"Happiness is the feeling you're feeling when you want to keep feeling it."
Reading the title of the post, you might be asking yourself, "What's different about happiness and not unhappiness?" When I came across the idea of being "not unhappy" (mentioned briefly in the book The Opposite of Love, which was phenomenal by the way), I was a bit befuddled myself, but the words just jumped out at me and I instantly wondered, "What is the difference between 'being happy' and 'being not unhappy'? Aren't they the same?"
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how not the same they really were. Being happy is the state when you contain happiness within yourself, when you choose to be at one with the positivity in your life and in the world. Being not unhappy is the state where you're not necessarily unhappy, but you're not necessarily happy either. You're in limbo. And, oddly enough, I think more people are really referring to this state -- this "not unhappiness" -- when they use the word "happy" (especially when they've been asked the generic "Are you happy?" question). To me, happiness is a proactive thing, something you actively and purposefully choose, not an absence of something (such as not possessing unhappiness).
When I think about happiness, I think of it as something we choose to pick up, like a ripe, delicious apple resting in one of those perfect little rows in the grocery store. We can walk right by the apples, ignoring them, or we can pick one (or many!) up and put them in our carts. Likewise, I think you can choose to pick up unhappiness, like, for example, when you choose to pick up a highly unhealthy box of donuts. Unhappiness is an indulgence, something you don't need but sometimes may want anyway. When you're pushing your cart through the aisles, you can pick up the apples -- the healthy option -- or you can pick up the donuts. It's completely up to you. And, let's be honest, we sometimes pick up both, adding happiness and unhappiness to our carts depending on the day or situation or mood we're in. [Note: I realized after writing this that donuts probably weren't the best symbol for unhappiness, considering I love donuts, but let's just go with it for now. But, really, I do like unhappiness sometimes too (much as I hate to admit that). Like donuts, unhappiness is like a rare, somewhat forbidden treat that I try to stay away from but sometimes find myself indulging in no matter how hard I try to steer my cart down a different aisle...]
When I think of being "not unhappy," I think of it as just being, sort of in a neutral state, as if you were just you without having picked up those apples or that box of donuts. I guess, in a way, if you say that you are "not unhappy," you're walking around with an empty cart. While I suppose it's better than walking around with a cart filled with donuts, it's certainly not the ideal situation. Or, at least, I think most of us wouldn't want to be walking around with empty carts. In fact, when I think about empty carts, when I think of people who, when asked if they are happy, reply with, "Well, I'm not unhappy...," it actually feels like I'm filling my own cart with donuts, with unhappiness. It actually makes me unhappy to think of all of the people walking around with empty carts, or, rather, settling for empty carts.
But we don't have to settle for empty carts. We can choose to fill them up, load them to the brim with apples. What I really want you to think about (and what I'm thinking about right now) is: what's in your cart? And, more importantly, is there anything in your cart? Think about it: Are you "happy"? Or just "not unhappy"? I can say with certainty that I've spent a lot of my life being "not unhappy." In fact, I've found myself doing a lot of this lately. I'll be honest...It's not terrible. It's certainly not a terrible way to live, but if you're living your life as a "not unhappy" person, you are really living a life filled less than you deserve. You deserve a cart filled with apples (and maybe even some donuts too). You deserve to have a full, overflowing cart.
You deserve -- we all deserve -- to be happy. Happiness is out there, stacked up high in rows just waiting to be taken, but it's up to YOU to pick it up and put it in your cart. If you don't, if you don't choose happiness, you'll end up being the person who responds to "Are you happy?" with the depressing phrase, "Well, I'm not unhappy..." And, seriously, is that who you want to be? I know that I want more for myself. I want happiness and I want you to have it too. Lately it hasn't been the easiest thing for me to pick up. Driving to the grocery store and steering my cart towards the produce seems harder than it should be these days (both literally and figuratively), but I know what I want: I want apples in my cart. I want my cart to be overflowing with apples, with happiness. But I also know that more often than not the apples aren't going to fall from the sky. I'm going to have to seek 'em out, pick 'em up, and put 'em in my cart. [Another Note: As I'm writing, I'm realizing what an Adam-and-Eve tone this example seems to have with the apple as such an important symbol in the analogy I'm making here. It's an odd to think about it this way, with me encouraging readers to go after the apples, to seek them out... Happiness as sin... hmm... interesting.]
Today I'm going to remind myself of how much control I have over what I put in my own cart. Just like when I'm walking through the grocery store, I can choose what I want to buy. Today I am asking myself, "What do I want to put in my cart?" I realize that donuts might be tempting these days, but today I'm pretty sure I'm going to fill my shopping cart with happiness.