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12 July 2005

Are you happy? [More:]
Would you describe yourself as happy? Content? When are you most happy? What do you do to make yourself more happy or to cheer yourself up? If there was one thing you could change to make yourself happy (if you aren't), what would it be? If it's in your power, what keeps you from doing it?
posted by omiewise 12 July | 09:54
I am happier now than I have been in several years. The fact that I am finally out of a disastrous marriage is the biggest part. I'm a very social person by nature, and because of various issues in my marriage I never went out, so being able to hang with my friends and go clubbing has made all the difference in the world.
I have minor annoyances from day to day. But overall, I'd say I'm quite happy.
posted by kellydamnit 12 July | 10:07
In the large, really happy. I love where I'm living and working.
But momentarily quite distressed by a noisy neighbor situation.
posted by Wolfdog 12 July | 10:17
Not really.
When everything is done for the day and I'm off work and I don't have to go in the next day and I can just sit and relax and talk to a few friends.
Exercise cheers me up immensely.
Quit my job.
posted by LeeJay 12 July | 10:43
I'm quite content, thank you. Spent the morning in garden, will spend the afternoon in the pool, then off to the local fair tonight.

Life is good--which makes me nervous. Things have a way of evening out, so if I'm happy for a long stretch, it means that something awful is just around the corner.

Wolfdog, what kind of neighborly noise are you suffering? Maybe I can channel some of my coming bad luck their way. Win-win.
posted by jrossi4r 12 July | 10:47
I am happy when I when I am able to hide from the terrible secret I keep. Happy when I play with my animal buddies, or when I am laughing with my fiance.

As long as I don't think about how this all might fall apart soon, I'm happy. When those thoughts creep in, it scares me to death.

Couldn't be more honest.
posted by tr33hggr 12 July | 10:48
I don't really know. For me, I'm pretty happy right now, except for the job situation. But then, I think maybe my definition of happy is kind of looser than other peoples? My family doesn't tend towards happy - we tend towards cynical, disillusioned, pessimistic, depressed. So my family thinks I'm ridiculously cheerful. Meanwhile, my friends think I'm the darkest person ever. I feel like I fall in between. At least, for the moment, I'm not depressed. Things are okay. I wake up hopeful. That's enough.
posted by mygothlaundry 12 July | 10:55
I live in the upstairs of a two-apartment building. It's been fine for years, but they've traditionally leased to professionals or law students. Then at the beginning of this summer a couple of undergrads and, essentially, their 30 or 40 closest friends moved in. Except for a few quiet hours in the morning, it's non-stop small annoyances plus big disturbances every night. Right about now I'm just dreading every evening as it approaches.

Channel away.
posted by Wolfdog 12 July | 10:55
I would be happier if I didn't have to work. I enjoy my career, but I'd rather do my own thing all day. And believe me, I wouldn't get bored. I haven't been bored since I was a kid.
posted by gaspode 12 July | 10:58
I'm very unhappy with my "career" situation. "Career"--ha! Can I post a desperate cry for help and advice as a separate thread?
posted by shane 12 July | 10:59
My temperament, from birth, I've been an anxious, unhappy person. This doesn't mean I've ever been depressed or suicidal or abused, and most people think I'm pretty good company - I can be a damn riot, in fact. I enjoy things very much, such as the dog, football, road trips, exercise, and the beach. But in all honesty, the only things that make me happy happy are things that take me out of myself: the proverbial sex and booze/drugs and rock & roll. The rest is just filler between peak experiences. I don't think this can change(yes I've tried counseling); I've just accepted myself, and successfully cultivated enough healthy habits/behavior checks so that I don't come to a bad end. Why? Are you?
posted by rainbaby 12 July | 11:06
And believe me, I wouldn't get bored. I haven't been bored since I was a kid.

I'll second that!

Eh, my cats make me happy, especially when they walk on me at night as I'm falling asleep. I'm happy when I'm in a coffeeshop reading a book. I'm swept away when I'm doing art or writing, although I can't get into the writing "mojo zone" lately, having just started a new "day-job."

