Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I just finished reading a pretty amazing article about a long-term case study on what makes for a happy life...Here are some quotes that I found quite poignant from some of the case subjects...

Also, for my own purposes, I am including a quote from my grandmother on how she felt about her marriage to the man I consider my grandfather and who she considers the great love of her life.

"It's very hard for most of us to tolerate being loved"

This stood out to me because the man who said this was describing his inability to read some 100 letters written by former patients of his regarding their gratitude and love for him. Upon his retirement, the man's wife secretly wrote to his patients to see if they would send a "thank you" letter. She gathered the numerous responses, put them in a pretty box and wrapped them in Thai silk. Some ten years later, he had not been able to bring himself to read them and he didn't know why. He was considered one of the most exemplary individuals within the study in terms of a high level of happiness within his own life.

The next few quotes are from the head of the study, George Valliant, an interesting case himself. These quotes explain, in a very simple way, what he considers to be key factors in the level of happiness within our lives.

"Money does little to make us happier once basic needs have been met"

Phew! That takes a lot of pressure of my shoulders! ;)

"Marriage and Faith lead to happiness"

This was more of a general observation from his findings although he noted that happier people tended to be more likely to attract marriage or spiritual practices.

"A pre-disposition to stay at a certain level of happiness accounts for 50% of our well-being, 10% is dictated by circumstance and 40% is within our control"

This makes me feel good about my chances as I think I am a generally very happy person. It also ties in with one of his main hypotheses that states that how happy one considers their life is largely due to how they deal with struggle and hardship. "Attitude is huge" is one of his most basic points.

"The very way we deal w/reality is by distorting it and we do this subconsciously"

I find this quote intensely intriguing at all. It has a lot to do, again, with perspective. However, it also acknowledges the fragility of our human condition.

This last quote was one of his favorites from one of his favorite subjects---a man he considered to be both simultaneously depressed and exuberently joyful at most periods in his life-a very functional alcoholic who would come out of the closet in his 70's....This quote articulates what this man considered to be one of his greatest life lessons:

"It's important to care and to try, even tho the effects of one's caring and trying may be absurd, futile or so woven into the future as to be indetectable"

I also love this quote because it reminds me of a song I wrote years ago in a vulnerable attempt to be slightly political in my music for once-to try to say something that I deemed important to the masses. It was also my philosophy for dealing with the angst that sometimes comes from trying, with as much unwavering courage as one can stand, to be a good person when it doesn't always seem to reap a reward.

The article discussed intimate relationships and what a huge part they played in the general self-assessment of happiness within one's life. Any one who knows me knows that I am obsessed with these types of relationships and work hard in my life to maintain them as my greatest assetts. While visiting with my grandmother this weekend, we discussed (as we often do) her last marriage with my grandfather who I adored. He was the great love of her life and the most successful, if solely successful of her three marriages. She's told me on more than one occasion that she believes that a good marriage is based on true friendship. When I asked her how she felt about her self within that marriage she said this:

"I felt safe. I felt confident, and I knew exactly how much he cared for me at all times"

She went on to say,

"the glow of romance will inevitably fade away but the longevity of a marriage lies in having fun with your best friend"

Although I think I have always been a member of the "friend as lover" camp, I think that this particular description of her marriage may have come off as somewhat boring to me at other times in life. Who cares about feeling safe? However, the place I am in now can certainly relate to that set of values and cherish how they create an ability to continue to grow in life. To feel safe to me now means to feel whole and to feel whole within one's self to me enables one to live life with the perfect amount of abandon.

This entry is more for me than anyone else but I must say that I write it with a sense of gratitude and peace that I think I just might be on the right track. That sure makes me happy.


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