Is it bad that I want to live? I just want to be happy.
That question and the statement that followed it were made by someone who is very special to me during a recent exchange of messages between us. His question and comment were made in relation to his specific situation, which is his story to tell, not mine. While I understand the context in which his words were shared, they resonated with me on another level altogether. Unbeknownst to either one of us at the time, he inspired this blog post.
Most of us want to live and to be happy doing so. So, why do we sometimes struggle mightily to do just that? Why would we choose to live unhappily ever after, instead of happily ever after? Is it really our choice to live and be happy, or are we all merely victims of circumstance and fate? I have thought about what it means to live and be happy long before I read this person’s words, and my thoughts definitely have evolved over the years.
There was a time when the very phrase, Happiness is a choice, made me immensely unhappy. It just sounded too simplistic, as if there were some kind of catch to it. It appeared to be a sneaky set up for failure. When in the midst of some of the most painful moments of my life, I bristled at the very idea that happiness was a choice. How in the actual hell could I possibly choose to be happy while dealing with___________________ (fill in the blank-anxiety, depression, divorce, breast cancer, job stress, and so on)? Choosing to be happy under any of those circumstances seemed impossible and slightly insane.
During times when I actually felt happy, I would still question the concept of happiness being a choice when I encountered the suffering of others. How in the actual hell could I possibly choose to be happy while __________________________ (fill in the blank-my friend is going through a contentious divorce; some of my colleagues are being laid off of work; someone I love is living with a terminal disease; there is so much pain and suffering of every kind throughout the world, and so on)? Between my own challenges and those of others, choosing happiness seemed like a futile exercise, until it became a matter of survival.
With each challenge, either my own or that of someone else, I felt weighed down by negative emotions that were in sharp contrast to the smile I so readily wore. I was not living life fully or being authentic, and I knew it. That knowledge haunted me, so, I decided to change, ever so slowly, but intentionally.
I began challenging my long-held belief that not allowing myself to be happy during difficult times, mine or those of another, was the only acceptable course of action to take. I focused on actively seeking out moments of gratitude and happiness throughout the day, and I began and ended my day by journaling. Even on my worst days, especially on my worst days, I forced myself to find the beauty, the joy, and the goodness that coexisted with the ugliness, the sadness, and the darkness. Regardless of circumstances or how I felt, they were there. I began to choose happiness by participating in activities that make me happy and surrounding myself with people who light up my life.
It felt foreign, at first, and I also felt a little guilty. It is not that I did not want to be happy, because I truly did, but it was difficult to do so when watching others who were in painful situations. Sometimes, I found myself colluding with them in their pain, instead of maintaining my own positive state of mind and sharing some of my happiness with them. I unconsciously set out to prove the old adage that misery loves company, so, in addition to them feeling miserable, I now was, too. My stance was not doing anyone any good at all, so, I had to safeguard my own happiness, while being attentive to their unhappiness.
Choosing to live and be happy has become part of my daily intentions. I choose to live and be happy for myself and for others. Some days, it is an easy choice, while other days, it is a bit more difficult of choice. But it always is a choice. My choice.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story