Are you happy?
I imagine many would want the earth to swallow them being asked such a direct question.
We often ask “How are you?” (or variation of). Perfectly reasonable. Depending on who we ask, we may well get a sincere reply, which we may or may not be expecting. But the likelihood is we’d be met with something equally generic “Yeah good, you?”
Because that’s it isn’t it? An open question creates space for an open answer. Anything. And perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps we don’t particularly want sincere and are just being friendly. So by not asking something direct we unconsciously give both them and us the opportunity to simply move through the interaction with ease…but also void of meaningful.
Whilst all very lovely, and part of our everyday, it does lack real connection. Again, maybe that’s okay, maybe we don’t care to know what’s really going on with someone and maybe they don’t care to share. And if they did, they would. But this isn’t just applicable to casual encounters, its friends and loved ones too.
Are we becoming more content with surface level living? Deep and meaningful interactions with people have been fading away long before Covid – phones, social media – prime examples. Is a lack of human connection the real pandemic we face, only compounded by measures imposed due to Covid?
If this pattern of closing the depth that resides in us all continues, we may as well be robots and find ourselves, our jobs, our purpose being replaced by AI. Perhaps that’s precisely where the world is headed, and why so much of what’s happening at the moment in terms of controlling human behaviour and isolation feels more sinister than it ever has.
Or maybe this is just the modern version of what’s been happening our entire history.
I am (perhaps) being dramatic. When it comes to meaningful this and purpose that, we can’t do it alone. We need other humans, diverse in their thinking and feeling, open to new and sometimes crazy ideas.
So perhaps we should start asking more meaningful questions like “Are you happy?”, you never know, we may make a friend, help someone heal, even save a life…
We all know whether we’re happy or not. It’s no surprise that many of us cringe when asked “Are you happy?”, because by admitting we’re not means admitting we’re aware of it, and still have shit we gotta do.
To have more meaningful conversation, real connection, to get to *know* someone, we have to make the effort. Which means being open and sincere ourselves. Open to (not fearful of) what we or someone else is thinking or feeling.
I’ve found myself more closed, which is not me, at all. It seems our openness and willingness to ask meaningful questions is connected to our hurt and fear of, or need for, its exposure. The deeper our dark the less likely we can be to open up and content to skip over any real answers or indeed asking any real questions – to ask would lead to being asked, challenging *us*.
Engaging on the surface of life seems the norm for many, but some of us struggle with it, when what really matters, what really needs talking about is what’s inside, beneath the surface of idle chit chat, “I’m good” and all the other avoidant tactics humans lean on.
What’s deep down is what’s responsible for negatively impacting our happiness. The awareness of our sadness either propels us to hide from it or face it. Going against either is difficult because it’s going against how we’ve learned (or been taught) to live.
Having experienced both these existences, I have empathy for both struggles. When we avoid what’s inside though, we neglect real connection, including with self and those we love, people can feel un-relatable which can be painfully isolating.
When we speak our truth we often need to feel safe to do so, and so deep connection (relating) is vitality important. It’s where trust lives.
In most cases it’s fine to skip real and keep it surface level, humans can be dicks and some people don’t need to know. But our caution can also create a challenge in forming meaningful ties with those we WANT to do so with. A place we feel safe enough to ask, and be asked a question so *relevant* as “Are you happy?”
Sometimes, we just gotta ask, and answer. Trust and throw caution to the wind. Be real.
It’s obviously far easier to open up when we can relate to others, it’s why we often talk to friends over family because friends are our chosen family.
We relate in many ways. It’s about what’s familiar to us, not just in our likes and dislikes, opinions and beliefs. But far deeper than that, with love, happiness, sadness. How we feel and communicate, our attachment styles – shared experiences with similar outputs and perspectives.
All of which revolves around feeling safe. Being relatable is simply a reflection of self in someone else – and what feels more safe than that?? It’s deep and unconscious, and by feeling safe we’re more ‘ourselves’. Happy days.
But can you see the potential pitfalls? We relate to what *we* know and feel is right, wrong, true and safe (or not). How do we *know* that’s the right thing for us and our happiness?
Relating is influenced by experience, what’s shaped our ‘familiar’. We can easily become fixed in our minds, hearts and the people and things we’re drawn to. To what feels familiar – whether it’s safe or not. With trauma, the lines blur, playing tricks on our mind, making it a challenge to accept, trust and relate to things that are both familiar and not, even if it’s perfectly safe to do so.
Exposing ourselves to diversity helps broaden our minds and our hearts to difference. The understanding and acceptance of that difference. Which means opening up. Trusting. Going against what feels familiar at times.
Familiarity can be a good or bad thing (just ask trauma). When we load up on the same narrative, the more narrow our mindset can become, leading to misunderstanding, poorer judgement and finite thinking. This is not a reflection of who we truly are.
Trauma is tricky okay. It creates barriers that in order to relate with those who are different requires a huge amount of trust, acceptance and letting go. Three of the hardest things to do for us humans. Because whilst different, every human has the capacity to present ‘familiar’, whether it’s the *same* as what we’ve experienced before or believe to be real is a completely different matter.
