Topics of Interest
Storms make the earth honest. they rattle the edges and tear it to shreds before gifting the calm again. Your ow hardships and storms do the same to you. They rinse you clean. They paint new colours. They deepen your understanding. They give you new language. A certain sweet serenity not previously known.
I found this article online from the Psychology magazine and thought it would be very interesting read it is a long read but worth it. I have these thoughts about happiness and contentment with a friend and sometimes we disagree.
The author of this is a Richard Cytowic M.D , The Fallible Mind.
Would You Rather Be Happy or Content?
Two words that connote a world of difference
Posted Feb 05, 2013
Small decisions help one negotiate life. The big ones are about moments of change when life suddenly alters and takes a new direction. If you have thought in advance about what matters most, then you will be able to recognize happiness when it stares you in the face. Otherwise, not.
This is the circumstance for most people.
Let me tell you how I learned the difference between happiness and contentment. If you are typical then the distinction does not sound like much. Indeed people use both terms to indicate a general state of success and felicity. But words have the power to change us, and there is a world of difference between the two.
“Contentment” is the word that changed me. When I speak of “moments of change,” I mean those knife–edge situations in which one crosses over from the familiar to a new state of being, moments from which there can be no turning back. Some moments of change are physical—one’s first menstruation or first orgasm are classic examples, and profound examples they are—but the majority of thresholds are psychological, moments of alteration when perspective suddenly shifts. A new point of view sweeps away the familiar way of looking at things. Once seen with fresh eyes, a new perspective cannot be undone.
The groundwork for my moment of change began with another story, a book I read thirty years ago that was written by a 73 year–old widow, Erma J. Fisk. The Peacocks of Baboquivari tells how this woman had volunteered to spend a winter season all alone counting migratory birds on a remote mountaintop in Arizona. For decades she’d been happily married, but never had she been independent. Her dependence on men was partly a factor of her generation (she’d been born in 1908) and partly the result of circumstance. First, her father had “taken care of everything” and made decisions for her. Then, the devoted husband whom she had married young handled all the couple’s affairs.
The husband had been her rock. With his untimely death she’d been cleaved—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually—leaving her bereft in profoundly fundamental ways. Yet here she was now, alone on the sparse granite bluff of Baboquivari peak, her winter shelter a 15–by–20 foot cabin with no telephone or electricity. The winter turned out to be the coldest on record, and the access road to her cabin washed away. Few of us would find themselves especially happy in similar circumstances.
And yet the book, which reads like a journal of her time on the mountain, contains not one note of fear or self–pity. It is a story of one woman overcoming loneliness, of moving from lamentation to discovering, in ornithology, an activity that gave life meaning again. At the beginning she writes, “I passionately wished each night for years that I might wake up dead in the morning.” Then, by the end of her saga there is this: “I have listened to too many women in second marriages envy me my independence. There are worse things than loneliness. Widows haven’t many options, not at my age. Contentment is not the same as happiness, but it is a very solid state” (my emphasis).
It was this last sentence that struck me as remarkable. Why it stood out I cannot exactly say. The author was a careful writer. Her voice was precise, her vocabulary rich and engaged. Why did she pointedly contrast happiness and contentment, and moreover imply that the latter was a lesser state of being? That was how I read her words.
I reached for my Oxford English Dictionary, the micro edition whose two heavy volumes come with a magnifying glass. Leafing through its pages here is what I found:
HAPPINESS Good fortune or luck in life or in a particular affair; success; prosperity. The state of pleasurable content of mind, which results from success or the attainment of what is considered good.
So far, nothing unexpected in the Oxford description, although it impressed me that most people, if they had clothes, food, and a roof over their head, were happy by definition. The dictionary seemed to be saying that happiness was largely the passive result of attainment: One acquired goods or status, and the acquisitions in turn bestowed happiness. Thought about this way, as the “attainment of what is considered good,” I was surprised at how little one needed to strive or do in order to count as happy.
Personally I had more than enough creature comforts and nothing to complain about. I was dictionary–happy. But why, then, did I feel let down nonetheless, that something was missing despite the evident happiness that the authority of the Oxford English Dictionary said I had? The answer came in the other definition:
CONTENTMENT Having one’s desire bound by what one has (though that may be less than one could have wished); not disturbed by the desire of anything more, or of anything different; satisfied so as not to repine.
