Yesterday a friend looked at me suddenly and said, “You’re happy.” Rather plainly, as though this was a fact. I looked right back and said, “it takes a lot of work.” They were surprised, but it lead to a good conversation, which, you know, is my second favorite drug of choice (2 guesses on the first)! I was surprised at how quickly I responded to such a statement, but the truth in my response was heavy.
It is true that it takes work to be happy. I’m certainly not happy all of the time, but I try to stay very conscious of my immediate feelings and experiences. It is when I get caught up or lost in my head for too long that the misery arrives with a big care package of depression. No thanks. While it’s exhausting to be depressed and stressed out all of the time, it’s also easier to get there in the first place. One needs only to pause a moment and look around or turn on the news to gather enough reasons to spiral into despair. It is because of this that I have kept my distance from the news of the world while also trying to stay somewhat informed as well. It’s a balancing act for sure.
It seems so long ago yet terribly recent in my mind and recollection that I was the perpetually depressed girl. Blegh! It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth now to think of it, but it’s true. To get me to smile was to be confronted with a mask of falsehood. I was lost in a world I felt didn’t want or need me. I had no sense of self or identity and I was recovering from a horrific experience. How I managed to put the pieces of my life together at such a young age, well, it’s impressive to me now as only I know the state of my true wits at that time. But I am a survivor and when you’re in survival mode, which is difficult to shake even after any “danger” is long gone, you don’t really think you just do.
I know I am always saying we should be our most authentic selves and honor that and to let go of people and situations that don’t, but you’ll also hear me say you may just have to fake it until you make it. This is true of me and my past. I went about the world hating everything, but especially myself. I saved the worst for myself and treated myself with such disgust and hate that it is quite embarrassing for me to think about now. How I couldn’t see that I was perpetuating the hate and making myself more miserable every second of everyday. I could just write it off as, “I was so young”, but I don’t think that’s it either. I was never exposed to a healing environment or way of thinking. At this point in my life I was in denial about what I’d been through and ashamed that it’d happened at all.
Getting to happy isn’t taught in schools. Self healing, caring and being mindful are not courses you can enroll in or get a degree in. You can read all manner of self-help books, but until you are open to such ideas, really and truly open, you just can’t get there. I know because I tried. I know because I have talked to so many other people who wanted to be happy, and who doesn’t, but just couldn’t see how it was possible no matter what they tried or learned. And that is where faking it can actually help and get you where you need to be.
I had heard or read somewhere that our attitude at any given moment is a simple choice that we make. We may not be conscious of this choice, but it happens. I was the worst morning person. I woke up with such disdain for the world that it was no wonder I carried that with me all day long. I couldn’t understand why when asked about it and it wasn’t until I heard this choice concept that I even began to see how my reaction to things is entirely up to me. I have had discussions on this simple concept with friends and strangers and colleagues. I am living proof that it is a choice, but again, you must be conscious of it in order to change. That is where most of us get caught up, I believe. We either refuse to believe we have a choice at all or we just cannot or will not connect so deeply, yet simply, with ourselves.
Once I realized that I had that choice to make, I chose to not hate myself so actively. I chose to not hate the world for having me in it or for insisting I wake up and participate in it. Ha-ha! And soon I found that I smiled easier, I laughed more and people wanted to talk and be around me more. I’ll never be the popular girl in school, but that’s okay. I’m too punk for that anyway! Ha! But I am the person I want to be around more and more. That in and of itself is such an accomplishment for me. To go from my own worst enemy to being totally okay alone? Wow! It is something I am quite proud of. I’m still working and finding myself enjoying the journey at this point. It hasn’t been without some bumps and even some collisions on this road, but all have taught me something and have been worth it.
Happy takes work, it takes awareness and it is a choice. I very easily can fall back into my self-hating ways, but I know how that felt and I just refuse to now. I choose not to let people’s opinions and judgment get to me. I choose to breathe a bit deeper and to be more fully connected to the ground beneath me. This is the step I’m working on hardest at the moment, though. Staying grounded is very hard for me. With the help of my friends I am getting better at it though. I am trying not to push people away or hide myself away when things get to be too much for me. This is my reflex to do so. And I hope that I can heal the relationships that have been hurt by that, including the one with me.
The biggest revelation I have had lately, thanks to my husband introducing me to the Alan Watts videos on YouTube, is that our perception of things is a fallacy. It simply doesn’t exist. And how can one suffer from or be tethered to something that doesn’t exist?! I love that! I may not be explaining it properly, but feel free to press me for more info. This release of perception, the loss of needing to label and analyze everything, has freed me! It has given me space and room to breathe and grow and just be. It takes effort though and again, choices! But this work is worth it. You are worth it and I am worth it. We are not creatures better than or in control of, rather, we should aspire to find that we are simply alive and part of all that is around us. This is happy.