I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that – I don’t mind people being happy – but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep,” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position – it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is. — Hugh Mackay
I feel as though I’ve never been truly happy. Sure, I often say things make me happy but do they really? The feeling is so fleeting and never has much depth to it that I don’t believe it’s ever been genuine happiness. It’s hard to calculate whether or not it truly has been, so to pivot away from happiness and onto something else like wholeness is a great relief, because if those fleeting, shallow moments are what I’m supposed to be striving for, then no thank you, I’ll stick to my depression.
Ever since I started seeing my current therapist, we started talking about peace, and one of the things that I’ve been trying to do is recognize when I feel at peace. To be honest, it’s not often. It’s hard for me to recognize that feeling as well. I think the closest I come to it is when I’m writing something that I really like, even if that something is never going to see the light of day. But still, peace is something that I don’t understand, mainly because to me peace is a calm, relaxed state and I’m never at that. My mind is constantly going ten billion miles an hour. I have more thoughts and ideas in a minute than some people I know probably have in an hour. And it’s just the struggle of understanding peace that has been so frustrating, because how can I seek out something that I cannot seem to ever get a grip on?
But finding this quote has changed the shape of the narrative. Maybe it’s not peace that I should be striving for but wholeness. I feel like my life, since the day I was born, has never been whole. I have always been the odd man out among my family and friends. I think differently, I feel differently, I act differently, I am just different. And to me, that’s always translated as damaged. But maybe the damage hasn’t been a bad thing. Maybe I wouldn’t be this person with this creative drive if I hadn’t been damaged. I fell in love with books and writing because they were an escape from the world that I was living in. If I hadn’t been living in that world, would I have done that? It’s hard to say.
Writing is part of what makes me whole. I wouldn’t know how to live without it. My family also makes me feel whole. They provide the love and support that I need. I cannot imagine where I would be now if it weren’t for them. But what else makes me whole? I have no idea. It’s hard for me to pick the things that make up who I am out in such a detailed way, but I’m going to figure it out someday. I’m going to figure out what I need in order to be whole.
Maybe along the way I’ll figure out what it means to be happy too. I don’t know if that’s possible, but I’m going to try. But I know that’s not what I’m striving for. Happiness will come if wholeness comes first. Now if I can just figure this wholeness part out.