I'm not happy, though, during the day. My job is meaningless, does nothing good or creative, yet holds me hostage 40 hours a week. I'm far behind in realizing my potential or doing something I love or believe in. This depresses me.

The suffering of the world deeply depresses and distresses me too, as cliche as that might sound. I feel connected to it somehow. Empathy? Also, it's as if the person I was as a child, before I knew what people and animals endure on this Earth... that kid just can't reconcile reality with the way things "should" be and the carefree feeling of once thinking everything was all okay.

I have my ups and downs with depression and anxiety, too. Seems almost natural.
posted by shane 12 July | 11:12
I'm with gaspode, but on the whole i'm happy...not thrilled happy, not sad. I'm really only thoroughly happy when i'm making stuff, and traveling. Summer sucks the life out of me too, so i'm usually happier when it's cooler.
posted by amberglow 12 July | 11:14
I am happy when I when I am able to hide from the terrible secret I keep.

Stop that! You'll be happier when it's not a secret anymore--for real.
posted by amberglow 12 July | 11:21

Have you seen Postsecret.
posted by omiewise 12 July | 11:48
I know amberglow, but it's not that easy. I'll find a way to dig out, I hope. Believe me, my life now is too precious.
posted by tr33hggr 12 July | 11:49
omiewise, I was looking at that site yesterday, thinking to myself that it was least a place I could confess anonymously. Worth thinking about, but it's more important that I buck up (where did that phrase come from I wonder) and fix my mess.

It is a cool site though. Chilling.
posted by tr33hggr 12 July | 11:50
I know it's not easy, but it's worth it...the weight of stuff like that is not good for you.

is it fixable, or a personal just yourself thing?
posted by amberglow 12 July | 11:53
Doggone it, you're going to bring me to tears here at my cube . . . :)

I hope it's fixable. It affects more than me. Jesus, this is hard to go into. I've not told anyone, anyone at all about it. (So enigmatic, eh?)

Anyway, I hope so. I've started making steps toward fixing it. I hope I can complete the journey. Sometimes I want to talk to someone so badly, but I don't know who.

But thanks amberglow. I've always looked up to you since I started reading the blue, and your concern means a lot to me, it really does. I don't pray, but if you do please do so for me.
posted by tr33hggr 12 July | 11:57
Wow, t33hggr. I've always liked you on the blue. You have fans and friends here. Take care of yourself. Go to a confidential counsellor at the very least. You'll feel so much better once you've talked to someone. We all probably need more people to talk to.

Really--whatever it is, there's life beyond it.
posted by shane 12 July | 12:00
Thinking about this just now I realized what makes me happy, and I haven't been doing enough of it this year. I'm happy out in the woods by myself - either "fishing" (I never catch anything but I love wading through rivers, standing still for a long time, then casting) or just hiking, deep in the mountains. Then, I love giving parties. I'm happy when all my friends are with me, drinking beer and laughing. I'm kind of a weird mixture of introvert & extrovert: I always said the perfect day would involve a long hike in the mountains, some time wading around in the river and then going to a great bar at the end of the day.

on preview, tr33hggr - hon, I always find I'm harder on myself than anyone else could possibly be. Don't be like me. Talk to somebody. It may not be as soul destroyingly terrible as you think it is - and you may also find that you're not alone.
posted by mygothlaundry 12 July | 12:06
we're all here for you if we can help, tr33--really. email me if you want.

you don't have to tell us--just fix it so that you can live ok. don't let it eat you away. mygoth is absolutely right--we're all incredibly hard on ourselves, but the world doesn't end. we have more strength than we think, and shouldn't waste it on hiding shit.

(i speak from experience--more than just coming out)
posted by amberglow 12 July | 12:14
and there's free counseling all over if you want. it can help too.

posted by amberglow 12 July | 12:16
Thanks shane, mygothlaundry, and amberglow. It means more than you know. Really.

And amberglow, I just may take you up on that offer.

You all bring a smile to my face, and that helps, immensely.

Hugs all around.
posted by tr33hggr 12 July | 12:39
I think everybody's advice is great. And what everybody is saying works, or has worked, for them, at one point or another.

