Sunday, June 1, 2014

Worry Worry Smile

There are a lot of worried looking people around.  Don't you think?  So many frowns and furrowed brows I see as I go about my day.  I'm not judging.  There's a pretty healthy crinkle in my forehead too.  But sometimes I just wonder, what are we so worried about?

Really, I mean the life I live, the circles I move in are so very privileged.  Life is really pretty amazing.

I'm no millionaire, but there is food in the fridge, there are clothes in the cupboards, there's heat in the evening - and so much more.  Toys, music, books, entertainment, education, red wine, chocolate, new shoes - all of it at our fingertips, with very little need to be concerned about how to afford it.

And life is so simple.  Good health, good friends, happy family.  Cars, computers, smartphones.

Life is not just easy, it's pretty incredible.  So why do we make things so complicated?

Why can't we just be happy?

We should all be ecstatic.  Literally.  We should all be walking around smiling like idiots and high five-ing one another in the street.  Hooray for us!  We were born into a time and space more privileged than so very many around the world right now.

But instead we walk around not making eye contact, brows furrowed, looking at phones. Troubling ourselves with things that just aren't that bad.

I know, having things does not equate to happiness.  Having all the stuff does not minimise the melancholy.  In fact that's exactly the point.  Sometimes I think it's all the stuff that leads to the sadness.

Because we have everything we ever thought we could need to make us happy, and we're still not.  Is that why the furrowed brows?  We're trying to work it out?  Why we're still not satisfied?  We're worried?  Worried that if we're not happy now, then when?  What more will it take?  More shoes?  A bigger house?  A newer car?

A couple of weeks ago I was pondering why, when my life is really pretty simple I had this underlying, inexplicable anxiety.

Perhaps it's sympathetic anxiety.  Anxiety on behalf of all of us and our collective melancholy, our collective distractedness, our collective dissatisfaction even while everything is so very good.

Look, I know that bad things happen, even in our relatively safe, effectively happy, comparatively wealthy lives there are health issues, bereavements, job losses.  Big things, real things, things that warrant sadness, anxiety and worry.  

I just think, generally as I look around people getting on with their daily lives, and I include myself in this, we could be happier.  We should be happier.  I mean we are pretty damn lucky.

I know this is totally naive and perhaps it will make me seem silly but I have to admit, there are times when I wish life was harder.  Simpler, but harder.  Because when you have to focus on baking your own bread from scratch and hand washing the laundry of a family of four you don't have time to indulge in worrying about whether you are happy enough.  Or what you should be doing to make yourself happier.  You just are.

Maybe I am just a repressed 50's housewife born into the wrong era.  Or maybe I've just been watching too much Madmen.  But as I've ventured before, I do suspect that while we invest so much time in minimising our discomfort, in fact discomfort, hard work and labouring is actually what leads to our ultimate happiness.

While I'm feeling anxious and overwhelmed is seems counter-intuitive to want to make life harder.  Right now all I want is to simplify my life, to make things easier.  But in truth I'm not sure that's the answer.

Who am I kidding?  I don't have any of the answers.

I know what I do have though, and that's a smile.  And today, I am going to uncrinkle my brow, look up from my phone, make eye contact and smile!

Maybe that will help.  What the hell.  It can't hurt.

Do you smile at strangers?

Listen to Michael Jackson Smile

 Image Licensed Under Creative Commons


  1. Smiling right back at you. Your words ring so true. There was an article about this very topic in the May edition of Marie Claire. According to the article we have more leisure time than our 1950's counterparts but we are unhappier. I agree let's make it simpler. Oh to return to those times. Jo xx

    1. Aww, thanks Jo. It's such a strange contradiction isn't it!

  2. Wonderful thought provoking post. My thoughts are that we have too high an expectation of what happiness is. We think to be happy we need to be happy in everything we do and that's just not realistic. I like to think that I'm pretty good at being happy (it's a bit harder when the hormones work against me) most of the time, but I try to consciously look for things to appreciate when I'm feeling negative, and I think that helps. I used the following quote from Henri Matisse "There are always flowers for those who want to see them." as the title of my latest post about my garden but it's a great metaphor for life in general.

    1. That is a gorgeous quote One Earlybird. I agree, I think often we confuse pleasure with happiness. Pleasure is unsustainable, while conversely true happiness can be achieved even while unpleasant things are happening - with a little effort and a shift in perspective.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment.

  3. Yes. I smile as often as I can! I couldn't agree with you more, we are so fortunate. Maybe we want for want itself? Maybe it's like Nadia said at a talk I went to recently.... if it is handed to you in a lucky fashion, it will never satisfy... but if you have strived and worked for it. Then! Satisfaction. We have so much to be grateful for.
    Here's big smile for you Kate: :-D

    1. I loved that post of yours Rachel. It's so true, that which provides the greatest challenges provides the greatest rewards. x