One of my girlfriends shared an article with me from The Atlantic entitled, There's More to Life Than Being Happy (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/theres-more-to-life-than-being-happy/266805/). It is one of the things that I have been pondering off and on for the past year. I keep talking about being happy and trying to figure out how to be happy, but after reading the article, I realise that what I was calling happy is actually having meaning and purpose in my life, and not the actual goal of happiness. My brain shouted, "Yes! THAT'S what I meant!", and a peace settled down on me, and then an excitement because I really want to think about this some more.
Allow me to recap the article without repeating, because it is well worth reading: Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the Nazi concentration camps (most of his family perished) and wrote a book about it and his theories on what makes people resilient - Meaning. Meaning and purpose give us a reason to exist, a responsibility to something outside of ourselves, a task that is uniquely ours which makes us indepensible. Suffering may be involved in that purpose, and so might happiness, but these are merely moments of time experienced with no real importance. And yet, we make happiness important - endless books and articles on how to be happy and achieve happiness, but happiness without meaning "characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life". Living a meaningful life involves giving rather than taking, and leads to more satisfaction and fulfillment down the road.
This year I have been taking my life apart and examining the little bits and pieces from all sides. After considering this article, I realise that I have been asking myself the wrong question, or at least I was not wording it correctly. I want a life with meaning, so how am I creating that now and how can I continue to do so? The biggest meaning right now is my children, but that cannot be my only responsibility. There must also be what I contribute to others through my photos, my words, my actions - they contribute to a purpose that will be with me long after my children are grown.
I'm not done thinking about this, I feel there is so much shifting for me at the moment. Seriously, read the article if you didn't - hopefully you'll be as excited as I am about it :-)