The Definitions of Happiness

The idea of being happy is a subjective one. But happiness is a learning curve and let me tell you why.


1. Let me tell you why...


The idea of being happy is a subjective one. What makes one person happy differs from the next, and a whole nation won’t be made happy by one single thing. No, it takes a lot of many different things to make someone happy. But the definition of happiness shifts ever so slightly from person to person and from time to time.

Happiness is a learning curve and let me tell you why.




She works in a corner cafe in France. It is the mid 1940's and the war rages around everywhere else but this corner cafe. She finds the job stimulating despite the sky lighting up with bombs and war cries every other day.

Then he comes in, an army costume stretched across a body that has seen it all and grown wary of it. He is the war, dealing with the bombs and the fighting and the death and the blood every second of the day apart from this day. This day, this hour he can control his life and so he chooses to go to this corner cafe in France and escape the war for just a moment.

He meets her over a tower of plates. She has soap suds on her elbows and the sleeves of her fading uniform are rolled up as far as they can go.

Her eyes meet his when he sits at the farthest table and doesn’t consult the menu.

It’s instant. The typical love you hear in stories like this. She goes over to recommend the soup, he orders coffee and for her to sit down for a while.

They don’t talk about bombs and fighting and young bodies crammed with old souls.

They are two old bodies and two old souls.

Together they sit and watch as the war ends and as victory sweeps across the right side - although what is the ride side when war is involved?

They become young souls crammed into old bodies.

They see the peace that comes after the fire. They see young ones embrace after the long time away. They see love while feeling love themselves.

Eventually they marry, despite their age, and they live their final years with the memory of each other.

That is the end of the story. Love in a young soul of an old body.

Happiness, for them, is two bodies until time takes away their diamond minds.




She is going insane. Sitting in the darkest corner of the library with only a laptop light to illuminate the flutter of pigeon textbook pages.  Fourteen hours and counting until her heart stops - or until an exam paper is pushed down onto a small desk. The end is nigh and she does not have enough time. Her eyes are sweating. That is what is brain is telling her and equations and facts are running away from her like she had been holding them captive in the first place.

He is not going insane, he just can’t sleep. Insomnia sits on his shoulder like a pet bird and it will only stop squawking in his ear after several hours surrounded by cramped shelves and millions of thin pages. He sees her with her head in her hands and her bravery on the floor. He goes over because Freud is swimming before him and Insomnia does not like Freud with a passion. Insomnia finds that the Oedipus Complex tastes sweet but mouldy while the awake and alert version of him finds it bitterly sour.

He asks her a simple question that she doesn’t answer, well she does answer but with a shake of her head and with her confidence sinking even lower than her bravery. He pulls a textbook from her concrete hand and looks over it, a science of a sort, more things to remember than a tsunami warning. He dislodges pens and flashcards and whales of revision and hours spent awake.

He looks at the flutter of pigeon papers and reads out the facts, letting his eyes feast on things he didn’t know before. Slowly she lifts her head and listens like a child. Once the chapter is done he starts another and five chapters are down by the time the ten hour mark echoes in her brain.

She squeaks the time, panic like a forest fire. He calms her with words that he himself didn’t listen to back when he had to sit down at a small desk with a rickety, plastic chair. He says that the world won’t end because of failed pigeon papers and she somewhat listens. I say somewhat because her brain is already short circuited due to the influx of key words.

Sometime around the nine hour mark she slumps and exhaustion becomes her.

The laptop light flickers.

His eyes close.

Insomnia the bird silences and her panic is extinguished by words and then the absence of words.

Nine hours later she shakes as she opens pigeon papers and puts pen to page. The pen is envy. She thinks this because he said it sometime after he woke her up, something to do with the book he was reading before he saw her.

Pen is envy and the words spew from it in a voice she had only heard hours before.

She felt calm.

The world did not end.

They did not meet again.

Happiness for them is success and driving away the panic of flapping birds and pages. It may not last for long, but it will always come back around in some degree to greet them like old friends again.




There is a baby wailing over the thin winds of his parents arguing. He doesn’t understand the world as of yet, more fascinated with the plastic stars and moon that hang above him, but he will learn.

He grows older, knowing that happiness is chocolate pudding and skateboards and a quiet night.

His mother comes into his room at night to read him a story and gaze at his face before she leaves to a cold bed.

His father teaches him how to ride a bike and how it is okay to fall and how to play football, before he leaves to an old sofa.

But his parents are not happy, he knew that long before he understood anything else in the world.

Their happiness is a stage, where actors put on masks of expressions at the dinner table and make friendly conversation while he is in the room. But outside of this pretend play they are blizzards and hurricanes surrounding each other and clear skies when they are away.

It is only when his happiness turns into sand pits and video games and the girl with the pigtails tied in pink bows, that the hurricanes stall.

They sit him by the stage -  ahem, the dinner table - and he chooses quietly and deftly to spend the weekends with his father and the weekdays with his mother. It works less like a hurricane and more like freshly cut grass.

He finally understands, when his teenage years creep up on him, that there is a sort of beauty in a breakdown. Not all breakdowns are storms and devastation, they can be the rain on a warm day and a blanket hug on the cold days.

Happiness for him is the girl with bright blue headphones and sneakers, chocolate bars and swimming.

Happiness for them is separation and finding new love, discovering themselves and their son.

Happiness can change and be in flux and be what we are not looking for, but perhaps that is the best happiness of all.




But do you understand? That is the final question.

You can dwell on the endings; how one couple loved and died, one pair found happiness in success and the other found happiness in themselves. But you therefore distract yourself from your own happiness.

You can focus on the beginning, what made you happy first, and you can focus on the ending, what made you happy last. But maybe you should focus on everything that made you happy, connoisseurs and genius’ will tell you that it is daunting and fun to untangle the mess of everything.

Happiness is a learning curve and it is up to you to either rise with it or fall with it, figuring out the How and the Why while you do. Maybe then when you put the What, the Why and the How together you’ll find your definition of happiness.

Once you do, hold that definition tightly to your chest because comparing it with someone else's definition will turn your happiness into something with a mask, an echo of what you recognize.

Happiness is yours to have and you should have never let me tell you why.





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