I'm a happy person. I've been unhappy as well. I've had, and still have, buried secrets, just like most of us. I've talked about some of them, and some of them I will never talk about.

Actions in the past are not part of me anymore. Memories of the past, lessons from the past, thoughts and daydreams of the past, all are part of me. And they go a long way towards affecting who I am. What's more, the choices I've made in telling or not telling my secrets are as much a part of me as those secrets are.

Don't talk to somebody if you don't want to. Support is nice, but if you are more comfortable going it alone, there's nothing inherently wrong with that.

Time heals? Sitting with your thoughts, figuring them out yourself, taking the time, making the effort. Sure, talk to someone if you want. But don't feel like things won't get better if you don't talk about them. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy that just doesn't have to be.

I'm not discounting the value of finding someone to talk to about issues. I just think that other options can be just as helpful (sometimes more) and leave you with a better understanding of yourself.

In my experience, when most people listen, they project their experiences onto mine, so any words of comfort or advice are words that soothe or guide themselves as much or (often) more than me. Sometimes, they don't have any idea, and their words are useless. Sometimes, too, what they have to say is perfect, and solves everything.

Usually the more I know about my own problem, the more I've turned my secret over and over in my head, the more likely I am either to find that perfect listener/advisor, or to solve it myself, or come to an understanding with the issue and allow it to float around on the ever-widening lake of experience until it shrinks into insignificance.

Above all, remember: what I've written is not meant to be followed. There are always more options than anyone can tell you of. My advice may be particularly bad advice for you. If it is, please don't follow it.

Finally, I hope you are happy soon. Take care of yourself, tr33hggr.
posted by Hugh Janus 12 July | 12:45
Good thoughts Hugh. Sorry folks, I didn't mean for this thread to turn into a thread about me!

Off to an all-afternoon meeting. Hurrah. But it's raining here today, first real rain we've seen since April or so, and I'll take that as a good sign. Peace, everyone.
posted by tr33hggr 12 July | 12:57
I'm a manic optimist. Being sad is quite a task. This is good in terms of having a positive outlook, but its weird to not have a full spectrum of emotions, and it's annoying because I often view situations as better than they actually are.
posted by hopeless romantique 12 July | 14:01
tr33hggr, hang in there. Sounds like a tough time, but you've got many resources and much support. Good luck!

I am happier than I ever remember being. Details here. [disclaimer: self-link]

It's likely that I'm rainbaby's alter ego. My natural tendency is to be happy, a little hyper and easy going. Which isn't to say that I don't pissy and issue a "Oh fuck off already!" to the world at large from time to time or that I haven't experienced deep black, could-the-universe-please-nullify-my-existence depression in response to horrible things in my life. But as much as it annoys the hell out of my friends who love to wallow in their bitterness and jaded negativity, I seem to have inherited my dad's 'stoopit happy' gene. If it sucks, I'm sure it get better; if it doesn't get better, at least it's interesting and a source of good stories. If neither A nor B, there's always the option of having it with some fava beans and a nice chianti. I keed, I keed.

A cool 10k to pay off my university loans would be pretty damn sweet, but a minor detail in the larger scheme of things.

On preview: Hi, hopeless romantique!!
posted by Frisbee Girl 12 July | 14:07
Generally, not happy although I do have happy moments (I'm in MetaChat right now). I'm really unhappy with being unhappy (depressed, really) and started, finally, to do something (drugs) about it.

Hang in there, tr33hggr.
posted by deborah 12 July | 14:31
Keep your head up. Things not only can get better, they will. Distress is a potent indicator that change is on the way.

Hugh is correct that everyone has to find their own way, and while I think that talking with friends can be a mixed bag, especially about something that you want to keep secret, I also know that 80% of people who experience enough distress to seek professional counseling end up better off than the untreated sample. And good therapy works quickly, with measurable improvement in mood and functioning seem within the first few sessions. If there is no improvement, find another therapist. (The newest research also seems to be indicating that previous failed attempts at therapy have no predictive value for new therapy undertaken.)

