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Is There Such a Thing as True Happiness?


Is there such a thing as true happiness?


Every shiur I have ever gone to speaks about some level of happiness. We are asked what we really want out of life – some say family, children, some say money, a good job, but what it always filters down to, what we are always trying to delineate is we all want to be happy.


But what is happiness and does it even exist?


Lately, I have come to realize that there is no true happiness in this world. Because one day I am happy and the next I am sad. I am happy at my son’s bris but I am crying from his crying. I am happy when I reach my business goals one month only to be doubly disappointed the next month when I come up short. 


We are told that the pursuit of happiness is our right as a human but I’d beg to differ. I would rather not chase an impossible dream.


I am not trying to harp on the pain in this world. I would like to propose that the way happiness exists in this world is on a spectrum. 


For so much of my life, I wondered if I would ever truly be happy. After all, I got married at a reasonably young age (21) and of course for a young Jewish girl that was one of my life’s missions. I had a baby right away. I finished my degree. I had my second. Then my mother Died. I had my third.


I was excited to be married of course, but I was sad a lot too.

Disappointed with the gap of what I thought marriage was going to be and what it actually was. I was ecstatic to hold that baby in my hands, however, many nights my bed sheets were soaked with tears, wondering, worrying, and just the constant responsibility I could have never imagined would ensue. 


Motherhood in general. There’s that gap again.

The imaginary motherhood you dreamed of versus the reality of sleepless nights, dirty diapers, giving every ounce of yourself and still worrying it’s not enough. The unconditional giving without any gratitude.  The endless pangs of guilt. Is this considered happiness?


Quite often, I find myself looking at childless couples or older singles and I feel a heavy ache in my heart. I want to start davening right there, praying to G-d, why is it that I struggle with my blessing and they are struggling with the lack of blessings. I can’t understand this G-d. I will never understand this G-d. I am not G-d. But I find this glaring gap to appear all over my life. 

Then I wonder, why do I wish they had what I have when so often I am struggling to feel like these things are a gift.


Because ultimately, I know, that this is exactly what I want in my life.

But I am sick of the world telling me what will make me happy. How important it is to just be happy? How does one strive for happiness? Why does one strive for happiness? Can I really be happy? Are my completely paradoxical emotions telling me something about the state of happiness? Have a been fooled to believe I should be fully happy when I know I never will be. No one will ever be. 


Do you know if you look at a bell curve, most people are average.

If you are exceptional at one thing, you will be less than average at another. This is comforting in a lot of ways, yet unsettling. A gap in what you want to believe and what actually is. We want to believe that we are exceptional. We are exceptionally good at something or we have exceptionally bad luck because at least then, we have an excuse to misbehave. But no one is exceptional across the board. It’s the boring truth we all shun away from. 


Can we aim for average? Contentment? Mediocrity? Don’t we just detest these words.

They make us seem so much less than. But they really do define the actual state of being. The equilibrium that really keeps us grounded. Keeps us human. 


I am not suggesting to throw your ambitions out the window, in fact I am motivated and ambitious, these are some of my strengths. But when I perceive a level of happiness I must have in order to live a good life, I fall down the ladder of happiness into the swamps of depression.


Life is about balance. Yin and Yang. Salty and sweet.


Skinny doesn’t equal happiness. Rich does not equal happy. 


Having kids doesn’t equal happiness.


Marriage doesn’t equal happiness.


Success doesn’t equal happiness. 


Can we change happiness to equilibrium?

To falling and getting back up. To make mistakes and growing from them. From feeling immense pain and joy at the same time. Holding space for two emotions. Existing in this world even when it’s hard. Being the best parent we can be even though our children will inevitably have parent wounds. Grateful not Guilt. Self compassion even when we mess up.


Happiness is the wrong goal. 


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Gila Glassberg, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, holding an inclusive variety of foods

Gila Glassberg is a Master's level registered dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. As a teenager, she was faced with constant diet talk, body shaming and obsessive guilt around food. She struggled with disordered eating. This is what propelled her into the field of nutrition. She uses a non-diet, weight-neutral approach called Intuitive Eating. She helps growth oriented women break out of chronic dieting, and regain clarity into what is really important to them.

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