Recently in an email exchange, two of you reminded me that happiness is a choice.
Of course, I’ve known that for a long time, perhaps always.
A look around will be enough to verify this. It’s not a matter of how much you have or how perfect or imperfect your life is, but whether you decide to be happy or not.
We all know people who have everything they want and a cherry on top and they still hate their lives, themselves and everything. They get up every morning wishing they were dead and they go to bed even more so. (In fact the unhappy rich has become a truism, partly because it’s true, though only in limited circumstances – and partly because it serves a purpose. It might convince a lot of people they have to be unhappy, too. Who knows?) And we all know people who have horrible miserable lives, but at heart are quite happy.
Being happy is not a matter of what you have, of how hard you work, of what you do or don’t do. Being happy is a choice you make.
No. Stop. Don’t tell me you’ll be happy if only…
I have my own list of if-onlys, mostly relating to making enough money from this writing thing that I can hire someone to do the endless list of other stuff I need to do, including but not limited to house administrivia, cooking, and editing and publishing. Also, that I can write just a smidgeon less so I have time to take, say, Sundays off and sleep late then read in bed. Oh, yeah, enough money to go out to eat on weekends would be nice too, but I might be reaching for the moon.
And I’d like to live nearer the places where they have lunch time lectures I’d like to attend, so that I don’t have to factor in the price of gas before considering a free presentation. And I’d like… you know what I mean.
But that just gives me something to strive for. Right now I’m pretty happy. Hey, I have my husband and kids, a roof over my head and three meals a day. What is there to be unhappy about?
I think the first time I realized how happy I was was when I was lying in bed and expected to die of pneumonia. The room I was in had this BROAD view of the rocky mountains and I wasn’t sleeping well. So I’d lie there and watch the sun come up over the mountains, and realize I’d lived another day, and be happy about it.
I wanted to be out of bed and going to garage sales with the guys, but that was a higher form of happiness, and it could wait.
Still a lot of people are unhappy – and I don’t want to blame them, because it’s not … They don’t view it as a choice.
There are of course obvious circumstances when it isn’t a choice. If something were to happen to my family, I’d be pretty unhappy for a long time and if I ever found happiness again it would be a happiness of small things: of cats on lap, of doing a task. Of not thinking beyond that.
But if you’re not grieving or in horrible pain (and some people in horrible pain are still happy) and you still aren’t happy, then think about why you aren’t.
Is it that you want something you don’t have? Well, then… sketch out a plan to obtain it, to the best of your ability and subject to revision, of course. And then be happy because you’re on the road there.
Or is it something about yourself that makes you unhappy?
Here we must distinguish between two things: if what you don’t like about yourself is something that affects only yourself — you’re too fat, not brilliant enough, you never learned to waltz, whatever the heck you use to beat yourself over the head – well, start working towards it, and understand you don’t have to be perfect. If you think you have to, you’ve been sold a bill of goods. No one is perfect. The best we can do is try. If you’re trying you’re doing your best. Pat yourself on the back, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you fall.
Or is it that something you are/do hurts someone you love?
Here too we must distinguish between two instances. Is it that they disapprove of something you do/are? And if so, can you change it? For instance, if they disapprove of your being too tall or – in the case of someone I dated – having breasts that are too large, or… whatever… It’s not your problem. It’s theirs. State firmly that they’ll have to live with it, and then remember it’s their problem. If it’s something you CAN change, like leaving the toilet seat up, or something more serious like refusing to do something that needs to be done or doing something that actively hurts someone you love, the thing that’s making you unhappy might be your conscience. Change it, or make efforts to change it. You’ll be happier that way.
What if you’re unhappy because you can’t find the minimum of existence? There’s always a way. Yes, the job market sucks. Do you perhaps have extra books you could sell on Amazon? Is there a hobby you can turn into a paying profession? Take steps towards that, and you’ll start feeling happier, even if the ultimate goal is out of sight. CHOOSE to take charge and be active about it, and you’ll be happier.
But what if you were never wanted, and no one in life has ever loved you, and you don’t belong to anyone or anywhere?
First… You belong to you. Be happy in you and what you are. Be happy you’re breathing. Be happy in your hobbies/your pets/whatever. And start reaching out. I had a teacher once who whined no one had ever loved her.
The problem was that she had never loved anyone. Take the focus out from within you and put it outside in something else. It could be something as inconsequent as rescuing kittens or puppies, or as important as volunteering to do research. All of them will allow you to connect with your fellow humans, and that’s important too – we are social animals.
But I don’t understand. You had a truly horrible past, and you have scars. Yeah, and? You’re not that injured child. You’re an adult. Deal with the scars. Stop holding your breath and going “but I wanted it to be different.” You’re not entitled to perfect, and if you knew other people’s stories, you’d find we’re all walking wounded. We all favor one point or the other. We all shift and walk around burned spots in mind and heart. We all do the best we can to be happy. And holding your breath and wanting it perfect won’t get you anything. That’s not how the world works.
I’m not telling you “Don’t worry, be happy.” That was one of the stupidest phrases ever coined. I’m not sure why those two things should be linked. Some people like me would break in two to stop worrying. Worrying is part of making sure we look ahead and we plan, and that’s how we survive, and some of us can’t stand to live any other way.
But it doesn’t mean, for all the worry, we’re not happy anyway.
(Right now I’m going to be happy while doing a massive amount of laundry. Catch you on the flip side.)