Sunday 6 September 2020



Yesterday, I was driving to visit Nicholas, listening to the radio as I always do in the car. On air was an episode of Krista Tippet's podcast ON BEING. Krista was interviewing an author about the idea of joy and how it differs from happiness. "The millstone of happiness" is a turn of phrase that stayed with me. 

We are told that happiness is a birthright, that it is a constant state of being that we should aspire to, regardless of the circumstances of our lives. If we are not happy, we are lacking. This idea of happiness is hollow, inauthentic and ultimately unsatisfying not to mention unachievable. It is a millstone dragging us down. For caregivers, chasing happiness is a zero sum game.

Think instead about joy. Joy is fleeting, it can be experienced amid (or even as the result of) suffering. Joy is authentic and it does not deny the full range of human experience. Joy is a tougher sell because it is complicated, but it is potent and more related to a kind of ecstasy. 

It struck me that joy is related to hope, but happiness is not. Happiness in today's world seems closer to hopelessness. We caregivers know this. 


“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges; nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right,” but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle — and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.”

– Victoria Safford


Adrienne Gruberg said...

Donna -
If not "happiness" what about serenity and satisfaction. They're far less fleeting. I love your pieces. I should comment more. Thank you for all you do.

The Caregivers' Living Room said...

Hi Adrienne, thank you for commenting! Oh yes, serenity and satisfaction - these command a blog post of their own. They are the essential ingredients in knowing, at the end, "I did my best and I'm glad I stayed", aren't they?
Thank you for all YOU do, too!