(Photograph by Dave Carney)
I used to believe that happiness was a destination. Well, if you had asked me outright I wouldn’t have said that, but that was precisely how I lived. It is the place my thoughts and actions went to on a daily basis. I was just barely getting by, just barely surviving.
It looked like this. Lots of personal little emotional meltdowns and experiencing feelings of being down and hopeless daily were my existence. Anxious thoughts and fretfully replaying past experiences were almost a constant in my head. I based most of my decisions on how people would perceive or respond to me. This is obviously a terrible way to live and living this way became a real chore where there was little happiness for me.
During this time I sadly believed that if I could finally get the entire house sparkly clean, or catch up on laundry, or have nicer clothes and things, or write those thank you notes, or find a different job, or move into a nicer house, or better yet, own a house, or have more friends, or spend more time with the friends I had, or have certain people like me (this was a big one for me), or travel more, or live in an exciting place, or many, many other things… THEN finally I would be happy.
Yeah, go figure, it never happened. At least not this way! Oh sure I would have fleeting moments of happiness if I felt I had accomplished something or if I moved on to something new and “exciting”. But they never lasted and it didn’t sustain me because it wouldn’t be long until I was looking to the next thing. And seriously, how long does a house with kids stay clean anyway?! My happiness was like a roller coaster that formed its course based on the circumstances around me and even worse my perception of those circumstances. I always assumed the silver lining was just up around the bend. Did I mention that this is a terrible way to live!?
Thank goodness several years ago I finally broke free from this dysfunctional way of living! Three things have helped me escape from this terrible cycle. They are…
1. Let Go (a.k.a. Trust God)
2. Practice Self Care
3. Be Thankful
I am telling you, these three “little” things are powerhouses for ushering in happiness. Introducing them into my life has absolutely turned my life right-side up and I have happiness like you wouldn’t believe, often in-spite of my circumstances.
For example, I was recently diagnosed with the bowel disease ulcerative colitis. My life has gotten way more complicated since coming down with this disease. I often feel bad, I require more sleep, my house is messier as a result, I am eating a special diet that takes up more of my time, not to mention the stress that comes from knowing you have a chronic disease you will have to deal with the rest of your life. In the past this would have sent me into an emotional tailspin. It really didn’t take much (a sink full of dishes could have or a disapproving comment).
While obviously I am not excited that I have UC and I was concerned when I became very sick before my diagnosis, I have had an amazing peace all along. Even when I was in the bathroom over 10 times a day, very, very sick. Believe it or not, other than a moment of discouragement here and there, I have generally felt upbeat, happy even. You see, even though the circumstances of my life have been less than ideal for many months now (although thankfully they have improved more recently), the three principals I mention have carried me through and rang even truer.
Our happiness is not a destination that requires perfect circumstances for it to flourish. Joy is for right here and now in the midst of the chaos and difficulties of life. It is meant for the days our house is clean and the days it is dirty. It is meant for when we are at our ideal weight and for the days our “fat jeans” are a little snug. It is meant for the days our boss or friends approve of us and it is meant for the days they disapprove. It is meant for when we are sick and for when we are well. Happiness is meant for now!
We will take a closer look at Let Go, Get Well, and Be Thankful over the next couple posts. I hope this helps anyone who, like myself in the past, struggles to find happiness. I know that it is always a good reminder for me!
This is article 1 in a 4 part series.
- Article 2: Let go: happiness and freedom in surrender
- Article 3: Practice self-care: a gift to those you love, not selfishness
- Article 4: Learning to be thankful