Wise Women Friday: Colette on Happiness

Words of wisdom from Colette (1873-1954):

Be happy.  It's one way of being wise.

Although best known in the U.S. for her novel Gigi, which became the basis for the Broadway play and movie of the same name, Colette was a prolific writer.  She published fifty novels as well as numerous memoirs and even an opera, which she co-wrote with Ravel.  She was married three times, had numerous bisexual affairs, turned her home into a hospital for soldiers during World War I, hid her Jewish husband in her attic during the entire length of World War II, got thrown off the Paris stage for kissing a woman in a Revue, had an unwanted pregnancy that resulted in her practically abandoning her daughter to the care of an English nanny, and received various national awards and honors, including a state funeral.  So I think she knows what's she's talking about.

Happiness is not like watching T.V.  You just can't sit waiting and watching.  It's more like a garden.  You must cultivate it.  You must weed out the thorns and thistles that will scratch you and the long vines that will snake their way around your ankles and drag you down.  You must water your garden.  You must give it plenty of manure and sunshine.  You must not crowd your garden.  You must give it careful attention, otherwise it will certainly wither.  And, in the end, you must determinedly do these things yourself.  Only you can cultivate your garden.  Only you can make yourself happy.  Only you can make yourself wise.  


Lynne said...

I was reading an article recently about how they have now proven that happiness is contagious with three degrees of separation. (Like everyone is connected to Kevin Bacon by seven degrees.) So if you are happy then every person you connect with becomes a little happier, and so forth. I think knowing that makes me try a little harder at the times I'm not feeling it.

Susan C said...

Did you ever see the movie or read the book "Being There." In the movie version, Peter Sellers plays Chauncey Gardener, a slow-witted but charming professional gardener. When he talks about pruning or gardening, everyone thinks he's talking about a metaphor for the economy or life and, therefore, the wisest man alive.

altadenahiker said...

I've read everything Colette has ever written. She was the muse of my early 20's. She takes you by the shoulders and stares you straight in the eyes.

West Coast Grrlie Blather said...

I have a feeling that reading your blog will make me wise!

Cafe Pasadena said...

I'm becoming a wiser & happier K9 bcuz of you crazy women. Who wooda thot?

Petrea said...

This page has a nice little gloss on Colette. I share it because I like picturing her gazing out over the gardens of the Palais Royal. John and I strolled through there several times during our 2006 visit. She died the year before I was born.

You are a wise woman, Margaret. All that cultivation and vigilance - that's so true. I'll add one thing if you don't mind: happiness is a choice. It's there for the plucking, like a ripe fruit. And as you said, no one's going to pick it for you.

Desiree said...

Hmm. So does this mean when I'm depressed I'm being stubbornly stupid?
Great--more things to beat myself up about. My list keeps growing...

Palm Axis said...

Some weeds you have to learn to live with.

I've never read Colette (or seen Being There) and I'm getting the feeling I'm missing something. Would I experience greater happiness if I had?

Thanks Petrea for the link. There's an interesting tidbit about Jean Cocteau and his connection to Dan Brown's novel the "Da Vinci Code".

Reluctant Blogger said...

I do very much thing we are in control of our own happiness. People often sit passively waiting for things to happen - to be made happy/sad or whatever. But life is for living - you have to get out and be who you want to be and feel things (good and bad). Otherwise life just passes you by.

Margaret said...

Lynne: I read that research too. Apparently, the best thing is to have a happy friend within 1/2 mile of your house.

Susan: It's been a long time since I've seen the movie. Thanks for the reminder. I'd forgotten about that. So, is my advice wise or am I a dimwit?

Dez: what I mean is that happiness is not a state that can be reached through passivity. But that doesn't mean we can be happy all the time (see Nemesis).

Reluctant Blogger: So nice of you to drop by. I could not agree with you more.

JCK said...

OH, Margaret, this is a lovely post. Cultivating one's own garden can be a dirty business, yet what richness can burst forth from the soil!

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