Of course my advice and advocacy is all based on being a therapist.
posted by omiewise 12 July | 14:34
It's likely that I'm rainbaby's alter ego. My natural tendency is to be happy, a little hyper and easy going. Which isn't to say that I don't pissy and issue a "Oh fuck off already!" to the world at large from time to time or that I haven't experienced deep black, could-the-universe-please-nullify-my-existence depression in response to horrible things in my life.

I'm much the same way. It drives everyone around me completely insane, I think the problem is made worse because my friends are mostly goths and punks.
Even when I was married, and more miserable than I'd ever been in my life, most people had no idea how unhappy I really was because it just put me on an average person's "neutral." I think that's why my getting divorced shocked everyone I knew IRL at first, they had no idea how miserable I was. Now, though, a week doesn't pass without someone commenting that they'd forgotten how giddy I could be when I'm in a good mood.

posted by kellydamnit 12 July | 14:37
As usual, Hugh speaks The True, imo.

Frisbee Girl and kellydamnit, we'd probably get along great. We'd walk down the street, you guys'd act goofy, point out wonderful, quirky people and scenery, and I'd be cool and ironic and stop you from running into traffic.
posted by rainbaby 12 July | 14:44
It's a good day. An old girl friend (er, friend who is a girl, um, oh dammit you know what I mean) has returned after a five year absence and it's really nice to see her again, I just got a big break on a case that's been cooking since last fall and I'm about three weeks from dropping the twenty-ton shithammer on the evildoers, and summer is sort of happening. Plus I just got over a long illness, somewhat.

Life is good.
posted by warbaby 12 July | 14:45
I would have picked such an attitude from your speech Frisbee Girl. It's a fortunate trait to have.

I've always found happiness to be a bit ephemeral which is probably the same for everyone. Here one minute then gone the next.

My mood tends to react to my situation or environment. Although I like my own company and probably spend too much time alone these days, I can also get quite maudlin without company for too much time.

If things in life are ok and none of my dark secrets are bubbling away then I'm happy when life is content. The older I get the more I'm satisfied with easygoingness rather than chasing fantastic times if that makes any sense. But I still can enjoy life a lot. Sometimes I have to kind of talk myself into it.
tr33ghr, I have a lot of empathy for what you're describing. We all carry 'stuff' around. All the good people above have given good advice. I'm of the kind that thinks talking/emailing to sort through things, even if (or maybe especially because) they're a stranger, is a good idea.
posted by peacay 12 July | 14:46
Frisbee Girl and kellydamnit, we'd probably get along great. We'd walk down the street, you guys'd act goofy, point out wonderful, quirky people and scenery, and I'd be cool and ironic and stop you from running into traffic.
posted by rainbaby 12 July | 14:44

This I do not doubt.
posted by Frisbee Girl 12 July | 14:50
I'd be cool and ironic and stop you from running into traffic.

You have no idea. I have a massive hand-shaped bruse on my bicep from a friend grabbing me as I wandered in front of a car in a parking lot a week or so ago.
I couldn't help it! There was a VW Bug painted to look like R2D2 distracting me!
posted by kellydamnit 12 July | 14:58
Huh. What's particularly interesting is reading about other peoples' perception of you. Like kellydamnit saying that most people thought she was doing fine. I find that most people think I'm unhappy when really, I'm just stuck in my head, perfectly fine. 99% of the time I'm a very even-keeled person. I just don't get amazing highs or lows. But when I do... it's definitely highs. I've never even been sad, let alone depressed for an extended period of time. Obviously I'm incredibly lucky. Or amazingly repressed.
posted by gaspode 12 July | 15:01
Ok there should have been a comma after "depressed", because obviously I have been *sad* just not for a long time.
posted by gaspode 12 July | 15:04
kellydamnit, I did hunch you'd be one to run into traffic because I gravitate towards people like that - opposites attract. Otherwise I'd just walk down the street worrying and not notice the R2D2 Bug or whatever it was.

