Recently I rec’d the following e-mail:

I have read and admired your writing for some time.
You have quite a following here in Kent, UK.
I share some of your past habits, and now mostly know some serenity through my association with fellow addicts.
Simple question. – are you happy?

I thought,Happy? Happy!

I thought of a letter I’d just read in Frederick Buechner‘s Speak What We Feel (Not What We Think We Ought to Say) by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

What is my wretched life? Five wasted years almost have passed in Ireland. I am ashamed of the little I have done, of my waste of time, although my helplessness and weakness is such that I could scarcely do otherwise….All my undertaking miscarry. I am like a straining eunuch. I wish then for death; yet if I died now I should die imperfect, no master of myself, and that is the worst failure of all. O my God, look down on me.

Participating in something that is greater than myself makes me happy. My fellow alkies/addicts make me happy. My readers make me happy. Following Christ makes me “happy,” if that’s the word. Those things are all very mixed bags and maybe that’s WHY they make me happy. They’re not without challenges. They require all of myself. They reveal my ever-mixed motives, my ongoing weaknesses and character defects and, as well, my strengths.

I’ve set myself an impossible task and therein lies my happiness, such as it is. I don’t much think about whether I’m happy and maybe that’s the best sign that I am. Because for a long time I was very very UNhappy–and I never thought about anything else.

Love is indeed ecstasy, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self toward its liberation…and the discovery of God.
–His Holiness Benedict XVI

11 Replies to “AM I HAPPY?”

  1. What a strange letter!

    That's a good Hopkins quote.

    I go back and forth between thinking things are great and thinking I'm a complete failure, too. I mean, I generally seem happy, but then I worry that I might just be lying to myself, psyching myself out that everything is great.

    Which means I might be overthinking it, I guess.

    Wonderful pics!

  2. Anonymous says: Reply

    Ah great post Heather! Quote at the end is really good… Pope (emeritus I guess now) Benedict also used "cor ad cor loquitur" in his final speech as Pope yesterday, thought you'd like that (

  3. Anonymous says: Reply

    Dear Heather,

    A friend recently wrote a little updating her present journey and the stories she tells herself about herself. I know it resonated with me.

  4. I have found that for me happiness is that peace that passes all understanding that only comes when I try the best that I am able to seek God's will for me, and the power to carry it out. I also love when bits of Joy bubble up from inside. None of this comes for me, though, without doing steps 10, 11, and 12 on a daily, actually hourly basis. And Gratitude, always gratitude.

    Tonight is Stations. I am so looking forward to doing it in community. I am so grateful for the Divine Mercy that has been granted to me.

  5. It is so funny you mention Hopkins. You like all my people -Therese, Hopkins, Houselander, O'Connor. I think I came here through a search on Houselander.

    Hopkins' last words were (I'm pretty sure):

    "I am so happy! I loved my life!"


  6. …..a perspective I am working to develop myself. Thank you Heather.

  7. I come to this as a non-drinking-problem bloke. Surely if i've got it right, we can only find happiness in Heaven, right. I can experience odd moments of Joy here, but like all, life is a struggle. Once I accept that I am ok.

  8. Tangentially related, I searched for what "joy" means (as opposed to happiness) in a few sources. Here goes:

    Joy comes on account of what Christ has done, irrelevant of whatever other circumstances are happening in one’s life….In the New Testament, “joy” is still used for victory, as shown by the disciples returning with joy since even the evil spirits listened to them (Luke 10:17). However, the victory focuses more on salvation (Luke 15:7)—the presence of Christ, the bridegroom, gives reason for joy (John 3:29). – Lexham Bible Dictionary


    "Even in laughter the heart may be sad," Prov 14:13


    "Because of His victory and the promise of His abiding presence, the disciples could rejoice even after the Lord’s ascension (Luke 24:52)." – Holman's Bible Dictionary


    "But when understanding and will rejoice, it does not necessarily follow that the feelings will do so as well. Even while they recognize Jesus’ victory, they can suffer under the loss of his physical presence. Yet we cannot ignore the statement about the great joy of those returning to Jerusalem, even though we will never be able to explain it totally, any more than we can explain the joy of the martyrs: Maximilian Kolbe’s singing as he was being starved to death in a Nazi prison; the joyful praise that Polycarp raised to God from the funeral pyre; and many others. From such experiences we can have some presentiment of how Christ’s victory can not only touch the understanding, but can also make itself felt in the heart, and in so doing become truly meaningful. Only when we experience something of it ourselves have we understood the feast of Christ’s Ascension. What has happened here is a realization in the human heart of the definitiveness of redemption so that knowledge becomes joy." – Cardinal Ratzinger

  9. Anonymous says: Reply

    Lovely photos. I need to awake my muse!

  10. stunning photos of your Aeonium.

    "I don't much think about whether I'm happy and maybe that's the best sign that I am. …(when) I was very very UNhappy–… I never thought about anything else."

    Exquisitely stated, Heather. Thank you!

  11. Heather–I have been following your posts/blogs and read your books. Your honesty in confronting your long-held demons have helped me look at mine through the loving and merciful eyes of Jesus. I can allow myself now to think and feel loved litle by little which helps me to go easy on my need to be perfect for people. Thank you so much.