“¿Estás contenta aquí?” My Chilean friend asked me. “Are you happy here?”
I responded “Yes,” but then I started to think about why she didn’t ask me if I were “feliz.” Happy. What’s the difference?
The word “happy” is frequently thrown around among English speakers, but we generally don’t ask people if they’re “content.” Compared with being “happy,” which is defined as feeling delighted, pleased, or joyful, “content” feels less-than, like meh, pablum.
In Chile, someone loaned me a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project. Gretchen was a New Yorker who wanted to change her life. She wasn’t a scientist or psychologist, just a wife and mom looking for more happiness out of daily life.
She came up with a DIY month-by-month plan for self-improvement. The result was The Happiness Project. Her book struck a chord with people and became a Nº. 1 Best Seller. Since then, she’s written two follow-up books and she has a popular blog and podcast.
Since reading her book, I’ve thought about starting a Happiness Project group. As I was telling a friend here about my idea, she was quiet for a minute and then said, “I’d have to think about what makes me happy.”
I don’t think she’s alone. When I stop to ask myself, “What makes me happy?”, no immediate answer pops up.
Chocolate? Laughing children? Rain? Absolutely! In those moments, they’re enjoyable.
Are happiness and contentment mutually exclusive? I think so. Happy is a moment’s pleasure, but content is a state of satisfaction. Would I rather be happy or content?
Lately, I’ve felt satisfied. I’m blooming where I’m planted. I wrote a post about that a few months ago. When Phillip passed away and I came back to the US, I expected it to be for a short time to sort things out before moving on again. It’s turning into a longer stay than I’d planned/hoped.
It wasn’t my choice to be here, but here I am, and like Gretchen, I’m making the best of it. I’m taking a class. I’ve joined a bridge group. I’ve discovered that there’s an expat group here. I’m slowly making new friends. Along the way, I’m discovering how comfortable I am. I still wish I didn’t have to drive and I’d love to be around some autumn trees, but those are fleeting (un)happiness factors.
Happiness comes and goes, but contentment is a state of being.
Sí, estoy contenta.