If I wanted to be miserable, I would have my choice of reasons. Perhaps you could say the same thing. Some people have it worse than me. Some people have it better than me. Is my story unusual? No.
Why are some people happy and others miserable? Why do some people dwell on sadness? Why is it a struggle to be happy?
Happiness begins with attitude, not circumstances.
Nothing is more heartbreaking than an elderly person tormented by a childhood betrayal, perceived or real. I’ve seen it. Grief over the circumstances of one’s life can be crippling. Prolonged grief over circumstances that can’t be rectified is early death.
A sad childhood? At some point you have to say it doesn’t matter. Cruel words were said? Either you assimilate the words and own them or send them on their way. The words belonged to someone else and accepting them is a choice. Tumultuous teens. The feeling of being unloved. Ghosts whispering in the ear. At some point enough is enough. Either recognize that the future is unfettered and unwritten or continue to be chained to shadows given substance in the mind.
When I am afraid my father asks me, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I quickly answer with my worst fear. Then he asks, “OK. What’s the best that could happen?” I’ve always known what he meant. Life is a risk-benefit ratio. We weigh potential positive outcomes against potential consequences. I think I am reaching a new level of understanding of my father’s words.
Our terrible luck this year helped solidify my realization that I want to be happy, and that it is up to me to become so. A choice of attitude during adversity.
Natasha Badhwar phrased it well when she said that happiness is a decision.
If you are going to wait for circumstances to shift so that you can finally be happy, you will never be happy. If you are waiting for a resolution to a childhood hurt to be happy, you will never be happy. Waiting for happiness to find you is like waiting for the cosmos to realize it’s your birthday. The cosmos has other things to do than throw you a party, so throw your own.
The sun shines on the miserable and the happy alike. Both have a chance to enjoy the sun’s beauty, but it takes a lifting of one’s head to feel a moment of happiness. A person who keeps lifting their head to see the sun might start a habit of tiny moments of happiness.
I’ve experimented with pretending that I am the person I want to be. I experience the happiness of it, and go about the day in my pretend-happy. It’s amazing. Things seem easier. I notice the light between the shadows. I see how blessed I am and how much love surrounds me. Sometimes wearing my magical, ridiculously-flowery rain coat helps. And you know what? People smile at me. Suddenly I realize that I am the center of my own happiness. It originated with me, and it radiates from me and makes others happier too. What a revelation! Happiness was always inside me. The trick is in the execution. Life gets in the way.
We are all in the process of becoming. We can influence what we become, one moment at a time. Either we hold the reins or we let the past determine our course. Time to tame the wild horses.
How can I say these things? Surely I have not felt true misery and pain, you say. Not true. Those who know me personally know that I am the real deal. This happy thing is rather new to me. I’m still trying it on for size.
Each person’s misery is in some ways unspeakable. Misery always feels isolated. Connecting with others tips the scale. Connecting with yourself even more so.
Misery is addictive and can be a comfortable currency to buy attention from others. But be happy and you will eventually get attention from others who resolve to be happy and not let misery control them.
Don’t get me wrong. Happiness isn’t all parties and sunshine. My happiness is a work in progress on my way to becoming the person that I want to be. I try to experience my misery as it is happening and when some good might come from it. Working through an issue. Seeking a revelation. Small doses of misery to balance other emotions. And then I try to lift my head to the sun. Happiness is a muscle that gets easier to flex with use.
To borrow from my father, what’s the worst that could happen if you choose to be happy? You relinquish your misery and all that you feed from it. You start afresh, destination unknown. Scary stuff. Who knows what happiness even looks like? What if happiness feels miserable? Well, you can always go back.
OK, but what is the best that could happen if you choose to be happy?
Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy. – Anne Frank