With a thud I set the book down, scarcely able to imagine that exalted state: a life so sufficient and fulfilled that desire would not disturb me. If only. I had to laugh because back when I was young I was plagued by desire, beset by dissatisfaction in work, in relationships, in every aspect of my life. Restless, irritated, and discontent, I found nothing okay the way it was and desired just about everything to be different—until I meditated hard on what conditions would make me happy, and found contentment right in front of me.
Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today. It’s been that way all this year. It’s been that way so many times. All of war is that way.”
Fit as a fiddle
The cliché “fit as a fiddle” is used to describe someone who is in a superb state of health. The “fiddle” referred to in this very old English expression is a stringed musical instrument, usually the violin. As these need to be kept in excellent condition to keep them sounding good, it’s thought that people began to compare their own good health with that of their instrument. The use of this phrase is attested as early as 1616, when Haughton William wrote in a book called English-men for my Money, “This is excellent ynfayth [in faith], as fit as a fiddle.” It’s fascinating to think that we’re still using the same phrase, four hundred years later; this sense of history has to be one of the most interesting aspects of learning English.
Every cloud has a silver lining
Testament to the persistent optimism of many British people is the cliché “every cloud has a silver lining”, and we felt it would be an uplifting note on which to end this article. It’s used to provide reassurance to those going through a tough time, to tell them that something good will come of even the worst situation – even if you can’t see it at the time. A cloud (sadness or difficulty) may block out the sun (happiness), but its hidden silver lining will see some good come of it. The “silver lining” bit came from a poem by John Milton written in 1634; in “Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle”, Milton wrote, “there does a sable cloud / Turn forth her silver lining on the night”. It wasn’t until the Victorian period that its modern usage came about, when it took a slightly different form: “There’s a silver lining to every cloud”. Whichever way round you say it, though, you could see it as applying to your English studies: the language may throw many challenging complexities at you that seem impossible to overcome at the moment, but the silver lining is that eventually, you’ll master a beautiful and extraordinarily rich language and give yourself access to some of the world’s best literature.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to English clichés, past and present. If you’re feeling bewildered by the sheer number of weird and wonderful expressions in this colourful language, don’t despair. Take the bull by the horns, and you’ll soon get the hang of them and start avoiding clichés like the plague along with all the best English speakers!
Take the bull by the horns
Another cattle-related English cliché now. To “take the bull by the horns” is to tackle a problem head-on, in a direct and confident manner. The phrase stems from the fact that taking a bull (a male cow) by its horns is a courageous way of dealing with it. Here’s an example of this phrase being used:
“It’s time to take the bull by the horns and hand in your notice.”
This isn’t the only English cliché involving the bull. Another one is “a bull in a china shop”, used to describe someone who is extremely clumsy and liable to cause damage by knocking things over. More figuratively speaking, “bull in a china shop” can also refer to someone who takes a tactless or shambolic approach to a situation or project.
This was an expression that a friend of mine quoted to me prior to me going into the nursing program . We were not at our best financial time, my husband was out of work and we had two small children , who goes to school full time when this is your situation. well that is exactly what I did , I took Patty’s words of advice and applied for nursing school . My original intention was to go into the general nursing program but it was full and there was a wait list and I didn’t want to wait any longer. There was an opening in the psychiatric nursing program so applied and got in and I have never looked back again. it was a great choice. this is where I was meant to be. Several colleagues over the years have said to me” you are so relaxed nothing seems to phase you.” Well that probably isn’t totally true for sure . there were moments but not many. so far I have not been hit or injured on the job so I think that is a good sign. I am still working after 35 years of graduation but I know it is almost time to close the door on this chapter of my life.
So once again I will take the bull by the horns and take a different path of least resistance . I have many irons in the fire to burn.
Until the cows come home
Moving on to slightly older and more interesting clichés, the phrase “until the cows come home” is used to signify a very long period of time, particularly in the context of carrying out a futile task. An example of its use is:
“You can argue your case until the cows come home, but you still won’t convince me.”
While the origin of this expression isn’t known for certain, it’s thought to allude to the fact that a herd of cows returns home in the morning to be milked. An alternative reading suggests that the expression is Scottish in origin, and refers to the fact that the cattle grazing on the highlands stay out all summer, gorging themselves on the abundant grass, until they run out of food in the autumn and return home. This is one of a number of common English expressions arising from our agricultural past; it’s probably been around for hundreds of years.
Process is more important than the outcome. When the outcome drives the process, we will only ever go where we’ve already been. If process drives the outcome we may not know where we are going, but we will know we want to be there
– Bruse Mau
What is our purpose in life?
We are constantly chasing rainbows and other people. Not being content with who we are. Then again maybe we are not satisfied with who we are. We go on a search of ourselves.
