Inside: Happiness is a choice for most of us, much of the time. I don’t have to wait until I lose weight, resolve all struggle in my life, or gather up 3 degrees to my name. I don’t have to wait till I’m married or divorced or until I find my dream job. I don’t need more stuff, better weather, a bigger budget or a smaller body, or to be any different from who I already am. Now is a perfect time to be happy.
While I generally think of happiness as linked to external circumstances and joy a more internal, deeply rooted thing that is less easily shaken, I’m not sure it really matters. Because I want both.
I want joy AND I want to feel happy. I think you want to feel happy.
And I think happiness, like joy, is mostly a choice. For most of us, much of the time.
Sometimes we or people we love live with severe depression or other hard life circumstances and can no longer make this choice – we need compassionate community, access to quality health care and other services and support to lift us up or keep us alive. Needing help is not a reflection of worth or character – we are human in a messy world.
I don’t always feel happy. Sometimes I feel afraid, horribly anxious, deeply depressed. I have buried people I love and walked through horrendous physical pain. I have felt awkward and messy and broken. Happiness was not on my radar in those moments. And yet.
And yet, I believe happiness is still my choice.
I see my struggle and want to continue to learn and mature. But I get to choose happiness each step of the journey.
It is my choice to believe that I am inherently worthy and deserve compassion and have small gifts to offer this broken world.
I make mistakes and sometimes wish I were different. But it is my choice to pull my brain and heart back into this present moment and decide to be happy now.
I don’t have to wait.
I don’t have to wait until I lose weight or stop struggling in life or gather up 3 degrees to my name. I don’t have to wait till I’m married or divorced or until I find my dream job.
Whether I run marathons or limp along with a cane, live in abundance or count my meagre pennies, today is a perfectly fine day to be exuberantly happy. Or quietly, solemnly happy.
I am proud of myself for living aligned with my values: for resting and rewiring the thought that I am perpetually behind. And for trying new things and jumping into adventures because this is also part of who I am. But even as I do these things I want to do, I feel inadequate or unskilled or realize I’m really just bumbling my way along, inexpertly.
I’m imperfect and life is imperfect but I decide to be happy now anyway.
I’m no Pollyanna although I think my wiring is to always scan for beauty, for the good in the world and in the people I meet.
I strongly believe it is necessary, critical, to acknowledge the truth of all our pain and fear, our struggle and jealousy and anger and brokenness. To see it for what it is and break off the shame that tells us because we are imperfect therefore we are unworthy or unacceptable or not good enough. These are untruths – dangerous lies – and they should be challenged.
We can see the truth, own it, and still be happy.
Just like it’s not my job to love you, but yours, it’s not my job or anyone’s job to make you happy. It’s yours. You get to do the work. You get to learn new skills or habits or ways of rewiring the thought patterns that have circled relentlessly through your brain and heart for far too long. Ask for help as you need it, but ultimately the choice is yours.
This is part of how you can decide to live each day; make the radical decision to be happy.
We can have no idea what our future holds and be anxious about that and decide to show up curious and open, if not excited, to each new day.
We can be in the thick of a painful season of life but open ourselves up to the idea that joy and pain can coexist. That I can hate the circumstance but receive the small, bright moments of happiness that flit my way.
We can rip off the mask and tear down the facade with our own bare hands and refuse to hide or pretend anymore that we have life figured out or even feel up to the challenge.
And the strange thing is that it’s precisely when we refuse to hide that happiness begins to grow.
We’ve torn down the ramshackle walls that blocked our spirits from the light and now they begin to sprout and thrive.
And if we water and speak words of encouragement to ourselves, now happiness takes root and grows shoots and becomes a bushy thing that crowds out the weeds of unforgiveness and old wounds and even despair.
But it’s also true that even when you choose to be happy or you pick up joy and wear it like a garment – life will not magically become easy. You will fall back into old patterns and need to stay on guard. You will forget that you are gifted and acceptable. Sometimes other people will attempt to heap their own shame and pain upon you. And you will need to wrestle and question and fight your way back again. All the way back to happy.
That’s ok. At least you’re fighting. You’re in the game, showing up.
Don’t wait for tomorrow. Be happy now.