You know when you’re happy when….

Filed Under (Acceptance, Activism, Joy) by Estee on 13-10-2009

There are a few good lines mulling about out there. I particularly like “you know when you’re happy when you are no longer looking for happiness.”  Ever notice that when you’re happy, you didn’t really notice at all? It was sort of, well, effortless?

In this autism world, or any matter of the human spirit, we are really involved with the meaning of things and what will bring us joy and happiness.  Every time we write our lists and ponder our life’s purpose, we can feel overwhelmed. While I’m certainly for lists, I think they are simply like little messages we have to write, put out there and then tuck in the wall. Once the intent is made, then leave it, move on and begin the work. While intention is how we wish to live our lives everything else can happen. And it will.


As I’m re-reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning this week, I’m reminded of some very important things. First, is that like the name of this blog and it’s consecutive mantra about “struggle,” I suppose I was also brought up with the idea that struggle will always be a part of my life and that happiness happens when we aren’t paying attention. It can even happen during the most catastrophic of circumstances. Frankl had cited Nietzsche’s ideas that we all have to have a “why” in life to get us through. He said if we have a “why” then we will certainly have a “how.” For those in the concentration camps during the Holocaust, Frankl of course ponders the meaning of life during one of times most horrible of human travesties.

Frankl understands life’s inherent blessings among tragedy. He sees goodness in the group that has done him harm: “Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn. The boundaries between groups overlapped and we must not try to simplify matters by saying that these men were angels and those were devils.” He refers specifically to the Germans and notes that groupings of “good” and “bad,” does not fully explain or accept the expanse of humanity. For when one condemns one group, they are also denying that they are also capable of the same atrocity, for we are all made equal. Once we are able to understand that we all carry the same capabilities of good and evil within us, we can become compassionate. The modern saying is “for every finger we point, there are three pointing back.”

Perhaps it would serve us all well to practice a little reflection when we debate the “rights” and “wrongs” in autism politics. It would serve us well in every aspect of our lives. Some of us in this world hold on so firmly to our beliefs that we don’t see many other realities.

Musician John Mayer writes:

Belief is a beautiful armor
But makes for the heaviest sword
Like punching under water
You never can hit who you’re trying for

Some need the exhibition
And some have to know they tried
It’s the chemical weapon
For the war that’s raging on inside

Everyone believes
From emptiness to everything
Everyone believes
And no one’s going quietly

There’s a lot of autism “belief” out there and it’s important to have science to assist us in proving many things. Also, it’s important to know. To know that my son, without proof, is a worthy, valuable, lovely human being who has made contributions in ways he is too young to understand.  It sometimes disturbs me that as much as science is important to prove harmful beliefs incorrect, it is similarly exhausting to have to prove one’s value through scientific or any other means.

In this world of human difference, belief, disability I would like to take a moment to defer to Frankl who says,

” What [is] needed [is] a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves, and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those were were being questioned by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual… and each differs from man to man….When a man finds it his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task.” (Simon and Schuster edition, 1963, pp. 122-23).

And so perhaps it is not really worth our time to discuss what makes us happy and brings us joy as much as it is to accept the responsibilities and events that enter our lives, and move on with them with an open and willing heart. Hmm, just that simple thought makes me happy.


Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.