Happiness

The Good Old Days

There was a time when you and I didn’t worry about stuff. Any stuff. Remember those days?

Me either.

Well, we might not remember but it’s true. We didn’t worry about what people thought of our appearance, our weight, our reputation, our clothes or our faults. In fact, we didn’t even know we had faults. That was something we had to learn.

Apparently.

Back then we made great friends because they happened to be playing in our sandpit, living over our fence or sitting in our classroom; not because they met certain religious, social, physical or financial criteria. We didn’t evaluate them, we just appreciated them. We didn’t care about ticking boxes but we did like playing in them. Especially if they were cardboard. There was a time when happiness was our default setting. Our natural state. Sure, we had our moments but happiness was never far away. Smiling, laughing and playing were instinctive. Normal.

And then something happened.

Unhealthy Lessons

At some stage, we started learning about concepts like approval and rejection. For our own good, of course. We learned about winning and losing. Smart and stupid. Success and failure. Pretty and ugly. We learned that our face could open doors. Or close them. We learned that our singing and dancing could be judged. Scored. Until then, we didn’t know that our paintings could be good or bad. It had never occurred to us and we simply didn’t think in those terms. We painted because we loved to paint. There was joy in what we did. We didn’t compare our masterpiece with anyone else’s art. In fact, we didn’t know what a comparison was.

We had to learn that too. 🙁

Somewhere along the way, we developed a new skill: worrying. We learned to worry about how we looked. What we wore. Our hair. What people thought. Somehow, we learned that we needed the approval of others. We came to understand that our singing, dancing and painting might actually be terrible. Over night, the instinctive, the innocent and the joyful was replaced with the calculated, the insecure and the anxious.

My Awesome Art

When I was four all my paintings were awesome. As were my drawings. I just knew it. When I was four I would sing and dance for anyone, anywhere, anytime. Why? Because it made me and my audience happy. It was fun and that’s all that mattered. There was no cerebral element to it. At all. It didn’t dawn on me that I might be good or bad, right or wrong, talented or not, impressive or embarrassing. No, it was a purely emotional and physical experience. An unconscious expression of being a child.

Or, maybe it was an unconscious expression of a person without emotional baggage or ego.

At some stage, you and I learned that play is only for kids. That it can’t be a forever thing. What an unhealthy lesson to learn. Somewhere along the way our fun games became not-so-much-fun competitions. We learned that we shouldn’t spontaneously hug people or tell them we love them – even if we do. Apparently, there’s a time and place for everything. Instead of collecting bugs we began to collect issues. Fears. Insecurities. We learned to be more strategic and less intuitive. More cerebral and less emotional. We learned to plan more and play less. And the more we learned, the less happy we became. We were so busy learning that we forgot to laugh.

The average child laughs about four hundred times per day. The average adult? Fifteen.

Pity.