“Happiness is an imaginary condition, formerly attributed by the living to the dead, now usually attributed by adults to children, and by children to adults.” — Thomas Szasz

I found this wonderful quote a while back. It is an elegant way of saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I myself am guilty of this thinking, and I imagine that you are too. We always seem to think that happiness is something that exists just outside our grasp… if only we could reach it. I don’t think I need to tell you that this type of thinking is plain wrong and that searching for happiness is like searching for your own head.

I often joke about this with my wife. When we look back on our life together, we find ourselves saying, “That was a good time.” A “good time,” as defined by us, is generally one with relatively few problems: financial, marital, job-related, etc. One day, my wife said to me: “Why is it that all of the times in the past are good times but right now seems so tough?”

“That’s because we don’t remember the bad things,” I said.

And it’s true. Even those “good times” we were referring to had bad parts to them. Yet, as time passed, the bad memories faded and lost their potency, while the good ones remained in tact. By and large, humans connect emotions to our experiences. When we recall a memory, we often experience the emotions we’ve attached to it. As time passes, the negative emotions fade, and the good ones often stick around. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve found it to be true in myself and in others I’ve spoken to about it (not a scientific study, of course, but good enough for me). This isn’t to say that some negative emotions remain firmly planted in our psyche. PTSD is a good example of how such emotions can become tied to specific memories, sounds, sights, or smells. Regardless, as time passes, like water rushing over river rocks, it smooths the rough edges of our memories.

So is the grass really greener elsewhere? Or are we just too busy looking for greener grass that we’ve failed to look beneath our own feet?