The small boy cried because he dropped his strawberry sucker. The teenager wailed because no one invited her to the homecoming dance. The middle-aged couple anticipated the day when their children were grown so they could travel. The old couple mourned because their children seldom visited. But with living and time, all these attitudes changed direction.
Charles Morgan offered his seemingly well thought-out opinion saying, "The art of living does not consist in preserving and clinging to a particular mode of happiness but in allowing happiness to change its form without being disappointed by the change: happiness, like a child, must be allowed to grow up."
I never thought of happiness as being mature or infantile until I contemplated different ways people describe happiness as an adult and as a child. What makes someone happy as a child fails to be satisfying when he's grown.
If one does not change his ideas of what's truly valuable and worthy of his attention as he ages, he fails to grow.
Happiness will, out of necessity, change its form. If you investigate how you've shifted gears over the years from child to youth to teen and then adulthood, you can trace how your current views differ from what they once were. Hopefully the differences are for the best.
Various ages are considered the time of reason for children. Since they should be better prepared to figure things out and understand, they can make better choices. Their perceived ideas on happiness will constantly change suiting their age and circumstances.
As we travel through life even our tastes change. One young woman decorated her house in burgundy and green. The next time I visited she had changed her color scheme entirely. She no longer liked her original choices in color and furniture. She was now better versed in design and more selective.
People supposedly sew their wild oats when they're young. Then during later life, most adopt a more mature outlook. Things with lasting value become more important. Family, good health and a good job, or vocation are prioritized.
Individuals' ideas on satisfaction have fluctuated with growth, education and experience. Many individuals, however, refuse to allow happiness to change its form. If they do allow it to modify its characteristics they are often disappointed.
Perhaps you are saddened by the fact that you can no longer pursue your former activities because of your health, spouse, family obligations or other reasons. If you look within, though, you'll find that your new, more stable recipe of what makes you happy contains more depth and solidity than did your prior interests and what you considered worthwhile.
As your position in life changes what once fit your situation no longer does. You may search for a smaller home instead of the coveted impressive one you once owned. Parents who looked forward to having an empty nest for a while no longer crave that freedom. Rather, children are welcomed back home. Your judgment on what happiness really is differs now.
Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 13:11: "When I was a child, I talked like a child. I thought like a child. I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."
Just as the verse holds true for the transition from childhood to adulthood, it applies to all of life. Experience and education alter one's perception on what makes him happy.
Henry Miller said, "Life moves on whether we act as cowards or heroes. What seems nasty or painful can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one to him who has the vision to recognize it as such."
So I suggest, "Don't pine for what used to be but instead let your description of happiness change and grow with you, as you mature."
Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.