Happiness part two

It’s taken a while, this is still percolating in the brain. I grew up mostly in the USA, but my parents are English, we spent a couple of years in England and I now live in Australia. Happiness, the perception of and acceptance of are cultural in my opinion.

One of the longest lasting things I learned in college, while in Geneva, was the idea that every country has a founding and existing myth, a story about who they are and what they are. It isn’t the pretty history book one, but the underlying story, they why people do things and make the decisions they do. America’s myth is very optimistic, very self focused and WASPy. The idea is that anyone can achieve great things ( success) no matter how poor or low their birth/life/situation. Hard work and dedication will take you there. The culture also self identifies as WASP, to the extent that us soldiers in Europe in WWII looked down on some of the country people they “rescued” even though they were the same ethnicity. ( that was one of the more interesting bits from that history class).

American culture is optimistic. The country was founded by people who moved looking for a better life. They believed at they could make a change for the better. This is why there are so many crackpot cults there too- they too believe that they can change things positively. It’s also why the culture doesn’t do black humor particularly well, it just doesn’t sit right.

Contrast this with Australia, where the myth is of the Aussie battler, the little guy doing it tough in his lower middle/working class job with a house in the burbs and a domestically made car in the garage. He is less optimistic, more pessimistic and both more defiant against and more accepting of authority than the US. Many Aussies are descended from unwilling travellers, and many others come from a culture where this was the least bad option ( ten pound poms). The white Australia policy shut out many of those more optimistic Asians, so they went elsewhere when emigrating ( the USA?).

I can’t quite work out the UK myth, but pessimism is also more prevalent.

So, this affects how we see happiness. In the US happiness is a right, and almost a responsibility. People are expected to be positive. It’s kind of hard to see from the inside though, but the cultural touchstones are happy, positive people. The cheerleaders, not the goths. And the pressure is to be the source of your own happiness. I grew up there, and I have internalized this.

So, I think that we do bear some responsibility for our own happiness. This is not to say that other people are not important to our happiness, not at all. Other people are probably the greatest sources for our happiest moments, and our least happy moments. What I mean is that we have to create some of the conditions for our own happy.

I was talking to a friend this weekend ( couple of weekends now) and she talked about a friend of hers, who is married, has two kids and a house but cannot settle on a career. He is always chasing the next moneymaking dream, spending a lot of time and money chasing this through different educational degrees. He wants to be successful with money, the next big score is always coming when he finishes whatever degree is doing. In the meantime his wife is working full time, juggling the kids and managing everything, and he is missing out on their childhood. He is not satisfied within himself, and no job will ever make him happy.

This is like a lot of life with infertility, we are always looking for the next thing ( treatment, diet, meds) that will give us the child(ren) we want. Ultimately, some of us have to accept that we cannot have that, and learn to be happy without. And some of us get that, and discover that it is not the magic key after all. I think I am starting to get to the point where I can see my life as happy without, that there will always be a sad bit, but that sad bit doesn’t overwhelm the rest. Most of the time at least.

One thought on “Happiness part two”

  1. This was so interesting. As a Canadian, I think our culture is strongly influenced by our neighbours to the south, but with a certain degree of humility and gratitude when we actually do achieve something we dreamed about, if that makes any sense. Probably not.

    Anyway, it is so tough to come to that place of acceptance of the hand we’ve been dealt with respect to our infertility. I got so lucky, and managed to have one child, but even a year after giving up the battle for our 2.0, I find myself still occasionally struggling. I wonder if that will ever go away… I have my doubts. Like you, the sadness doesn’t overwhelm me, but it’s always there.

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