I was recently reflecting on how when my husband took his life elsewhere he also took happiness. I was tempted to say “my” happiness but when talking with a friend recently, she reminded it that it was our joint happiness, the happiness that was part of “our being”. That gave me food for thought and hence this blog. I find through writing I can often find clarity.
I have felt joy in the past six years since he left, in small things, in fleeting moments. So I am driven to explore the difference between happiness and joy.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary (my long time friend – I love a dictionary!) gives these definitions :
- a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight
b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety
- a state of happiness or felicity : bliss
- a source or cause of delight
- state of well-being and contentment : joy
- pleasurable or satisfying experience
In the discussion with my friend, I had described happiness as a long term overall feeling whereas joy was just in the moment. Her perspective was just the opposite. She feels happiness in the moment but joy is the long term overall feeling. I felt lacking in happiness by my perspective. She felt lack of joy from her perspective. So I find it very interesting to actually look these words up and see that in some ways they are used interchangeably. Both of us were right in our perspectives when reviewing the definitions.
The Aunt that raised me was named Joy and she celebrated and embraced that emotion. The first time she met my reserved mountain man husband, she came in for a nice big hug. He had no choice about resisting. I knew it was going to happen, as I knew her. It made him feel loved and welcomed into the family. That gave me happiness and joy.
Joy taught me that we create our happiness. She would tell me when I was sad and in the dumps, to put a smile on my face, pull myself up by my bootstraps and go do something good for someone else. Having learned that as a teenager and seeing how it could change my life, it has been part of my way of being. Some of the best advice I ever got and that I can pass on to others.
Maybe my definition / perspective on happiness has or needs to change. I was happily married for 30 years. During that time we had some tough spots but they were temporary. I felt great comfort, contentment and peace at being married to my best friend. Now I have to remind myself that I am not alone. I have people who love me and a better relationship with myself and my Source, the Universe, the One who guides me. Maybe moments of joy, when compiled and looked at together, are indeed happiness. It just feels different.
So for today, I am going to put a smile on my face, pull myself up by my bootstraps and go do something for someone else. Create happiness in joy.