I don’t want to be happy, I want to be content. Happiness can be hard to find, but contentment is more attainable, in my opinion. Happiness can be taken away from you. Contentment has more longevity. Happiness is euphoric and can turn the most level headed people into grinning, gushing buffoons. Contentment has a quiet wisdom about it. Granted, there’s no high that happiness brings, but that wears off eventually. Contentment doesn’t arse about with your brain chemistry. In fact, I don’t think the brain is actually involved in the making of contentment. It seems to come from within the ribcage area. I like the sound of that. I’ll have some emotion from my torso, for a change please. And a coffee. And some cake. Ta very much.
For me, contentment is the appreciation of the little things. A beautiful sunset, a good book, a brisk walk on a fresh April morning, your favourite jumper, listening to the rain from the comfort of your warm house, when you have nowhere to go. Stuff like that. Stuff that doesn’t require effort or monetary expense. Happiness is expensive. Happiness is loud and brash and invasive. It’s like a storm. You can feel the pressure building, before the almighty clashing and rumbling occurs. Then it goes away, taking with it your fence panels and next door’s garden shed. No, it’s not for me.
Happiness requires a new outfit, hairdo and red lipstick. Happiness requires a face numbing smile. Contentment is just happy to have you in your pyjamas. Contentment doesn’t want to be pursued. It doesn’t play hard to get. Contentment just comes quietly. It doesn’t make a fuss. Happiness is high maintenance. Happiness is a diva. And I’m not prepared to grant everything on its rider.
OK, nobody ever wrote a song about contentment. It’s not very rock and roll. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be cool. Contentment could be rather kitsch, in its own way. Contentment doesn’t need an epic guitar solo to prove its point.
Contentment isn’t exactly a marketing executive’s dream, but that just means it can’t be exploited. Fresh air and placebos can’t be bottled and labelled as contentment, ready to be sold to the highest bidder.
Films and TV programmes about unfulfilled characters looking for contentment won’t ever be shown on our screens, although I think they should. We’ve been brought up to think that fame, fortune, flash cars, huge houses, the latest gadgets and unrealistically perfect partners are the secrets to happiness. If that were the case, there would be no Forever 27 club. Celebrities wouldn’t feel the existential misery and loneliness that they do. Wealthy people wouldn’t marry so many times.
Now we have social media, to further peddle the happiness scam. People brag about their new cars, exotic holidays, celebrity style weddings etc. What they omit from their social media profiles, is how they’re using all of these material things to fill a void within themselves. Yeah, a new car will make you feel good about yourself for a while, but what happens when the shine wears off? Society and marketing executives tell you the newest model will make you happy. And so the quest continues.
I fell into this trap, before I tried to kill myself. I bought into the illusion that your happiness is measured by how much money you earn, how big your house is and the car you drive. Trouble is, I earn a lot less than the national average, my house is a DIYer’s nightmare and I don’t drive. So you can see where some of my depression came from. The impossible quest for happiness nearly killed me, and has killed so many others.
So with this in mind, I’ve changed direction. I’m on the hunt for contentment. Maybe happiness is sitting next to it, in its Hugo Boss suit. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe happiness is a myth. Either way, I’m not all that fussed. I’ll just concentrate on seeking out contentment and see where that leads me.
Photo by Camila Cordeiro, courtesy of Unsplash