What is Happiness?

"Oh, instincts are misleading. You shouldn't think what you're feeling. They don't tell you what you know you should want." - Death Cab For Cutie

Another bad day. Apparently, I'm still climbing that metaphoric hill. I haven't reached the top yet. Thanks for taking this journey with me, readers. I'm so thankful for all of you. I received two emails today from readers. Those two emails were a little bit of light in a day of darkness. I'm going to open up and give you some insight on what I've been struggling with. I'm not asking for any advice. I just think it will help me to write this all down.

I'm so confused about life right now. I'm unhappy. I realize that I've just been existing, not really living. But, what is living? What is happiness? I've talked to my mom and sister, women who are older and more experienced in life than me. My mom says that life is about my kids happiness, not mine. Basically, I don't matter anymore. Well, I love my kids, but that's a depressing thought. I talked to my sister tonight. She is nine years older than me and been through three marriages and numerous boyfriends. She just broke up with her most recent boyfriend. She said that she isn't happy right now. She said she bounces from man to man because she is so in love at first and then it just dies out, and she can't stand the monotony. She said that she thinks happiness is just existing and finding some way to cope. She told me I was still young and had pretty skin, so I should be happy about that. Ok...that didn't make me feel any better. Then she said the guy that does her nails gave her the best advice ever. He said, "You can't look up, you have to look down." In other words, I have to think about all the people who have it worse than me and that should make me feel better. Hmm...that makes me feel better for all of 5 minutes then I'm right back in self-pity mode. My boss is all about living and not existing, but it's easy for him, he is single and has plenty of money. He just went on a trip to India for a month. I wish I could do things like that, but it's kinda impossible for me. I wonder if he is happy. Maybe I'll ask him. I've been researching quotes alot lately. Quotes give me a way to express how I feel, so they have been very important to me. I kept coming across quotes that I really related to by a lady named Anais Ninn. I read up on her, and although she lead a very exciting life and had alot of sex, it doesn't seem like she was very happy either. So, what's the answer. I still don't know. Maybe I'll never know. Right now, the best I can come up with is I need to start reading again. Books will give me a way to escape to fantasy land for a little while. Sounds pretty pathetic, but that's all I got right now.

I noticed something weird about my outfits this week. I've worn some type of black sweater everyday. What's funny about today's outfit is I planned on wearing the Refined Cord Shirtdress over this dress, but when I put it on this morning I thought it made me look fat, so before I walked out the door, I changed into this black cardigan. At least the dress underneath had some color going on. I don't know if I loved this outfit. I had to get a size 8 in this dress so it would fit in the chest, but the bottom half is really big on me. Maybe my mood is effecting my perspective.

Today's song is my favorite song ever, Lightness by Death Cab For Cutie. The lyrics of this song pretty much sum up the battle that goes on in my head everyday: the battle between what your heart wants and what your mind is telling you is best for you. I've gone with my mind my entire life because I thought that was the right thing to do, but now I'm starting to question that decision. Maybe I would be happier if I had gone with my heart. Or maybe not.

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Dress: Anthropologie Lappula Dress

Cardigan: The Limited

Belt: Anthropologie Looping Lanes Belt

Boots: Frye Paige Tall Riding Boots



  1. I wonder if perhaps depression runs in your family. I highly recommend group therapy. It might be helpful to get with a group of women who are dealing with similar issues. I'm wondering if you have meaningful female friendships in your life. Group therapy may help you to bond with other women and not feel so alone and lost.

    I also have to say that I disagree with your mom. I think it's important for you to feel fulfilled too, and not just to make sure your kids are. Do you have any hobbies? even something like meeting with women in a book club or knitting club or walking club may help you out of your slump. Even meeting with a girlfriend on a regular basis (like once a week) to go for a walk or have lunch together and talk may help.

    Btw, I deal with the same issues so I hope you don't take offense to anything I've written. I'm just making suggestions that have helped me.

