But the truth is that most of us easily get used to our lifestyles and begin to yearn for one that is better. And even if we get it, it satisfies us for only some time and we then begin to look upwards again. Where then is happiness in all this? What is the lifestyle of happiness?
Experience teaches us as we grow older that, actually, being happy has little to do with one’s lifestyle. If we look around, we see that the most surprising people are happy. One of the watchmen in our
building to whom we pay a pittance (we salve our consciences by telling each other that it is higher than the going rate for watchmen) greets each of us with a broad smile every morning and sings to himself the whole night long whenever he is on night duty.
He never asks for an advance and when we tip him, give him a food packet when we have a party or give him clothes which we have become fed up with but which still have some life in them, he accepts the gift gracefully, but with a certain indifference. It is clear that he can do without our handout. And similarly, an elderly couple whom I know, lives with such contentment on their meager pension that it lifts my spirits each time I see them.
Why are such people happy? According to a study conducted in Europe, people are happy when they live in the present and when they have no expectations. Seems easy
IN OTHER WORDS,
YOU ARE THINKING
OF THE FUTURE OR
THE PAST, BUT NOT
OF THE PRESENT.
YOU ARE CERTAINLY
AROUND AT THE
PEOPLE YOU SEE.
doesn’t it? But it isn’t easy, as becomes obvious when we look around and see how few of the people we know are really contented and filled with joy.
It seems so logical that we must live in the present, but so few of us do so. Think about it. What are you thinking of on your way to work? Of the work you will do when you get to office, of the movie you want to see the coming weekend or worse still, replaying the argument you had with your hubby over breakfast in your mind and kicking yourself for not having given the smart retort to his dig that you have thought up just now?
In other words, you are thinking of the future or the past, but not of the present. You are certainly not looking around you and taking deep breaths and enjoying the weather or placidly smiling at the people you see.
The young tend to live in the future because they are always planning and preparing themselves for the years to come. Their youth seems to be a time of watching and waiting – life they feel, will begin when they are grown-ups, namely in the future. The old, on the other hand, tend to live in the past. This is because their lives are usually constricted and boring and they have little to look forward to. So they are constantly look ng back and re-living their memories.
But many of us. who are neither young nor old. look backwards for two other reasons. The first is that we are disappointed with the way our lives – our careers, our ^ marriages etc – have turned out to be and we look back wistfully to happier times. But this wistfulness implies that we have accepted our unsatisfactory present. When we haven’t, we look back in search of answers to why these bad things happened to us. Why did we end up in a dead-end job and who was to blame for it, we
wonder, for example. Or we ask ourselves why on earth we didn’t realise that that the man we married, just wasn’t the one we could be happy with.
The second reason why we look backwards is that we often have past guilts that torment us. We have done things which were wrong, things which we deeply regret and, unable to forgive ourselves, we look back and blame ourselves. Actually, many of these guilts need not torment us because the way to end them lies with us. These are the guilts of having wronged people; of having been nasty and selfish and the like.
The way to rid ourselves of these guilts is by confessing and apologising and making reparation. Don’t tell yourself that it happened long ago and that the person you wronged has probably forgotten all about it and that you will look very foolish raking up the issue now. Remember you are not doing it for that person; you are doing it for yourself. So go ahead
REALISE THAT EVERY
DAY IS A FRESH
ONCE YOU TAKE
THIS AS YOUR
MOTTO IN LIFE,
YOU CAN MOVE
matter up and apologise and offer to do something to make up for it!
But what about guilts we cannot do anything about and for which we are not able to forgive ourselves? For these, we constantly go back to the past, relive what we did and hopelessly try to justify our actions so that we can give ourselves closure. For instance we may try to justify having said that we could not offer a home to our old parents and for having “passed the buck” to a sibling by reliving the past repeatedly and exaggerating the reasons for our decision.