Last week we were sitting in a cafe having lunch. The table next to us looked like a family of four. The two kids seemed to be around 5 or 6 years old. The mom and dad were sitting on one side of the table and the kids on the other .
The mom seemed a bit tired to me. The dad was on his phone mostly. They would occasionally talk to each other but mostly they seemed entertained by the kids.
The kids were seriously adorable. A boy and a girl who looked like a combination of the mom and dad and they were playing with each other, teasing each other and really fun to watch.
I caught myself thinking for a second, I wonder if this woman is happy. Is she happy in her life? She seemed entertained by the kids and would smile at times and at one point was kissing her boy really affectionately, and other times looked tired and not as happy, when she was looking at the father or when the kids were doing their own thing.
Then it hit me, at the core of this question “I wonder if she is happy or unhappy with her life” lies a huge error, a false belief that causes suffering.
There is no ultimate happy or unhappy. Even though we all, on the surface, know that the “happily ever after” that movies sell you doesn’t exist, however, a part of us might look at people in one instant and take whatever their circumstances seem as “happy” or “unhappy” or “lonely”, or “regretful”.
And so we fear ending up like that. Ending up unhappy, lonely or regretful of our decisions, as if that will be a permanent state of feeling.
And it is the same fear that also makes us not want to share. If I call my friend and cry and say I feel super depressed one day, will she think that I am depressed in my life or my relationship is not good?
If I am single and say I feel lonely, will everyone imagine me sitting in my house lonely, walking around lonely and sad and that that is my existence? Will they pity me?
This is one of the things that used to bother me about being single. I always wanted to be honest but I felt that if I ever admitted to feeling lonely or sad or god-forbid jealous, that people would think that’s how I am constantly feeling. That as long as I am single, I am feeling lonely and sad. And in reality, most of my moments, I wasn’t feeling that way. I experienced so much fun and joy in my other relationships, with friends, with family, while dating and flirting, while dressing up and going out, while shopping, while sitting in a cafe, while eating yummy food, while at work feeling like I helped a patient, and so many other moments. And a whole range of positive emotions.
In reality, as long as we erroneously believe in permanent states of happiness or unhappiness, we will fear ending up miserable (and others thinking we have ended up miserable), and also we will envy those who look like they’ve done it right and are happy.
I wonder if next time you and I see someone and we think they are miserable and lonely, or that look how life turned out for them, they seem super happy, can we remember at that moment that there is no one total state of feeling? How would this change things?