It’s messing people up, this social pressure to find our passion and know what it is we want to do with the rest of our lives. It’s perfectly fine to just live your moments fully, and marvel as many small and large passions, many small and large purposes enter and leave your life. For many people there is no realization, no bliss to follow, no discovery of your life’s purpose. This isn’t sad, it’s just the way things are. Stop trying to find the forest and just enjoy the trees. It is okay to gather a little moss periodically and do absolutely nothing. Mind you I am one of those who cannot do absolutely nothing for very long.
Many of my dear friends have been calling me Gypsy Sue for some time. I have always worked for the same health authority all my working career except for a brief time 5 years when I worked for a private health street clinic and it was a real eye opener when you see how people struggle for a purpose of their own. These individuals were people from varying backgrounds who were travelling on the very precipice of life. Not knowing where they would sleep some nights. Where their next meal was going to come from and not knowing if they were live to see the next day. Yet when you speak to them they would say I am free, I have no entanglements, no responsibilities. Is this what a purpose filled life is all about. No connection to society.
There was one person who came to the office shortly after I started working there. He seemed to know to look for me. He was having a tough time with his wife and kids and to top it off he was not permitted to live with his wife for awhile so he was seeking someone to talk to about his marriage. Now some of you who read this will say what does Gypsy Sue know about marriage counselling. Well he was looking for a marriage counselling. I told him right from the beginning that I wasn’t a marriage counsellor but I told him he could come and talk and try and sort out his issues. He was happy with this trade off. So, he came to he office every week for about eight weeks and then he disappeared for about six months or so. Then Bonnie the receptionist came to my office and said I had a visitor. It was the gentleman who had come for about eight weeks to chat and share his life. He came to say he was thankful for all I had done for him and he was back with his wife and kids. He had a job and all was going well. To this day, I have no idea what I did for him but maybe listen. So, our purpose in life doesn’t have to be too complicated just listen to others and let them talk and be heard.
There are still some days as I become mature with life that I say to myself what is my real purpose in life? Then I say maybe I have found my purpose just need to focus on someone else other than myself and reach out to others who need a listening ear.
Since this is Valentine’s Day the day we all profess our undying love to something, a person, a dog , a car or just an inanimate object. It is the day we spend too much on flowers, chocolates and diamonds. When I first met my now husband I had these fantasies of getting a heart shaped box of chocolates on Feb. 14th and some jewelry well he came through on the chocolates the valentines prior to us getting married but no jewelry. And the next time well that was this year 45 years later I got a card and licorice. I cannot eat chocolate any more, I am now lactose intolerant. The joys of becoming mature. What a joy eh! So, I have avoided a lot of chocolates over the years and heart shaped boxes. I am the romantic in this family. So, I found this description of love on the internet I can not take credit for it but I wanted to share it and it is a great description of LOVE. So here is hoping everyone had a great valentines’ day.
Love is a force of nature. However much we may want to, we can not command, demand, or take away love, any more than we can command the moon and the stars and the wind and the rain to come and go according to our whims. We may have some limited ability to change the weather, but we do so at the risk of upsetting an ecological balance we don’t fully understand. Similarly, we can stage a seduction or mount a courtship, but the result is more likely to be infatuation, or two illusions dancing together, than love.
Love is bigger than you are. You can invite love, but you cannot dictate how, when, and where love expresses itself. You can choose to surrender to love, or not, but in the end love strikes like lightening, unpredictable and irrefutable. You can even find yourself loving people you don’t like at all. Love does not come with conditions, stipulations, addenda, or codes. Like the sun, love radiates independently of our fears and desires.
Love is inherently free. It cannot be bought, sold, or traded. You cannot make someone love you, nor can you prevent it, for any amount of money. Love cannot be imprisoned nor can it be legislated. Love is not a substance, not a commodity, nor even a marketable power source. Love has no territory, no borders, no quantifiable mass or energy output
One can buy loyalty, companionship, attention, perhaps even compassion, but love itself cannot be bought. An orgasm can be bought, but love cannot. It comes, or not, by grace, of its own will and in its own timing, subject to no human’s planning.
Love cannot be turned on as a reward. It cannot be turned off as a punishment. Only something else pretending to be love can be used as a lure, as a hook, for bait and switch, imitated, insinuated, but the real deal can never be delivered if it doesn’t spring freely from the heart.
Life is like a book. Some chapters sad, some happy and some exciting. but if you never turn the page, you will never know what the next chapter holds.