Happiness v. Contentment

Tonight, on my way home, I pondered the difference between “happiness” and “contentment”.  For me, this is kind of a big deal.  My wishes on falling stars, birthday cake candles, etc. have almost always been a wish for happiness.  I guess it stems from the “happily ever after” in all the stories and fairy tales.   Happiness always seemed like a goal to be conquered, a state of being, and ultimate pinnacle of achievement.  You’ll not often get this out of me, so enjoy it while you can, but I think I was wrong.

Catskills Fireflies by s58y via Flickr

My day today has been filled with a lot of happiness.  The sun shining on my face as I wove through town, the warm (but not too warm) breeze ruffling my hair, the wave of music pouring from the speakers of my car.  This all made me happy.  Happy enough to want it to continue by blowing off the things I should do to meet friends for a $4 burger special and a beer at a local pub. (for the record, the happiness started BEFORE the beer)  Laughing and enjoying their company, I was happy.  Writing this now (well, 20 minutes ago) on my back porch with the light of citronella candles and a twilight glow, I’m happy.  The lightning bugs are flitting about the back yard, the grass is mowed (finally!) and my dog is nudging his cold wet nose on the inside of my arm for attention.  Life doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.

Contentment is a different.  I keep thinking about Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown”.  They have a line “I have everything I need, and nothing that I don’t.”  Finding that line between need and want is sometimes really easy.  I need to get from point A to point B.  I want to do it in a car with leather seats, a sun roof and a kicking stereo system. If only it were that easy all the time.  I worry about dismissing all the great things I have in my life in favor of chasing after something I don’t have.  Is it something that I need or only something I want?  What pushes it over from want into need? How do I tell the difference?

Maybe it is time to wish for something different.  Happiness is everywhere I look, as long as I’m looking.  The Universe has given me the gift of seeing all the things out there that make me happy.  It is ephemeral, fleeting and shifts away the harder I try to hold on to it, but it is everywhere.  Happiness can be found in all the tiny things that bestow joy on my life each and every day.  I don’t need to wish upon a star to find happiness, it was there all along.

Do you struggle with this too?  How do you figure out if something is a “want” or a “need”?  Help me out here.

‘Til next time,


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