I was recently talking with a friend about happiness. She too has been through loss.
She shared a book with me by Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. I haven’t read it yet, but she gave me the cliff notes.
Apparently happiness isn’t about how big your house is. It’s not necessarily about your career, although it could be. It’s not even solely based on who you love or who loves you back. According to Frankl, true happiness comes from meaning.
Occasionally, I get the itch to go immerse myself in a community somewhere in the world that could really use a great YMCA director. Sometimes I long to go. To move into a mud hut with new mud hut buddies to help make their lives better.
As if me as a next door neighbor in the middle of the jungle could help. The first sign of monsoon season or an anaconda and my behind would be on a flight back home. And maybe it’s not them who need to be helped. Perhaps it’s me. It flabbergasts me when I see really poor people in the world laughing and having fun. They must have meaning.
I believe I fear the loss of meaning. How do you find it when your kids grow up? If it is built around career, what happens when you retire or lose your job? What if your purpose is to care for an ailing parent or a sick spouse? What becomes of happiness when they no longer need you?
My friend and I discussed whether meaning was different for people of faith. It probably should be. Faith certainly helps me get through this life. And yet, I’m no Mother Teresa.
I guess I need to stop trying to define happiness by belongings, or the size of my paycheck, or the number of friends I have. Instead, my focus should be on what I’m doing to make life better for others. Maybe that’s where I’ll find MY greatest joy.