Definition of happiness

            I just read some formulas for happiness by the philosopher Epictetus (AD 55-135).  We’re to know what we can control, i.e., our likes and dislikes, and our opinions; everything else is under another’s control apparently.  We’re to understand that we don’t select the role we play in life; it’s chosen for us, but we’re to play it the best we can.  The things that we accumulate, we’re to relinquish freely when we return to the ship that dropped us at the port of life.  (My words, not Epictetus’, which must be obvious).  We’re not to covet, but to take part in the good things served to us, but not to reach before they come or after they’ve passed us by.

            I’m probably not doing justice to Epictetus.  But I do like thinking about my definition of happiness as well as others’.  

            I think Erik Erikson defined the formula for happiness that most matches mine, or more likely, I’ve adopted his: a loving relationship, meaningful work, and good health.  Two of these three result in happiness.

            I’d drink to that, a cup of coffee, which is one happy reward for me six days out of seven, and definitely a happy-maker for me.  I’d throw in more specifics for happy-making: some time in the ocean or Greenwood Lake, time with kids and irresistible granddaughter, time with books and music and NPR, time with my sweet dog, time with treasured friends, time with my two writing groups.

            Someone, maybe Samuel Johnson, said happiness came from doing new things constantly, and I’m convinced that having new adventures slows the speed of life.  But old, cozy habits, like City Theater, Drew/Heinz lectures, Chatham work-outs, fills the bill, too

 So wonderful relationships, useful, enjoyable work, and the luck of good health plus new and old adventures captures my view of happiness.

            What is yours?

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About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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