Somewhere in between

October 20, 2012

I have long been on a quest for the proper definition of happiness.  For me, the hardest part of finding contentment is first determining what it actually is.

I receive daily affirmation e-mails automatically sent to my inbox.  It is refreshing to see something positive arrive amidst all the spam and solicitation.

Recently, I received the Finnish proverb:

“Happiness is a place between too much and too little.”

We tend to seek happiness in the all the wrong places.  We think if we can just collect enough stuff, and get more and more and more, we’ll eventually be happy.

We want more space, more time, more money, more toys. 

The famous entertainers’ quote, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor.  Believe me, honey, rich is better,” has been attributed to many notable figures, namely Sophie Tucker and Mae West. 

Regardless of who said it first, I must respectfully disagree. 

I’ve never been rich.  But I’ve made a bit of money in my lifetime, and I’ve also gone without. 

Looking back at my life, my personal happiness had very little to do with what I owned or how much money I had.

In hindsight, when I had more disposable income I felt empty.  The more I bought, the less I had. 

Much more important is balance; the times I feel I have just enough.  These are the times I feel the most at peace. 

I have tried to fill the holes in my heart with stuff.  The problem is, you can’t squeeze a closet full of clothes, a nice car, a new house into your heart.  They just don’t fit.

There certainly is something to be said for financial stability.  There are few things more unsettling than wondering how you’ll pay for basic needs.

But there’s nothing wrong with living on a budget.  I make a menu and do the bulk of my grocery shopping every three weeks. 

My husband and I started this as a way to save money.  And it works.

But it also alleviates the stress of agonizing over what to make for dinner every night, or running to the store to fight the after-work crowds in a rush to throw something together.

It means healthier, more diverse meals.  It means more time spent with family, and less fast food. 

I like to believe that even if I were to become independently wealthy, I’d still live on a budget. 

My budget would expand to include weekly massages and the softest white bathroom towels, but I hope I’d still live with a certain measure of restraint. 

Luxury is fun to daydream about, but it’s certainly not necessary for happiness.  I might even argue that it is contrary to it. 

There is something to be said for that in-between place of contentment, when you have enough to know where your next meal is coming from, but not so much you have nothing left to shoot for. 

Happiness truly is a place between too much and too little.

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on October 20, 2012.