post written by: Marc Chernoff

Where Happiness Is Found


Where Happiness is Found

There is only one success to spend your life in your own way.
- Christopher Morley

Made Him Happy

I know a man who loves to knit.  Blankets, quilts, sweaters… he knits them all.  Knitting is his hobby, his escape.  He could choose another hobby – something a bit more masculine, like restoring vintage cars or hunting.  But this man continues to stick with what makes him happy – knitting.  Because he discovered knitting when he was only a little boy who didn’t know any better.  And now it’s a big part of who he is.

As he grew into his teenage years he was made aware of the fact that knitting wasn’t a common hobby for a boy – that it’s usually a hobby chosen by girls or by “boys who like to wear high heels,” as his older brother used to say.  Over time, after being ridiculed by his brother and others, he eventually asked himself a question: “Are the opinions others have about knitting at all relevant to my experience of knitting as a hobby?”  And he immediately realized the answer was: “No!” So he kept enjoying the hobby that made him happy.

Stories, Fears, and Expectations

It’s fascinating how we make certain decisions in life.  Sometimes we follow our heart and intuition and we choose the thing that makes the most sense to us – that which makes us happy.  Other times we follow our fears and expectations, especially those spawned by the culture and society we live in, and we choose whatever we believe will most appease those fears and expectations – that which makes everyone else (or no one at all) happy.

The man who loves to knit remained open minded and stuck to knitting even when he learned about the cultural and societal expectations that suggested he should give it up.  But he didn’t always carry forth with this same open minded attitude.  For instance, he believed for as long as he could remember that he would someday find the perfect mate.  And he knew exactly what she would be like.

The story about her that he inscribed in his head when he was in high school hasn’t changed much since.  Nor has it changed since he told me a story about her last year over a cup of coffee.  The beginning of the story goes something like this:

I’ve always dreamed that someday I would meet the perfect mate.  She would be smart and classy, yet sexy and athletic.  And she would be a geek like me.  I wouldn’t care what her religious background was, so long as she had an open mind and an honest heart.  But she would have to be neat and tidy, because I’m not and I need someone who can balance me out.

And she would love to snuggle, like me.  Because I would want to hold her at night, and because we would need to be close so we could fool around and giggle and talk softly to each other.  We would talk about people, places, our lives and our future together for hours into the night.

And money wouldn’t matter to either of us because we’d be in love.  She’d know it and I’d know it, and we’d be happy with what we had…

The stories that we tell ourselves and each other sound remarkable, don’t they?  They romanticize us.  They sweep us off our feet.  They persuade us to believe that if we dive head first into an intimate relationship, a big financial purchase, greasy foods, imported beers, or whatever it is that temporarily pacifies our worried mind from reality, then we will somehow find what we are truly looking for.

Our obvious dilemma is that reality is not temporary.  Reality keeps on coming.  That intimate relationship will have our heart blissfully skipping beats until it doesn’t any longer.  That big financial purchase will be fun and exciting until it isn’t any longer.  Greasy foods and beer will comfort us until they don’t any longer.

Free of Them

The man who loves to knit is aware of the temporary, restrictive nature of the stories we tell ourselves.  Because the ending to his story about his perfect mate – the part that comes after the introduction I shared with you above – is about a woman who was amazing – almost perfect – but who didn’t quite fit the mold of the woman from the story he inscribed in his head.  And he was unable to give up the perfect woman from his story for the amazing woman sitting in front of him.  When she eventually realized this, she moved on.

Now, the man is also starting to move on.  He’s slowly rediscovering his true self – the self he knew when he was younger before he started telling himself stories, or buying into the stories, fears and expectations of those who lurk around him.  This self was a blank canvas, free to experience and appreciate everything just the way it was, without the burden of a storyline.

And as he slowly rediscovers himself, he struggles with the notion of life without a storyline.  Because he can barely remember what life was like when there was no story, no fears, no expectations.  But he knows deep down that he once lived in a world free of them.  And when he did, he discovered knitting and fell in love with it.  It became one of his greatest sources of happiness.  And he knows that if he wants to fall in love like that again, he must get back to that story-free world within himself where happiness is found.

Photo by: Sabrina Campagna

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23 Comments

  • that’s really inspiring, thank uuu

  • Sometimes what we’re looking for is right under our noses. But we have to ditch the tick list of criteria. No-ones perfect, just perfect for me. After all, who am I perfect for? And what’s perfection all about?
    I need to think hard about that one…

  • Thank you, I needed this.

  • ‘And he knows that if he wants to fall in love like that again, he must get back to that story-free world within himself where happiness is found.’

