There's a line from the Don Henley song that's been playing through my head the past few days:
"What are these voices outside love's open door...make us throw off our contentment and beg for something more?"
It's calling to mind a blog I wrote elsewhere, almost two years ago. I think it's time for a re-tread:
"Redefining Happiness" -- May 22, 2008
I’ll have to ask forgiveness of those who don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy, as what I am about to say won’t make quite as much sense without that frame of reference. I do think the big picture will become clear, though…
I’ve been thinking lately, about happiness. About what it means. About the ways in which we pursue it. We each have our own definition of it. But while there may be many little things in life which qualify (raindrops on roses, two kinds of ice cream…), the happiness we pursue is that which colors our dreams; the thing (or things) which take up residence in our heart of hearts.
Which is why it’s so intriguing to me that, after Life and Liberty, our Founding Fathers chose to name the pursuit of Happiness as one of those inalienable rights with which we are endowed by our Creator. Isn’t the pursuit of happiness a somewhat gooey concept? Did the founders of our country have an Oprah moment? Or did they simply recognize that, along with the will to live and the yen for freedom, the quest for happiness is a crucial part of our existence? It sustains us.
We often hear it said that there’s no guarantee of happiness in this life. And most of us learn to live somewhat removed from it, rather than safely ensconced within it. We tell ourselves that if we can find contentment, well, that’s good enough. And usually, it is. But it doesn’t stop us from trying to sneak a peek at happiness anyway. After all, our dreams are not colored by contentment.
Sometimes, though, we’re brought up short with the realization that that which does live in our heart of hearts truly may not be viable outside those confines. That the ragged edges of our external realities are simply inhospitable to the happiness for which we long, and it is not just out of reach -- it is an impossibility. And when we come to that realization, we are faced with a choice: Do we let go of it? Somehow, learn to redefine our happiness, so that it encompasses that which is within our reach? Or do we hang on anyway, and continue with our pursuit?
I was pondering all this earlier today. Then, tonight, I watched Derek Shepard (a/k/a “McDreamy”) attempt to let go, and redefine his happiness. He decided to sell his land. And when his friends, surprised by this, reminded him how much he loved it, and that he was the guy who held onto such dreams, and believed in ferry boats, his response was: “Ferry boats crash.” And he’s right -- they do. And patients die. And clinical trials fail. And loves let us down. And happiness escapes us.
When that happens, unless we resign ourselves to curling up in the fetal position and sobbing about the unfairness of it all (or, perhaps, after doing same), we must find a way to move on. Do we redraw the lines of happiness to fit more neatly within the reality we’ve been dealt? Is that even possible when the vision of happiness we’ve been pursuing has been the same one for most – if not all – of our lives?
I asked myself that just today, and realized that I’m not sure that it is – or that I want it to be. Happiness, as I’ve defined it for so very long -- I wouldn’t know where to go with myself, how to be, how to live, without it – the pursuit of it and the hope for it -- in my life. I may define it a certain way, but in a sense, it also defines me. And the thought of redefining it brings with it this sense of settling. Of accepting a life that’s ordinary. Of losing some of that spark that keeps me going and the hope that sustains me.
In the end, McDreamy wasn’t forced to redefine his happiness. Instead, that which had seemed impossible suddenly found its way into and became part of his reality. Which is all well and good in TV Land. But, as I noted in the Grey’s thread last week: It's hard to live happily ever after in this world. Because, for most, it is the pursuit of it which actually sustains us. What do we do when and if we’re fortunate enough to actually achieve it? Hopefully, we don’t try to redefine it. Hopefully, we find a way to live in it and hold onto it without crushing it. To continue pursuing it, even while we partake of it.
Tonight, Meredith said to Derek, “I believe we can be extraordinary together, rather than ordinary apart.” And I believe she’s right. Yes, I recognize how woefully and pitifully a romantic this paints me, but I wish them well in their pursuit. And I in mine. Maybe someday, I’ll be able and willing to redefine happiness for myself. ‘Til then, I suppose I’ll just keep pursuing it, as presently defined. I’d like to claim that’s me, being patriotic, and upholding the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Really, though, it’s probably just me being stubborn.