How To Find Happiness

Do not search for it. It will come at you out of the dark, when you need it, like a rescuer. Do not dream of it, because what you think will bring you peace will often leave you sorrow in its place. And do not wait around for it. Happiness is a thing you reach for as you move. If you stop, if you stand still and hold out your hands, you will never catch it.

Do your best to recognize it. When you see happiness approaching, or the chance of it, snatch at it. Open yourself up and make yourself big, so it cannot get around you so easily as when you are small. But do not forget to close up again; if you are open all the time, you will catch mostly darkness in your arms.

Know that happiness may not look like the happiness you have known before, or even like happiness at all. It may look like pain or heartache as it approaches, but keep a wary eye. You may see fire in it yet. Do not be fooled by the false memories of happiness past, of shadows thrown by the lights you have known before. If you are not careful, they will keep you.

Understand that sometimes, you will not come across a piece of happiness until it has been gone for days or months or decades, even. Know that it is OK to find it in an old song or grainy photograph or in words in a worn-out paperback. Treasure this as you would a flame in the cold of winter; remembered happiness is happiness just the same.

When you find it, mark its place. Write it in lines of script and keep the pages close. The night left behind will seem blacker if you do not give happiness its due. Ignore it and it will flee sooner and faster, and take the light with it. Do your best not to be caught snatching at the air at dusk.

Fight for your happiness if you can, but do not be bitter when you lose, when your knuckles are bloodied and there is dust on your clothes, and the light is no more than a pinprick in the distance. The punches you throw and the curses you spit will often not earn you anything more, will not slow down your pace as life pulls you forward, but they will remind you that you are human. Being human means, mostly, that you are a part of something bigger than the stretch of gravel underneath your feet, and that knowledge can keep you safe, if you let it.

Let it go when it is time. If you keep happiness too long it will sour, and you will struggle to remember how it felt when you first saw it, like headlights coming out of the black when you are stranded. Some pieces you may carry forever, like stars pinned to the pockets of your jacket, but more often you will watch it fade. Happiness is mostly like a street lamp, helping you see just ahead as you pass it in the night. As it slips by you, be glad for its warmth, and do not hold its brevity against it. We are all only here for a spark’s age.

View Comments (2)
  • I just finished reading Part II of Swann’s Way, which deals with many of these themes. Such a nice transition out of the book and back into the “nonfiction” world!

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