Just recently I've stopped with my 9-5 job and adopted a jigsaw method of income, meaning I'm doing about 5 different things yielding 5 different (often non-existent) paychecks. Now, this wouldn't be possible without a husband who has consigned to wage work (7-5, bless his heart). This little-bit-of-everything approach is not unlike my previous employment in variety, only differing in free time and, consequently, amount earned (not much).
Prompted primarily by a move from a place where I had a job and maintained by the prospect of a baby coming in November, my unemployment has proven both a gift and a curse. Even as I write I feel the need to justify my not working to readers, emphasizing that I stay busy and relatively productive, and that it really doesn't make sense to get a job that I'll quit in three months, and that no one would hire me anyway because of the growth in my uterus...
In other words, it's hard for me not to work. But in actuality I'm least happy when I work, or at least in the jobs that I've had. My husband has diagnosed me with the I'll-Be-Happy-When complex. I'll find fulfillment on the summit of a never-ending mountain. I'm either pining for days free of structure or resenting my minuscule contribution to the family income.
I've had a happy life. Good things have happened to me. I remember blocks of time in college when I would go to bed thinking that I was truly happy. I was surrounded by friends, I was working hard in my degree, and I was seeing success in the other aspects of my life. To be fair to my current (not unhappy but definitely more stressed) self, there was no "work" in the picture. Financial security came in the form of magic scholarship money that appeared monthly. I had a role to play on a team, I had a close student community where my work was recognized and appreciated.
So what's different now? Carl Jung summarizes happiness in 5 elements. 1. Physical/mental health 2. Good, intimate relationships 3. The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature 4. Good standard of living and satisfactory work 5. A philosophy or religion that helps you cope with life.
Already, as I read through these things I can see where I was strong then and not so strong now. But I get tired of hearing that I'll be happier when I'm healthier, and when work is fulfilling, and when my spirit is well-fed. That's not specific enough for me.
George Bradt divides the good of happiness into three “goods”. Good for others, good at "it", good for self. I look at my happy college days, and I was a good teammate. I was good at school, and I was very healthy.
These considerations broke down very clearly for me what a happy life looks like. A happy person is needed by other people. They are a cog in a community, and their absence would be noticed. A happy person is good at what they do. They are experienced and their knowledge yields a product. A happy person is internally good. We live in the age of mindfulness, health, clean dieting, strong is the new skinny...pick your preferred source of how to be good to yourself. If we look at Mr. Jung's list again, each element can be subdivided into Mr. Bradt's "goods". Identifying components of our lives that fall into the category of each of these "goods" is a really good exercise in self-reflection.
For me this opens up a whole new world of to-do lists (I LOVE those) to make me happy. But ultimately, if at the end of my day I've served some one, bettered my craft, and taken care of myself, then I can say that I'm happy. That simplifies my to-do list to 3 things. Thank goodness for simplicity.