January 21 – A Lifelong Pursuit of Happiness

“Happiness: a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was an 18th century philosopher, who was born in Switzerland and died in France. (Yes, I Googled him this morning). I had to find out a bit about him to know the context of this quote. I have long said that money and its pursuit are not a major focus in my life. I want to earn enough at work to be comfortable at home, but I don’t need a tremendous amount of excess. I guess that is the part of the quote that gave me pause.

Breaking it down in my own terms what it says to me is that to be happy, I would need to have money enough to get buy, a good and healthy diet coming from an amazing cook, and to be blessed with great digestive capabilities.

Rich is not a word I would use to describe my circumstances. I would say that I have the financial resources to do the things I want to do, while still having meaningful work to do. So, for me…check.

I have said here many times that my wife is an amazing cook. It is actually hard to keep her out of the kitchen. Because she is also a chemist, she gives a lot of thought and effort to the science behind her food. The result is that she is able to masterfully copy what she sees in restaurants and cooking shows, and to synthesize many magazine and cookbook ideas into really great, original food. So, for that one…check!

As to digestion, I have an iron constitution. I rarely have any issues with that department. Digestion…check.

So, I should be happy, right? According to Rousseau I have the key elements. Truthfully I find myself to be content with my lot in life most of the time. I don’t think it is solely because of these 3 elements, although they do contribute. Having a great family is important. I have 5 amazing adults who call me dad (including my daughter-in-law), and 2 beautiful grand children. I have a fairly long list of close friends whom I love very much, and with whom I can have equal measures of fun, support, and thought provoking conversations.

Then, why do I struggle with happiness from time to time? I mean, the objective evidence is right there. I have enough money, good food, a bowel system that works, a beautiful & supportive wife, great children and grandchildren, and friends. I even have hobbies that give me both challenge and satisfaction.

Perhaps the answer is that one cannot objectively measure happiness. One cannot sit and write out a checklist such that when all of the items have been scratched off, happiness occurs. It just doesn’t work that way. I am not saying that I am unhappy. As I said, most of the time I find myself to be quite content. There are days when I am less content, when unhappiness creeps into my life.

The reflections in the Weight Watchers book today are centered around those who might be stalled in their progress, like me. It talks about envisioning yourself being able to do things that your present weight might be keeping you from. In my case, one thing that resonated was around clothes. As last year wore on to the end I found my clothes fitting poorly. Earlier in the year I was proud of the smaller sized clothes I was comfortably wearing, but in December (and January), those same clothes have been tight. As much as the number on the scale, I don’t like that trend. And it is a driver for me to want to get back to where I was in the summer.

Today’s quote is about happiness. On balance I think I am in a very good place. One thing I know about myself, though, is that I don’t rest on any laurels that may come my way. I may be happy and content, but that doesn’t mean I won’t still try to make myself just a little better.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…Pursuit of happiness is a lifelong endeavor for me. While I may be happy in the moment, it doesn’t mean that I am not still trying to make myself just a little better.

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