  2. I agree with the above poster. Sounds like some form of therapy could really help you. As a fellow introvert, I know all too well what it's like to live in your head. I'm not very social and am very hard on myself. I don't have children yet, but I can imagine that the added stress of having kids would be very overwhelming. Just being able to talk it out is HUGE. It's carthartic. There's nothing wrong with trying it out.

    I also agree with the above poster that your mother is wrong. You DO need to put yourself first at times; after all, if you are not at your best, how can you be the best mother you can be?

    Also, I know it's a touchy subject to bring up, but do you practice any particular religion? My happiness seems to ebb and flow as well, and I can trace all times of unhappiness to times when I've strayed from my faith. Not sure if you're a church-going person; if so, maybe seeking help within that area would benefit you.

    Good luck with everything. You have a bunch of supporters here at your blog!

  3. I think that happiness is something that can happen only in the present, not the past or the future. It also does not come from any of your relationships, your children, or money. It's an internal thing. It comes from knowing that you have the strength to handle anything. Nobody's existence is problem-free. It would not be worth it if it were always good. But each time that you are handed a problem, you overcome it and become a little bit happier.

    What makes me most happy is knowing that life never throws me something that I cannot handle. Each time a problem arises, I handle it more gracefully than before.

    I think that when problems came up before (when I was less weathered), I would feel like I couldn't handle it and I would get sad and depressed. But after having been through poverty bad enough that I wasn't sure I could provide for my family and coming out of it stronger (and more financially stable) than ever, and chemo that made me feel bad enough that I sometimes wished that cancer would just take me, I have learned that I am stronger than I think I am. I am happy because I know that if life throws me a fastball, I will knock it out of the park. I am not afraid anymore.

    I have a feeling that you are stronger than you know too. I think you will find happiness once you recognize the true strength and beauty of yourself. :)

    That's just my two cents. I suppose everyone has a different definition of happiness.

  4. Hey first stop thinking that u r unhappy...Thats makes u feel more depressed...try to be u'rself always and then u will only see happiness round...
    I would disagree with u'r mom's words...Kids acts makes us feel happy but its not happiness or all that is wanted from our life...
    So u first relax and stop thinking all this for a while and u will see wonders

  5. Bonnie, I believe from the bottom of my heart, that happiness comes from knowing Christ and having Him rule your life. I wish only the best for you!!

  6. Please go get some help. You owe it to your kids to be healthy so you can be present for them. You continue being depressed and unhappy all the while attempting to put a band-aid on it by repeatedly overspending. This cycle is not only going to dig you into a deeper hole of depression, but it is just selfish. If you knew you had cancer would you just sit around and let it ravage your body or would you go get it treated?

  7. It doesn't have to be either or. Find happiness for yourself. Your children will see this and know it to be a possibility for themselves. I wonder if your mother should have done this for you. Happiness is best defined by the great philosophers. Funny thing, they disagree with each other. Don't try too hard to pin it down, we all know it when it visits. It will come around. Your person seems to be a late bloomer. Have you ever noticed the flowers in mid season have the richest hue? This seems like it will last forever right now, but it wont.

  8. Anonymous @ 9:54pm - go back and read Bonnie's post. She's not asking for any advice. She's just trying to figure things out, and uses this blog as a sounding board. Remember that quote - "an unexamined life is not worth living?" - people are allowed to examine their lives and question their unhappiness, without publicly being called selfish by a poster who doesn't even have the courage to post their own name. Whatever happened to compassion? Seems to have gotten lost in your judgmental comment.

  9. Dear Bonnie,

    I hope you get the sunshine I am sending your way from New England. With all the snow we have been getting it may not be much :) But, am sending you all we have. I hope you know that you brighten the day of many each day with your blog.


  10. For me, happiness is about having control over my life. One of the phrases that comes up a lot in our house is "owning your life". My husband and I feel like we "own" our lives. They don't own us. I hope that makes sense. We chose (full time) jobs that didn't pay as well as others (in my case, my salary is about 1/2 of what it could have been) but that allowed us a lot of flexibility so that we could a) have grown up time and b) have family/kid time. Our grown up time is anything: going out to dinner together or separately with friends, listening to music without the kids home, surfing the internet, reading, shopping, sewing, entertaining. I strongly believe that you have to enjoy YOUR life as a woman, and not just as a mother (or wife). Your mom is from another generation and so probably has a different view of your role.

