Words of Wisdom

“Happiness is not a goal, it’s a by-product.” Eleanor Roosevelt

That’s a great quote from the former First Lady, one of the many that have made me pause and think. Here is a little more about the quote from Daily Inspiration where I found it.

“Many wise leaders have noted that chasing happiness as our primary goal seldom results in a happy life, a notion summed up nicely in this quote from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She went on to note that, “Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively… For what keeps our interest in life and makes us look forward to tomorrow is giving pleasure to other people.” In other words, if you pursue a life of purpose and meaning, you don’t have to find happiness; it will find you.”

I didn’t know much about this iconic lady beyond the fact that she was married to Franklin D Roosevelt, an iconic figure in his own right. Then I read Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn. The book chronicles the relationship between the women that was as much about friendship, shared wisdom, and mutual respect as it was about romance.

BOOK BLURB: A warm, intimate account of the love between Eleanor Roosevelt and reporter Lorena Hickok—a relationship that, over more than three decades, transformed both women’s lives and empowered them to play significant roles in one of the most tumultuous periods in American history

In 1932, as her husband assumed the presidency, Eleanor Roosevelt entered the claustrophobic, duty-bound existence of the First Lady with dread. By that time, she had put her deep disappointment in her marriage behind her and developed an independent life—now threatened by the public role she would be forced to play. A lifeline came to her in the form of a feisty campaign reporter for the Associated Press: Lorena Hickok. Over the next thirty years, until Eleanor’s death, the two women carried on an extraordinary relationship: They were, at different points, lovers, confidantes, professional advisors, and caring friends.

Before reading that book, I wasn’t aware that Eleanor had influenced her husband, as well as national policy, to the extent that she had. I’d seen brief mentions of it, mostly from the point of view that she should’ve left running the country to her husband, but I’d dismissed those comments as coming from narrow-minded people, probably men, who wanted to keep women barefoot and pregnant.

That was a different time, and much of that kind of thinking is gone, thank God. Let’s hope attitudes continue to change.

As I contemplated the quote that started this blog, I thought about how my approach to happiness has evolved over the years. As a child, I thought that if I could live with a family like the one across the street from us, I’d be happy. There was lots of laughter that came from that house, and the kids always seemed to be smiling.

What a childish, idealist vision I had of them. 🙂 I’m sure they were like any normal family that had problems that the eyes of a naïve child never saw. Like many people of that time, problems were kept indoors. Never splattered across the neighborhood.

Then, much later in life, I ran headlong into the idea that we could choose happiness. Like making the decision, “I will be happy.”

Buddha said “We are what we think.” So will we be happy if we think “happy?”

Maybe, but while I appreciate the wisdom of the great spiritual leader, I like Eleanor’s take on happiness more. When we “get out of ourselves,” the potential to be happy is greater.

Currently, I’m reading a book that’s populated with selfish, self-centered people who are extremely rich and, not surprisingly, extremely unhappy. These pretend people personify the worst – in my mind – of folks like the Kardashians, who are only celebrities because they’re rich and often offensive in their behaviors. (I may not finish the book, which is why I’m not going to mention the title here.)

Part of me is sad for these fictional people, and maybe a little for the real people, because they pour their money into lavish lifestyles that only bring fleeting enjoyment. Then when the party’s over, what’s left? I don’t see much true happiness in any of their lives.

What about you? Where do you find happiness? Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve posted? Feel free to comment either way. That could lead to an interesting discussion.

Since I started the blog post today with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, it’s only fitting to end with another. There are so many tidbits of wisdom from her, some gathered on this site Top 25 Eleanor Roosevelt Quotes, it was hard to pick which to share, but this is one that I’ve applauded through the years. It’s a good one.

Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.

That’s all for today folks. I’ll be busy at the 40th Annual Sherman Arts Fest on Saturday, but I’m not sure what Sunday will bring. Maybe just chilling out after a busy Saturday. Whatever is on your agenda for the weekend, I hope it’s something fun. Be happy. Be safe.

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