Posted by: Sally Ingraham | February 2, 2008

Pancake Happy

Small things make me happy. Listening to Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in b minor for the first time in a long time. The perfectly round pancake I made myself for breakfast. The bright sunshine that crept up on the heavy ceiling of clouds this morning. These words, spoken by Kurt Vonnegut in an interview with the Weekly Guardian in 1991:

“Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A: Imagining that something somewhere wants us to like it here.”

Later in the interview:

“Q: When and where were you the happiest?
A: About ten years ago my Finnish publisher took me to a little inn on the edge of the permafrost in his country. We took a walk and found frozen ripe blueberries on bushes. We thawed them in our mouths. It was as though something somewhere wanted us to like it here.”

I am learning that you can not be happy all the time. It is hard for me to admit to myself that I am unhappy though. I had to struggle with myself the other day, to admit that I was in fact not all right, I was totally miserable, and it was okay to feel that way. In fact, I discovered that admitting to yourself that you are unhappy helps you to recognize and appreciate better those sudden exquisite moments of complete happiness.

Heavy SkyIf you think more money or more possessions or a new job or new friends or old friends are going to make you happy, you will be wrong. You don’t understand happiness. It can’t be made. It can only be found. If you expect certain circumstances to make you happy you will be disappointed. Happiness isn’t this overwhelming thing that is going to wrap you up when everything finally goes your way.

Happiness to me is like the sunshine that crawled beneath the clouds and poked it’s head through when it found a break. It was always here, behind the clouds. Over the past few difficult months, that is how happiness has found me – by hanging around, waiting for me to open myself a little and let it poke it’s warm fuzziness through.

I’ve learned to find the jewel-like moments that I can recognize as happy ones, and even in circumstances that are less than ideal, know in that moment that I am completely happy. And that this amazingly round pancake is proof that something somewhere wants me to like it here. 🙂


  1. I’m not sure what people mean when they say they are happy.
    I am aware of feeling blessed…a combination of wonder and thankfulness that overwhelms…
    I am aware of feeling awe combined with an embracing rightness (similar to feeling blessed).
    I am aware of feeling content, in the best sense of the word…deeply satisfied and filled with hope. Resting in, dancing in, the arms of goodness.
    But none of those is, I don’t think, exactly what people mean by being happy.
    I recognize joy, which brooks no contradiction and is not dependent on circumstances, and which is closely related to the feelings above…but I am not sure I would know this happiness if i was wallowing in it.

  2. Don’t rule out that new situations (jobs, people, place) can be more conducive for happiness than former ones. Not that the thing itself makes you happy (that’s just materialism putting on a band-aid), but that the ideas and the atmosphere of the new situation can help you understand yourself, your role, and feels more like you.

    ba dum dum.

  3. You both make good points.

    I think I use the term “happiness” as a blanket word to cover the more specific terms – joy, contentment, all’s right with the world, etc.

    And I would have to admit that the other day when I was feeling so sad, it was going to work and hanging out with my new friend Jim that cheered me up tremendously. 🙂

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