Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Happiness is a state of mind

A friend from my first days in France rang me last night for a chat. She lives rather too far away to visit and hasn't got the hang of email yet, so we chat on the phone annually.

Talking to her made me think of the wife of an American friend. He told me just last week that his wife is picking arguments and seems continually discontent. Yet, she has recently moved out of a big city into a small town, from a reasonable house to a lovely big house, has two healthy happy children and a husband of some 20yrs standing. She doesn't work except to give a little part-time help at school and has time to make friends, take exercise and do what she likes. Her husband works hard to provide her with her lifestyle and yet she bickers at him for not doing enough.

My friend in France is also 40-ish, has two girls, lives in a nice house in the middle of the Massif Central and seems to have a similar lifestyle to the American woman. While one is discontent, my friend sounded very happy with her life, and yet her husband travels a lot for his work, and can be gone 6 weekends out of 9. She works part-time at local schools teaching English, exercises and has taken up sewing crafts. She accepts her husband's schedule and so the time they spend together is all the more precious because it is limited.

Two similar situations, two states of happiness. My friend has found contentment, has organised her life so it suits her. She is self-reliant, so others are not the source of her happiness, but providers. The American woman seems to expect happiness to come from external sources, so that it comes upon her, instead of coming from within. I don't really see how you can expect to be happy, however, if your own well of happiness-source is dry.

It's a conundrum, and one which psychologists probably encounter on a regular basis. Personally, I think the American woman is bored and should get a proper, challenging job - one that validates her sense of self-worth so that she is not dependent on her husband for well-being. She might also try counting her blessings. That often helps, too.

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