    I also know that while many people find great joy and peace in religion (even I did when I was younger), those who don't practice religion can be happy, too. We are atheists. We both grew up going to church but after college and graduate school and for various reasons, religion just no longer made sense to us. We live ethical, honorable lives, and we invest a lot of time and energy into giving our children a strong set of values. But none of it is influenced by God or faith. And we are happy.

    I hope today is a better day, Bonnie. One day at a time.

  11. I do agree with Anonymous @ 9:54pm that spending money on things can be used to fill a void in one's life. However I don't think Anon needed to be so harsh and judgmental in her/his comments. I think overspending can be a sign of unhappiness. Bonnie, perhaps you could make a list of things you like to do and try to take a small step toward doing one of them. And I agree with St Germain above, atheists can be happy too.

  12. I definitely disagree with your mom. Are you going to raise kids who stop being happy at 30 once they have kids? And then they stop being entiteled to happiness at 30? That seems a depressing cycle... and what's the point? Or is it only the girls who give up happiness for kids, so the point are the male children? Ouch.

    For me, I think dreams and goals are key. Do you have dreams and are you working towards them? Are you achieving whatever it is you want to achieve? It can be a month long trip to India - if it was a priority you could aboslutely make it happen, or it could just be a room decorated just perfect, or a short story written or or or. What do you love? What have you always dreamed off? Start taking baby steps towards it. You deserve to enjoy life, or else what is the point?

    To me, happiness comes from the people I love, and liking the choices I've made with my life. Whenever I'm unhappy I think about what I can do to change things and make myself happier.

    And sometimes we're just blah and have to get through it. Hugs from a stranger.

  13. And don't be afraid of drastic changes. Sometimes that's just what you need.

    You're very young, if you decide to do something crazy and drastic even if it ends up a mistake you have plenty of time in the future to fix it. One mistake doesn't ruin people's lives (drugs and violence aside). So be fearless.

  14. I read somewhere that when people are polled, they list 'spending time with friends and loved ones' as the thing that makes them most happy. There is actually quite a bit of research going on now which is looking at what makes people happy. I thought this article was interesting...

  15. When I get brought down there is a DVD I like to watch called "You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise Hayes, the leader of the positive thinking phenomenon. It is so cheesy at first but just get past the first couple minutes and it really does put thinks in perspective. I know you said you didn't want advice but this is an easy thing you can do in your own home that won't cost a ton of money. I swear it helps. :-) Good luck!

  16. Overspending can be a sign of unhappiness, and I noticed you mentioning having difficulty with both overspending and unhappiness. Maybe time to address both issues. Sorry you're having Trouble.

  17. Dear Bonnie,

    Just let you know that reading your blog has now become a highlight for my everyday life. Happiness is a heavy topic for everyone. For those people who are naturally light-hearted, it's just easy to feel happiness. In many people's eyes, you've got everything, a natural beauty, a decent job, wonderful kids, loving husband etc. but you still feel lost, that means you're still young, you're still sensitive and you think about life. I'm with you as I experience the same thing from time to time, but I am determined that I want a happy me and live my life to the fullest. Put in some efforts doing something, many times if it's too easy to get something, happiness just won't last if you know what i mean. I tend to overspending and overeating when I'm depressed. They give me instant satisfaction but I regret and feel more unhappy afterwards. Letting out your feelings is a great 1st step. I have faith in you. Just keep trying, you'll get there!

    Amber @ Long Island

  18. Hi Bonnie - I didn't need to read your words (although I did of course) as I could see from your pictures that you look very sad today. I really feel for you and I hope that you find something to perk you up this weekend. I liked the ideas given by commenters above about making lists or trying new hobbies. If there is anything you want to have a crack at in your spare time (like a photography or dress making course for example) that will give you something exciting and positive to focus on.