    I suddenly realized why I could hardly feel peaceful and touch beauty of life and things and people around me.That is because I create a world of stories,fears and expectations.I created enemies around myself,and I expected too much and feared to lose anything.
    I should take action to change.Or I will ruin myself by those thoughts…..

  • I’m glad you shared this story. I think we all have hobbies we wish we could embrace further, but restrain ourselves because of what others’ may think.

    I’ve found that it may take some tough skin, but it is very rewarding to just be comfortable with yourself and your interests even if they have a negative stereotype for your circumstances.

  • I can’t tell if the moral of the story is to “stick to your knitting” or is about “the one that got away”. :-)

    But, seriously, going back to that story-free time is as romantic as the story of the perfect mate. We can’t undo our life experiences and start with a clean slate. What is done is done and we must work with what we have.

    Yes, this post is thought provoking on a number of levels. “Starting over”, though, is truly a dream - ethereal and fanciful.

  • @Ken:

    You don’t have to undo your life experiences to start over. You just have to let go of the expectations and fairytale storylines you can’t change, except things right now for what they are right now, and march forward with an open mind.

    ;-)

  • I just stumbled upon your blog and find it truly inspiring - glad I found it =) Unfortunately the fairytale story of finding the perfect mate is too deeply rooted in our society, as if it’s not possible to be happy without being in a relationship. This makes people constantly look for the “other half” and keeps them from appreciating all the awesome things surrounding them, which is a shame, because life is beautiful.
    The problem is, once you created your storylines, it’s very difficult to get rid of them. We all have dreams and expectations and I suppose they’re essential for us to move on. We feel the necessity to have something that we can fight for.

  • Hi Marc,

    This is inspiring my friend. Thanks for sharing

  • I think the important thing we need to remember isn’t so much that we should let go of stories, fears and expectations (especially that last one, since it seems so natural to form expectations). What’s important is that we keep realism in mind with our expectations and that we remain flexible. The man in the story who let the amazing woman get away might have had better luck being flexible in his expectations for the “perfect mate” than to completely let them go.

    Because, while expectations are natural, we don’t know everything before we start, and we need to be willing to adapt our expectations as we progress in life and learn a little more about what we really want and need.

  • True happiness comes from within, not from outward sources! Many of us forget this.

  • The “story-free world.” I love that.

    My husband suffered a head injury in 2006 that wiped away his lifetime memories. He doesn’t remember anything before summer of that year–including our past. He did, however, know he loved me. It was like an innate knowing. The same as his passions, which have remained as they were before his injury, even though he couldn’t tell you anything about how he pursued them before 2006.

    At 50 years old, my husband has only 4 years of “stories,” and I have seen this turn him into a very happy man. He invents himself a day at a time. He has a child-like quality (as in eagerness and appreciation) that is inspiring to be around. I think he embodies the “story free world,” and I can attest to what a wondrous place it is.

  • This is a incredible blog. I know where happiness is found. If you want to find real happiness, check out my blog too.

    I found my happiness.

  • The story moved me
    for I know a man who sought the ideal in his mind
    and overlooked the real special one, right in front.
    And when he saw her
    it no longer matter to her.
    Here’s to getting real!
    No more fairy tales.
    :)

  • I spent decades in the dream. When I found the reality it is so very much better. I am happy inside out and have a wonderful partner to share this world with.

    Your site was a find and I hope that you will let me repost portions of what I find interesting.

    be well; peace…
    dan

  • There is nothing more important than doing what you love in life. Don’t worry what others may think. As long as you are hurting no one, do what you love!
    Bernice
    http://livingthebalancedlife.com/2010/finding-the-perfect-balance/

  • And people forget…what is perfect for you today may not be perfect for you tomorrow. People are not stagnant but always changing. Great post.

  • Happiness is in the heart shaped balloon. Thats why the girl does not have it in the painting. One cannot obtain it through being still. Although she does not age through time, you do. With age comes change, and again you cannot have the balloon. Understand’ if you were to have it~ it would lose its shape. ^_~

  • Very nice. To get rid of the stories, feels scary, but what a journey. Thank u for this reminder of true love

  • Wow, this was a touching post. I was truly inspired by it. I have this quote in this little book I carry around with me and it says this;

    “We need to forget what we think we are, so that we can really become what we are”
    -Paulo Coelho

    This relates here, because we sometimes have to let go of the expectation of what we “think” life should be, so that we can really experience the awe and amazement of how it trully can be.

  • A very beautiful story, thank you for sharing. I think everyone can relate to this in some way, especially as it serves to remind us of the true value of happiness :-)

  • I almost thought there’s yet another recipe for happiness until I realised that you are as clueless as everybody. Which makes this writing real and true.

    And happiness is where it’s always been - here and now.

  • Thanks :)

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