When it comes to bridging the gaps between us, it seems pertinent to go back to basics – simple, honest, sincere and direct questions that we can *all* relate too. Things that matter, like happiness.
Questions we can ask both internally and externally. Perhaps we don’t because we’re so used to the seemingly insignificant moments of ‘How are you? – Yeah good, you?’. Having missed countless opportunities to open ourselves up to more meaningful conversation, its become habit. A safe space, a comfort zone to unconsciously deflect and carry on living a life where we’re “All good” when maybe we’re not.
“Are you happy?” for Monsters, is one of the most important questions we can ever ask another human (or Monster). Perhaps because they ask themselves that question a lot in order to live a happy life. Basing choices on what would most benefit that happiness and the happiness of those they care about above anything else. Including survival sometimes – eeeek what the actual?! Someone pass this Monster a drink, quick.
Seriously though, in life, we can do no more than continually choose happiness. Put it first on our to do list. And strive for that base of operation each day.
So perhaps to save ourselves from a destiny of AI and meaningless conversation we can start to simply ask some more meaningful questions of each other. Upset the status quo of ease, with good intention.
We do actually respond and open up to honesty and sincerity. Of course we can still flip out internally at times. Deflect, avoid, put on a show and revert to generic responses, pretending to be happy when we’re not. That’s okay. This idea isn’t a full-time approach to life, but still a good, meaningful, well intentioned one.
The more familiar more meaningful conversations become, the safer it feels for all of us to engage in them, regardless of any predisposition.
It’s not always easy (or wanted) but we humans have a natural need to connect. Especially to those we love. How we achieve that looks different to us all, and is rarely a harmonious road.
A little sincerity and tenderness along the way can add welcomed substance and texture to our lives.
Exposure vs survival vs happiness – Sometimes we simply aren’t ready or don’t want to expose ourselves. “Feck off” n’ all that jazz.
Yet our desire to be happy, for one, isn’t something to forget about or leave behind in life, for any of us. Our love and humanity simply won’t allow it.
It’s tough sure, when we or someone we love is unhappy. Their’s is as important as our own, we want nothing more than to help. But there’s only so much *we* can do. We’re all in this together whilst being desperately alone and swinging like mad to land a few good punches.
All we can really do is focus on nurturing our own and hope that allows space for others to do the same. That’s pretty much it.
Happiness itself? It isn’t a magical, constant state of mind. It’s painful to admit when we’re unhappy let alone knowing why or what to do about it. We accept it can’t be forced, and if we’re not, it’s restricted by something deeper that needs us. And so one day, we just say it: “No, actually, I’m not happy…”
We brave fear. Expose self.
With the acknowledgment alone we feel lighter. Opening up creates opportunity, no matter how small, to grow our happiness. Most importantly – we feel connected, we feel our self peak through the veil of dark inside us – and we’re smiling – safe, and not alone after all…who knew?
However we reach these moments, and whoever they’re with, we must find more opportunities to say “No”. To be real, vulnerable and honest with self. Putting happiness top of our list. Over and over again.
It may not always be with those we love most, that’s okay, it’s something we need to accept until it is. Love of course involves deep connection, but sometimes, love can be a place where that kind of depth has rarely (if ever) existed in the past, and so we need more courage, more trust.
It’s a challenge, no matter our experience. But we do it. We do trust, allow our heart to open. And it’s a beautiful thing when we do.
Engaging with the world through quivering lip, trembling limb or honest heart, we feel the courage of our true self and love within.
And oh what a feeling.
When it comes to more meaningful connection with other humans, boosting happiness and finding our way through the swamps and barbed-wire in our hearts and minds, we cannot deny the most meaningful connection of all – the one we have with ourselves.
We can’t go around trying to inspire a world on its knees if we’re not prepared to get down and dirty in yourself first. Monster or not.
“Are you happy?” is a question I’ve asked myself more than any other. Certainly from the age of 21. That’s around the time my relationship with happiness became so damn personal. One of the many moments where we grab the seat of our self-worth pants and *choose* to propel ourselves toward better in life.
It’s had its up and downs of course, as all relationships do. The one we have with ourselves is one we cannot escape, as much as we can find ourselves *feeling* the need to. And sadly, as some do. So being content in that relationship should be top of our agenda in life.
But how do you quantify ‘happy’? We can’t be all the time. It can’t be forced. Life happens outside as much as inside of us, which can be shite and we can’t ‘control’ any of it.
Accepting that, and letting go, is a huge part of happiness. It opens things up.
We find more time, space and calm. Opportunity to get to know our underbelly. Which isn’t a one time thing, it’s something we do continuously throughout life.
We get to know how we feel about all manner of things, from needs and values, to joy, love and gratitude. We begin to recognise and encourage the best of us, through choice, moment by moment, not only for our sake but those around us too. Bolstering core happiness as we go.
So “Are Monster’s happy?”. Yeah (Emphatic period)!
In 10 minutes time maybe less or more so, but the core self is a glow. That glow can dim, and shine brighter than any star in the sky. Which is the same for all of us. All we really do each day is remember our glow exists. That we exist. Ready and waiting to blind the world at any given moment.
Anything is possible in a moment, including happiness. All that’s required is our presence.