the mathematical pursuit of happiness

1999 Sydney pic

happiness EQ

“happiness: noun. 1 obsolete :  good fortune, 2a :  a state of well-being and contentment, 2b :  a pleasurable or satisfying experience.”  Full Def. Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2014.

After watching the movie “Wish I Was Here,” I’ve pondered the question explored in the film between a husband and wife.

Do you remember my most happiest moment?

our upclose family pic

The hubs quizzically looked at me.  Any moment?  When I nodded in agreement he sat in thought; vocally remembering snippets over the span of 24 years.  I grinned back.  Thankfully, he has many to choose from.  I, too, racked my brain for his most happiest moment.   It is interesting to reconcile when I thought he was most happy; with what the hubs recalls as the moment that brought him the greatest joy.

KC 2012

But it’s hard to recollect happier times when the gravitational pull of the waxing moon wreaks havoc on my energy level.  I am tired; fighting to push through the afternoon slump.  One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that music motivates me   And so, at 2:43 PM I am blasting the song by Magic at my desk.

Our three sons emerge from various areas of our office; planting themselves in front of my screen to watch the YouTube video.  It is the last day our eldest son will have to come to work with us.  His endless days of summer have come to a close with high school events; ramping up to the first day of school at the end-of-the-month.  The day before it took me two hours to input my eldest son’s schedule on my three calendars: my desk, my phone and my monthly planner.    I have three sons in three different schools.

My pursuit of happiness entails creating white space on my calendar.  The study from the British researchers above concluded the following:

happiness = low expectations

I have slowly handed various items on my plate to others to help me create more white space.  I repeat Ann Voskamp’s mantra of saying NO creates better YESes but I’m discovering that my schedule is still full as my older sons’ schedules take precedence in our lives.  The balance I seek is still not within my reach.  My expectations are too high.

And though I have arrived at the same conclusion of lowering expectations, independent of the above study; it is much harder to put this into practice.  To push through the obstacles to make things work in the pursuit of happiness.  I complete paperwork, write checks and gaze at my hubs across our workspace.  It’s nice to visualize the end game.  But really, in our work, our marriage, our life…the blinding spotlight with the choir singing is rare, if ever.

I question aloud to the hubs.

What if our lives are supposed to always be unkempt, cluttered and imperfect?  What if happiness is stolen moments; simple joys to conquer each and every day (Definition 2)?

Do I really want to live in the sterile house; being the OCD woman where everything has to be in place?  Uber perfection?


I am blessed to be married to this guy; though I rarely vocalize it.  Most days we jockey back-and-forth, nit picking this-and-that.  But these details, though annoying, in the larger scheme of life don’t matter.  Our kids see our transparency and interject their thoughts during our debates or arguments.   It is refreshing to hear their views since children will tell you exactly as they see it.  Our older sons are now recognizing nuances and listen intently as the hubs and I discuss our ideas of happiness; while “Rude” plays in the background.  I want our boys to know that an Aston Martin or large home on a hill doesn’t equate with prosperity and success (Definition 1).  And though they still imagine themselves as video game entrepreneurs who will make six figures and drive fancy, fast cars (creating innovative mods and platforms); who am I to discourage them?

I decide I want to work towards Definition 2a.  a state of well-being and contentment.  Good fortune and pleasurable and satisfying experiences are finite; they end.  But to maintain a state of well-being (i.e. creating home-cooked meals, eating together, practicing our faith  as a family, exercise, sleep, transparency, open communication) it takes consistent work, internal motivation and a lot of give-and-take; reciprocity.   Key words; maintain and consistency.

This implies that there are ups and downs and that I must take the mean (average); accept the good and bad days.  But I will strive to decrease the range between the highs and lows of my expectations; finding the mode  of contentment.  I want to increase the statistical probability of my days, the mode (the number most frequently found within a range) consistently being a positive outcome.







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