Happiness and Becoming

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.

Airplane the cat hasn't learned that some obstacles are an illusion

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.

I felt deep sadness that there wasn't a baby shower for either baby after my high-risk pregnancies. No sense of community welcoming. I felt that no one cared they had arrived. We decided to have Everyone's Here Cake to celebrate our family.

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.

The magical raincoat

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.

Stomping in the river

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

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20 thoughts on “Happiness and Becoming

    1. I think the more we put our thoughts out into the world, the more we find kindred spirits and minds. I’m grateful to have met Natasha.

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  1. This is such a great post. I’ve been thinking about it all day and it actually inspired me to write my own post today.

    As someone who battles depression, the notion of creating your own happiness is sometimes hard to imagine. But it can be very empowering to think this way.

    Our pediatrician once told me that “sleep begets sleep” for babies, meaning the more babies nap, the better they will sleep at night. This is very similar to your point that happiness is a muscle that’s easier to use with practice. Being happy (or trying to) will help draw other happy people to you and it will help you welcome further happiness into your life.

    Thank you for writing this and encouraging me to think about if. It really resonated with me during a time when I’ve been searching for my own happiness.

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  2. I love your magical, ridiculously-flowery rain coat. It gives a reason to be happy on a grey day that could be so gloomy.

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  3. Beth, it is on gloomy days that we most need a reason to smile. I also have a magical umbrella that is black on the outside and a clear blue sky with white fluffy clouds inside.

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  4. There’s a psychological phenomenon called Rumination in which repetitively focusing on distress and misery puts one at risk for depression. We’ve all ruminated from time to time, but I try to pull myself out of it after about ten minutes, which some see as a threshold for passing into ruminative thoughts. Constantly seeking balance and doing the best we can!

    There’s more on rumination here: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/01/20/why-ruminating-is-unhealthy-and-how-to-stop/

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  5. So very true! And a special reminder for me today. I believe the wisdom you echo in this post is a law of nature. Gravity…. happiness…. I can’t help but think of this:
    Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
    Thank you so much for sharing your heart. I love the way you incorporate pics… they way you enclose them with beautifully engraved word-frames.

    Also, where does one find such a magical umbrella??

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  6. You have such a gift with words! You’re right, like everything else we choose in life, happiness is a choice we have to make. Thank you for being such an encouragement to me today!

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  7. Love this post, and can’t agree more on it. I remember going through the task of keeping happy while I was sick and how easy it was to slip away. This clearly reminds me of that struggle. And knowing you I know exactly how good you are at being and spreading happiness in spite of all. Love you friend, and I clearly remember your sunny umbrella! ;-)

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  8. When I first met my hubby he used to tell me that Happiness was a decision. I never believed him back then… I was still firmly entrenched in “victim mentality” but he was right… EVERYTHING is a decision and we are never powerless. A wonderful encouraging post, at a time when I really needed it. Thanks so much.

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  9. Hi! Natasha…I love reading your blogs! Especially this one as I consider myself totally vulnerable to rumination,and someone who has taken long to understand how to be happy in life! I haven’t completely reached but have arrived…! Thanks! For uplifting our souls! And showing the way!

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    1. Thanks for the kind comment, Sangeetaa, but this isn’t Natasha (although she is a friend). :) This is Kat (@beingmama on twitter). I don’t think any of us ever “arrive” completely. There is always another wonderful surprise around the corner and another dusty corner to clear. Happiness continues to unfold. Best to you on your journey, Sangeetaa!

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