”

    I so completely agree. As I read through all of our happiness posts, something similar is standing out: Happiness catches us by surprise. Looking for it, pursuing it, chasing it never works. It’s when we’re living our lives, going through the daily grind, that happiness best works its magic.

  13. Lauren @ Embrace the Detour Says:

    YES. Life is busy and WE LIKE IT THAT WAY. It’s jammed with things we love to do and things we do for people we love, and finding a calm balance would require us to skip some if those things. And we don’t wanna. And so we seize happiness when we can and live the rest of the time with an awareness that, while not perfect, our lives are FULL. Which is how we like ‘em. :)

  14. Corinne Says:

    I really love the smallness of happiness. Because finding it is like a little gift now and then. Unexpected and joyful when it occurs :)

  15. Tiffany Says:

    Happiness is totally found in the little things!!!

  16. Jen Says:

    Oh, you said that WORD. Balance. Hate that. If we all tried to measure our happiness by the “balance” we achieve, would any of us be happy?
    Happiness can be fleeting and sustained and both at the same time. And I never really thought about it as a comparison to peace, but I think I’ll mull this over a bit. Thanks, Gale.
    Also, that 18-month-old in church? Bless you! I have one of those, and keeping her off of the dining room table chewing on the candles takes my full attention. Church? Wouldn’t dream of trying right now.

  17. Eva @ Eva Evolving Says:

    Gale, I’m bookmarking this post with my Delicious account! Oh, this is SO TRUE. This is one of my favorite descriptions of happiness.

    “Happiness is entitled to be fleeting.” Yes, absolutely. Thank goodness happiness is fleeting. If we waited for everything to be in order, we’d never have happiness.

    A home run by your team is always a dose of happiness, isn’t it?!

  18. Shawna Says:

    Happiness does have a way of sneaking into the little moments and then when you turn your gaze and look it full on, you find it seeping into the bigger things in your life. Love your post, my perpetual distraction as a woman with too many roles sometimes needs a little kick to remind me of where it’s at!

  19. Brittany at Mommy Words Says:

    I think you are right – it is not neccessary to alwasy have this big huge happy. It is much easier to get to that big huge one if you enjoy all those little moments and let them build up to that one big happy. Great post.

    Oh, and like you – I often think about what we hear in church / temple and end up thinking about things just a little bit differently.

  20. Bruce Says:

    I really love the smallness of happiness. Because finding it is like a little gift now and then. Unexpected and joyful when it occurs :)