Get happy, part two

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By Nancy Kennedy

A few weeks back I wrote about “What’s making me happy,” which got a great response from people.
Some sent emails or stopped me in the market to tell me what’s making them happy. Seems everyone was riding the happiness train.
But then someone pointed out that God never promised us happiness and that those who pursue it never obtain it.
There’s always a buzz kill in every crowd.
Still, the person had a good point and one worth exploring.
One of my favorite comic strip characters is Calvin of “Calvin and Hobbes.” Calvin, a boy who’s maybe 7 (Hobbes is a stuffed tiger and Calvin’s best friend), believes the world revolves around him. His highest goal in life is to wear rocket ship underpants and experience euphoria.
When presented with a choice in life, Calvin weighs his options carefully then goes with whichever option suits his fancy at the moment, whichever one he thinks will make him happy at the moment.
However, he quickly learns that happiness is illusive. He says, “What good is wearing rocket ship underpants if no one asks to see them?”
He also says, “Here’s the difference between me and the rest of the world. Happiness isn’t good enough for me. I demand euphoria!”
But is even euphoria enough?
I have a friend who says happiness is a byproduct. It happens when you’re doing something else and rarely when you’re pursuing it. Because when you’re pursuing it, it stays out of reach. Or if you reach it, it slips through your fingers or it crumbles like dust and the wind blows it away.
I could give so many examples of my fruitless pursuit of happiness, and over the years of writing this column I have. Fruitless pursuit is my go-to mode of operation. But this morning I was remembering my groovy white go-go boots.
When I was a kid I wore orthopedic saddle shoes that my mom bought me at the Stride Rite shoe store. Today, wearing them might be considered ironic and, therefore, hip, but back then, coupled with an overbite and a weight problem, well, I wasn’t a groovy chick.
And then came the year I finally outgrew the need for those clunky black and white clodhoppers, which serendipitously was also the same year Stride Rite displayed the grooviest pair of white go-go boots in the store window — just like the ones worn by the dancers on “Hullabaloo.” (If you’re too young to remember “Hullabaloo,” Google it.)
Also, that was the same year my mom had a full “Buy 12 pairs of shoes at the regular price, get one pair free” Stride Rite card.
Visions of me in my psychedelic mini-dresses, fishnet stockings and white Hullabaloo go-go boots exploded my brain. (This was the ’60s.)
I just knew that God couldn’t — wouldn’t — pass up the opportunity for me to be the swingingest, grooviest chick at Nevada Avenue Elementary School in Canoga Park, Calif. I knew with all my heart, soul, mind and entire being that everlasting bliss would be mine if only I had those boots.
Since they were free, Mom let me get them.
I wore them once, and not even to school. I don’t even know why I didn’t wear them. I guess I just didn’t like them on me as I did on the Hullabaloo dancers.
That same letdown happens every time I chase after something that I think will make me happy beyond imagination.
If I do manage to grasp it, the happiness, even it it’s euphoria, never lasts.
Maybe it’s part of the curse from the Garden of Eden that we don’t get what we think we want. However, if that’s so, I’m not so sure that’s necessarily a punishment from God. Maybe it’s a gift from God, because if I have everything I want, I would have no need of him.
That said, God does give moments of happiness, often when we’re not expecting them, often when we need them most, because he loves us.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.