My question stands, omiewise, are you happy? I know you're a therapist, that's why I asked in the first place. I feel like part of an informal experiment. . .? (See, I'm a skeptic by nature!) Or at least tell us why you asked the question.
posted by rainbaby 12 July | 15:15
I'm working on "contentment". That would be happiness, I think. Otherwise, I honestly wouldn't know how to answer.
posted by jokeefe 12 July | 15:42
And if there was one thing I could change? I'd love to be able to turn down the volume on some things I know too much about and some things I spend huge amounts of emotional energy just keeping at bay.
posted by jokeefe 12 July | 15:44
oh, rainbaby, sorry, I forgot to answer. The question was no kind of experiment, I really don't approach other people like that. I'm very good about not being a therapist unless I'm being a therapist. I asked the question for the same reason I'm a therapist, not because I am one: I'm always interested in how other people get through the day.

I actually have most identified with what you wrote about yourself. I'm a pretty anxious and kind of depressed person. I do have fun sometimes, but there is a kind of effort involved that I don't really like. Sometimes it gets bad, mostly it's just a kind of low-level anhedonia of which I'm reasonably accepting. I'm pessimistic rather than optimistic, I wish I were much less cynical than I am, and I'm even a bit suspicious of people who aren't kind of depressive.

I'm most content when I'm doing something intellectual or physical. I have put a fair bit of effort into trying to figure out those things that actually do change my mood (for good or ill), lately, and trying to act accordingly. I try to get out more because of that, and I try to read rather than watch tv, things like that. I've also thought about one big thing (in certain therapies called a 'Miracle Question,' I know, I don't like it either) to change, and I have not been able to come up with anything, which alternately makes me feel depressed and kind of accepting.

Lately, after breaking up with a girlfriend of a year about two months ago, I've been thinking a lot about the future in a kind of "Will I ever be happy?" kind of way, which I guess also prompted to the question. Specifically, I've wondered about my ability to be happy or content with someone else, not when I am with them, but to find them independently something about which I could be happy or content. That's a different question, though, and I don't have an answer.
posted by omiewise 12 July | 15:45
peacay, I most certainly agree on the good fortune of my disposition. While I do get a fair amount dismissiveness and disregard because of it (as in, if I'm capable of being this happy, I must not be very intelligent/I don't know how hard it is because everything good just happens to me) and it does irk on occasion, as both assumptions are false, I have nothing to prove to anyone. Thus, I let it slide, generally without comment.

Fact is, for almost three decades, I watched my mother fight a losing battle with mania, depression and addiction that spiralled into barely functioning dementia. There were numerous suicide attempts and physical violence (no need to mention emotional or psychological violence) coupled with a blind rage was more the rule than exception, becoming more prevalent and frequent over the years.

Until I was 30, not a single day went by that I didn't live in fear of waking up, either physically or psychologically, to find that, I too, had gone irrevocably insane. Not a day goes by that I don't have reason to give pause and wonder how in hell I didn't end up like her. How I turned out to be a happy, healthy, well-adjusted person at peace enough with her world to recruit her 'demons' as helpmates over a cup of existential tea without fear of leaping off the cliff of crazy in the process. And not a day goes by when I don't wish she couldn't have had more peace, health and happiness in her interior landscape.

But such are the paths that we each follow and there are things that we cannot change, regardless of what we may desire for another. For me to live less because she couldn't live more is patently ridiculous and a true waste. Besides, things are just now getting interesting and the detractors can all kiss my sassy, happy ass.
posted by Frisbee Girl 12 July | 15:47
Must I detract?
posted by Hugh Janus 12 July | 16:05
A little late, but...

Would you describe yourself as happy?
If asked, yes mostly. I don't think I'd volunteer that information though (which I find a little curious now that I think about it). Also, reflecting on the question tends to make me a little less happy because I start evaluating whether or not I'm "content" (see below). But as to if I'm an in-the-moment happy type, I usually kind of am.

No. Too much of a striving, goal-oriented person (who's really trying to break away from that, but it's not working very well.) When I look at my life, I know I should be, but I'm not. Not to be overly deterministic, but I can't help thinking that there's some biology at work in that.

