Happiness has very elusive nature

Sharon Kennedy

How many people do you know who are truly happy? There must be something in the water we consume or the very air we breathe that causes discontent. If you listen to the news for more than three minutes, you know the world is a very sad place. I’m not referring to all the recent tragedies caused by the weather or a crazed gunman. I’m talking about the folks next door or at the dining table beside you.

We all complain about our U.P. weather. I think that’s because it’s an easy way to start a conversation or fill a silence when we run out of things to say and just sit there staring at each other. We don’t mean much by it. We’re not plagued with too many violent storms or fires like some parts of the country. Political parties usually aren’t responsible for what falls from the sky or burns thousands of acres, so weather is a relatively safe topic.

I’m talking about a general feeling of unhappiness or discontent. Complaining starts early in life. Listen to any new mother trying to convince her toddler he does not need another toy. Most likely the child will throw a fit. It doesn’t matter if he’s in a crowded store. He’ll fling himself on the floor, crying and yelling if he can’t get his own way. So what does the frustrated parent do? Gives in, of course.

We’ve all seen it at one time or another. If you’re 70 or older, you know the thought running through your mind is one that would most likely land the parent in jail. So the kid gets another expensive toy he’ll be bored with before he gets home. The next time the parent goes shopping, she’ll try to find someone to sit with Junior. He’ll probably cry when mama leaves. She might feel guilty, but at least she’ll be spared the embarrassment of bringing along a spoiled brat.

Discontent only gets worse as children enter school. It grows to monumental proportions once junior high is reached. By high school, many parents would gladly commit themselves to a mental ward to avoid the daily battles of living with teenagers. I know I’m using a broad paint brush, but you know what I mean. Not all teens are terrors, but if they want to fit in with their peers, they often consider their parents as enemies.

Once high school is out of the way, there’s the challenge of what to do with their lives. Some choose college. Some get a menial job. Some do both and some do nothing at all, satisfied to live in the basement of the family home and play video games all day.

It doesn’t seem to make much difference because they’ll all find something to grumble about. Professors expect too much. Working at Taco Bell is boring. Video games are expensive and Sis has no money to buy the latest ones.

After earning a dubious college degree, the hunt for a good paying job is on. A few luck out right away, pay off their student loans, marry Mr. Wonderful, raise obedient children, grow old together, sit on the front porch, and reflect on their wonderful lives, but these folks are the exception. Most of us live our days in peaks and valleys. What got me thinking about the cloud of unhappiness that hangs around like a winter sniffle is the news.

I don’t know about you, but I’m so tired of hearing about all the negativity coming from all directions I could permanently unplug any electronic device that even hints at a news broadcast. How are we supposed to instill feelings of hope in young people if all they hear is doom and gloom? Everyone is concerned WWIII might break out at any minute. Climate change is either going to freeze us to death or melt us. The only jobs available for college graduates pay minimum wage. Taxes keep rising. Morale keeps falling. There’s no such thing as job security anymore. Politicians, whether part of the establishment or green as new grass, tell lies that would make Pinocchio’s nose seem small. All news has become fake news. We oldsters scratch our head and wonder what in the world is going on.

The United States is the best country on our planet, yet some elected officials seem intent upon ruining it. Is privatization the answer to everything? Do we really need congressional representatives in both houses who live like kings and queens while middle class Americans flounder? When did things get so lopsided and why didn’t we notice the downhill slide sooner?

It’s no fun being unhappy. It’s a miserable way to live. Without hope and good expectations people often turn to street drugs or prescription medicine to solve their problems. Neither is a proper solution. I’m baffled that in the 21st century discontent is rampant. I never dreamed things would be like this. Every generation is expected to prosper and be happier and better off than the one before it.

Few of our parents had college degrees or high paying jobs, but I don’t remember being unhappy. We had everything we needed and lived within our means. Is that the answer? Was Mr. Micawber right all along? Or is discontent so engrained in our society it’s become the natural order of things? I hope not.