Did you know that the Himalayan country of Bhutan measures itself on Gross National Happiness? Do you wonder how such a thing is measured? How would you measure it?
Between Google and Wikipedia, there is plenty of information on Bhutan and this measure of their economy, which leaders find more important than the western measure Gross National Product. In the past few years, there have been books, articles and studies appearing nearly everywhere you look about happiness. There’s even an app for that — more likely several. And even more recently, the enlightened self-help literature appears to be pointing toward finding meaning as a greater predictor of life satisfaction than chasing happiness.
What does this tell us? People are so disconnected from meaning, contentment, fulfillment that it’s become an industry to study and try to find it.
However you define that feeling of fulfillment or synchronicity, those transcendent moments when you feel complete, whole, your cup overflowing, I feel blessed to say I’ve experienced many such moments in my four and a half decades alive. Several have been in nature, such as that sensation at the top of a ski slope in the mountains on a clear day when it feels as though I’m more taking off in flight than skiing — or that first time I caught a wave, or reached a summit. Sometimes it’s the endorphins of exercise that do it. Meditation. Orgasm. And certainly select moments of parenting / relating to my children. Sometimes, being in love.
I think that feeling may have been what caused Lee to blurt out a grossly pre-mature “I love you” on our last night together in paradise.
And I certainly felt that way one Sunday when I promised to take my youngest child sledding. Lee and I had brunch plans with friends, but I promised we’d go sledding after. Mind you, I’d let Lee know he was welcome, but I didn’t exactly expect he’d want to join us. Unbeknownst to me, he’d packed snow pants and boots for that very reason.
It was sunny and warm for a winter day, and even my eldest wanted to join us. The four of us loaded Lee’s car with sleds and drove to the hill. We hiked up, jockeyed momentarily to claim a favorite sled and rode down, shrieking and laughing…then again and again.
There was a moment at the top of the hill after a few runs when Lee and I looked at one another and smiled — and I felt that whole, connected, fulfilled sensation, happiness radiating in every direction — I felt both grounded and soaring, expansive, my heart overflowing with gratitude. The sun was shining, my lungs were full of fresh air, my pulse was strong and — for maybe the first time ever — I felt a strong sense that my dream of finding a genuine partner who was not only a match for me, but also fit into my family seamlessly, was a real possibility…that maybe I would be able to provide for my children the healthy, loving example of partnership I wanted for more than just myself. It was, for me, the pinnacle of happiness and contentment.
After another run, Lee and I walked arm in arm up the hill. “You’re my kind of guy,” I told him. I could see he was as happy as I was. I thought perhaps I’d truly met a kindred soul.
We ended our outing with hot chocolates from the coffee shop, and I later teased Lee about bribing my children. “Shhh,” he said conspiratorially, “It appears to be working.”
And that’s how we were together — fun-loving, playful — and, somehow it seemed, better together than apart. With Lee, I felt like a priority: secure, at ease and natural. Even in the dark depths of winter, it seemed as though the sun was nearly always shining.
It was still too early in our relationship to know whether we might have a future, but I was happier than I could remember being in a long time…maybe happier than I’d ever been in a relationship.