When are you most happy?
Playing bass, drawing/painting, playing futbol, snowboarding, running, reading/analysis, listening to music, watching craptastic movies, and spending time with my partner.

What do you do to make yourself more happy or to cheer yourself up?
See above. Repeat as necessary.

If there was one thing you could change to make yourself happy (if you aren't), what would it be?
Get paid and have health insurance to do something from the "When are you most happy" question.

If it's in your power, what keeps you from doing it?
I'm working on it, geez! Give a kid some slack. :) And, some assurances on being insured. Plus, there's some fear getting in the way, of course. The current situation has some elements that pull from the things which make me happy, so it's not a dire scene right now.
posted by safetyfork 12 July | 16:14
Must I detract?

Ha, Hugh, you crack me up on such a regular basis that ass kissing would be a let-down.
posted by Frisbee Girl 12 July | 16:24
Such a simple question leading to some very telling answers. Omiewise, I apologize for letting your profession define you in my mind. It makes no more sense than assuming an actor is always "on." (something I used to encounter when I performed and it drove me ape bananas) I think happiness is more nature than nurture, or, possibly a family systems kind of thing - you take on the role not represented real early.
posted by rainbaby 12 July | 16:24
I was actually hard to admit that I'm generally happy. But pretty easy to say I'm not content. How odd is that? I dunno. I'm wondering if it's because one is unexpected and the other not. Too open to speculate. Hrm.
posted by safetyfork 12 July | 16:29

Apparently it is also hard to type a two letter word and preview even minimally as well.
posted by safetyfork 12 July | 16:31
everyone knows therapists are all nuts themselves and that's why they became's on a par with the "doctors are the worst patients" thing, i think. ; >

I think it's rare that we even stop to think about whether we're happy or not.
posted by amberglow 12 July | 16:36
safetyfork, I don't find it odd at all. To me, content implies a kind of resolution/goal acheivement/end product. Even if the acheivement is perfecting part of the process itself. But you already addressed that.

Happy just means your tail's waggin'.
posted by Frisbee Girl 12 July | 16:38
everyone knows therapists are all nuts themselves and that's why they became therapists....

A therapist is someone who needs therapy every day but can't afford to pay for it.
posted by omiewise 12 July | 16:49
There goes safetyfork with his tail waggin'. Ha. I love it. It doesn't go with my tough guy image though. Which, you know, I've been perfecting here. :)
posted by safetyfork 12 July | 16:57
And today's payday! We are consultants so payday is when the clients pay... Yay!
posted by warbaby 12 July | 17:06
warbaby, you're fairly glowing. My, my, my!

safetyfork, even tough guys wag their tails. ;)
posted by Frisbee Girl 12 July | 17:14
Happy? Not really. Happier than I have been in the past though and hopefully I will be more happy in the future. Mainly concerned with being on the wrong side of 40 and having not really achieved anything worth patting myself on the back for. Lots of things I will never get to do that I would have liked to and that bothers me too much.

Life could be worse, I guess. But it could be a lot better, too.

In summary - Life, meh.
posted by dg 12 July | 18:39

I feel more confused and frustrated every day. I'm usually mad at my own brain for holding me hostage...subjecting me to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I've been prescribed meds before, but would rather be crazy than a zombie.

I think that the biggest reason I'm unhappy recently is another long term relationship down the tubes. Even though I know that the blame for this is spread fairly evenly between the two of us, i still can't beleive I am not the underlying reason. I'm almost convinced to give up relationships and just sleep with everything that fuels my fancy (I was attempting to start on something similar to this when i met Her...sigh)

Massive distrust of my willpower and ability to finish tasks, a VERY deep feeling of wasted potential.

Tomorrow I may feel like GOD...
posted by Schyler523 12 July | 19:51
Like rainbaby, I'm one to be yanking people out of traffic. And like kellydammit, I don't come across as unhappy. I've surprised a lot of people by telling them I'm on antidepressants. I deserve a fucking Oscar, I tell ya.
posted by deborah 13 July | 01:04
*hands deborah statue of small man with no penis*
posted by dg 13 July | 01:28
posted by Orange Swan 13 July | 21:55
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