    Happiness can sometimes be really simple things, sunshine, a long walk with my husband (not always around the golf course!!), some fresh flowers, cuddling my purring cat, a hot cup of tea and a good book in blissful silence. I think we all have to make time for ourselves and I hope you can take a little time for yourself now and then.

    Of course your children should be happy but they need a happy mother too, please don't forget about yourself x

  19. Im not as young as you are, but I wrestled with anxiety issues in the past...I think it comes with the territory if you are creative...atleast that was my experience. Although today's society is very discriminating against aging, there is something to be said about the peace and philosphical approach it brings...;o)
    Happiness? I have found if you stop pursuing it, it will find you, as it invariably, always does.
    Nothing ever stays the same, not the good, nor the bad, so despite whatever is going at the moment, joy will be there for you again.
    Joy is there in so many things...it will get better. If you accept yourself, accept your feelings,and realize they are temporary... you will feel better, I promise!
    hugs from No California

  20. Hang in there, lady! January is hard for everyone! I've had the blues a lot this month too. Exercising more has helped me. It will get better. And, it is not all about the kids. You matter too.

  21. I live in Seattle, and it's gray, gray, gray. I find that a vitamin D supplement and a daily workout help to at least see clearer.

  22. Hi Bonnie,

    I just had to say that I'm struck by the irony of your own mother's comment, to her own unhappy child. All I can say is happiness doesn't come from trying to make others happy. And it doesn't come from chasing thrills and fighting boredom. It comes from being comfortable in your own skin, along with feeling like you're fulfilling your responsibilities well, that you're contributing meaningfully to your chosen endeavor or community and that those contributions are valued, and that you're connected to others in positive ways. There's a good video (that I coincidentally posted on my blog today) that talks about some of this stuff. And maybe it's not coincidence. Maybe it's an anonymous gift from the divine, as Deepak Chopra would say. I hope you'll check it out, and also that you begin to feel better soon. Big hugs!

  23. I didn't mean to sound so harsh earlier. I hate the internet for conveying tone. I have been reading you for the last few months and it obvious you struggle with sadness and this cycle of overspending. I have been there. You feel depressed, bored or unfulfilled, shopping makes it feel better, temporarily anyways. Then once the initial thrill wears off, you feel guilt and promise yourself or your husband you will stick to the budget. Then the cycle repeats and you feel like crap. I do think it is selfish to just continue to feel anxious and depressed and not get some help coping. Your kids need a healthy mom, so even if you don't feel like you want to do it for yourself, do it for them. I watched one of my closest friends become an alcoholic and a prescription drug abuser because of anxiety after becoming a mother. She self medicated, and in a way those of us who have a tendency to spend do the same thing. There is no reason to live this life feeling miserable! You need to talk to someone, you deserve to be happy.

  24. Thanks to everyone for the advice, well wishes, and postive vibes. I wish I could address you each individually, but I would be here all morning. I'm still trying to figure things out, but I will definitely take all your words into consideration. I know I use shopping as a bandaid, but I have made some progress this month. I haven't spent nearly as much as previous months and I don't logon to Anthro's website as much as I used to. Baby steps... Thank you all for putting up with my crazy mood swings lately. This is a pivotal point in my life and it's good to have this blog as a place to share my thoughts with others.

  25. You might get something out of the book "The How of Happiness" by Sonja Lyubomirsky. It's academic, but readable, and it has a lot of research into what does help people's happiness. I would agree that having goals beyond children (I have four myself) makes a huge difference.

  26. Hi,

    Interesting article.

    ruHap, The Happiness Company, helps people be Happier by recommending ruHap’s 14 Ways to be Happier Right Now:

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    3.Appreciate the Moment
    5.Tiggers, not Eeyores
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    9.↓ TV
    10.Show Compassion
    12.Listen Carefully
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    Thanks, and Be Happy,

    Gregory Barsh, Esq.
    Chief Happiness Officer
    ruHap, The Happiness Company
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