Inside: we need to uproot the story that happiness and struggle cannot coexist. That it’s one or the other so that we can allow for both, not in the same exact moment but within the same day or the same week. Or so that we can make space for the fullness of being awake and alive in this glorious, messy world. This resource page includes 10 posts, an interview, and more resources to help you find happiness in the middle of this messy world.
This week was hard. Like desperately wanting to anesthetize myself hard.
I can also say with complete honesty that there were many beautiful, even happy moments all tangled up with the pain.
They looked like laughing with my girls, walks with my husband, bids for connection with my girlfriends, celebrating my husband’s birthday one day late since his actual birthday marked 6 months since our son left. Happiness looked like sitting in the spring sunshine on my front steps, picking up some raspberry canes and strawberry plants from someone thinning out her beds, watching movies and eating popcorn with my daughters.
Happiness felt like the gratitude and hope that came from connecting with a newer friend – another mama whose beloved son Jared ended his life just 5 days apart from my son Jairus ending his (this may not seem like a happy thing but we understand each other and this creates a feeling of belonging and reminds us we are not broken or doing this “wrong” when the pain feels like too much).
Happiness felt like showing up to my work in the ways I was able (which wasn’t a lot but this doesn’t necessarily matter): being able to write “micro-stories” again, engaging with the women in the Brave & Beautiful community, and pursuing purpose and meaning or contribution rather than happiness itself.
Martin Seligman teaches that there are 3 routes to happiness: pleasure or positive emotion, engagement, and meaning. A person who uses all three routes to happiness leads the “full life” and these people enjoy far greater life satisfaction. I’m building a full life.
This is an interesting thing about happiness – it often slips through our fingers if we’re focused on pleasure or pursuing happiness itself. But when we use our strengths or gifting to engage in meaningful pursuits (things that light us up and pull us into flow but don’t always feel comfortable or easy), or we look for ways to love and build and serve in a way that connects us to something bigger than ourselves and our own needs or even our own pain – we often stumble upon happiness as a delightful side-benefit.
Happiness and pain or struggle are not at war with each other. They can coexist in a full, beautiful, very imperfect life.
I think this is something we need to grapple with – we need to uproot the story that it’s one or the other so that we can allow for both, not in the same exact moment but within the same day or the same week. Or so that we can make space for the fullness of being awake and alive in this glorious, messy world.
I choose to live with a sense of humour.
I choose to be honest about grief and pain.
I choose to live fully awake (and to be gentle on myself on days when the pain is too much and I want an escape).
I choose to love myself – my body that looks like it has aged years in the past six months alone, my heart of compassion, my sense of humour, my hard-fought wisdom, my hurting self that can tip into judgment and rage at the injustices of this world, my desire for growth and healing. All of it.
I choose to be happy right here in the middle of my messy life.
Don’t give up on happiness – while we can’t control all of our life circumstances, we can choose small, intentional, daily habits that help us build a full, beautiful life.
10 of the many POSTS I’VE WRITTEN on the how of HAPPINESS
I Joyfully Decluttered These 5 Things to Boost Happiness
My 40’s have undoubtedly been the hardest and best years of my life so far. This has been a season of learning to let go of what no longer serves. Read the full post here.
This is the Key to Happiness
We are handcrafted as artists and creators and it’s not our job to mould ourselves into someone else’s image but to pick up our own hammer and craft a box of our very own. Read the full post.
Now is a Perfect Time to Be Happy
Sometimes I feel afraid, horribly anxious, deeply depressed. I have buried people I love and felt awkward, messy, and broken. And yet, I believe happiness is still my choice. Read the full post.
How to Start Each Week With a Mindful & Happy Monday
Whether you love Monday mornings or they’re the bane of your existence, your happiness is likely to increase when you live mindfully and seasonally. Read the full post.
9 “Bad Habits” I Think You Should Adopt for a Happy Life
For a happy life you might need to push back against many of the ideals you’ve clung to for years. You might even choose to joyfully disregard much of the wisdom du jour. Read the full post.
Why You Should Be Happy That it’s All In Your Head
If you could swallow a pill and that pill would make you healthier, stronger, faster, smarter, happier, would you take it? What if there were no side-effects and it was close to free? Read the post.
Why Feeling Stuck Might Actually Be a Happy Thing
Feeling stuck can be an opportunity to be still, tune out the noise, and listen in to what you most want and need before stepping out into purposeful action once again. Read the full post.
5 Powerful Strategies for a Joyful Midlife and Beyond
Martha Beck writes “since our society equates happiness with youth, we often assume that sorrow, quiet desperation, and hopelessness go hand in hand with getting older. They don’t.” Read the post.
8 Affirming Books that Helped Me Love Life More
These books were kind companions through a season of healing and growth. They helped me learn to love myself and they helped me love life more. Even the messy bits. Read the post.
This is My Beautiful, Real Life
I’ve tasted sorrow and loss but joy and pleasure too and I choose to just be present to each step of the journey. And I remember – this is my beautiful, real life. Read the full post.
Happiness Bundle: The Build a Right-Sized Life, Befriend Yourself, and Happiness mini-courses – $87 USD
This material is offered to help you put down stronger roots of self-awareness and self-compassion so that you can take imperfect action toward showing up fully to the life in front of you and in a way that aligns with your core values and honours your wiring.
52 Mondays: Seasonal Mindfulness Journal Series –$ 11 USD
These journals & seasonal reflections (one for every Happy Monday of the year) are handcrafted to help you walk mindfully and awake through life and mine for the gifts in every season. Every Monday is a fresh opportunity to remember who and how you want to be in the world. Each of the seasonal journals provides 13 weeks of reflections and prompts that invite you to pause and consider, along with space for your own writing.
I think you’ll also appreciate my interview with Marc and Angel of marcandangel.com on Seeking Happiness in Hard Seasons:
Marc and Angel use The Work of Byron Katie and at one point when Marc talks about flipping a thought to its opposite, he’s referring to the four questions and turn around that Katie teaches. I do not agree with all of Byron Katie’s work/teaching (and as always, we need to take what serves us and leave the rest.)
It feels critical to acknowledge that “The Work” and other ideas like it can be harmful when not used with great care and sensitivity (or with a social equity lens) – in particular when they place ownership or consequences for trauma, abuse, mental illness etc., on the shoulders of the person who walked through the horrible circumstance. Nor do I believe in manifesting or that we alone are responsible for where we’re at in life, which allows people to shirk responsibility for unjust and oppressive systems or other pain which we do not ask for and can be one more way of retraumatizing, shaming, blaming victims of abuse.
Having said all that, in a dark season of life I was introduced to the book Loving What Is by Byron Katie, and it helped me practice surrender or the idea of radical acceptance for the truth of where I was at and the reality of my life. Radical acceptance doesn’t mean we approve of what has happened, but that we do not deny the messy, very imperfect reality of what is. Growth, healing, accountability, advocating for ourselves, a sense of agency and resilience, and finding our way forward can come from this place.
Zina Harrington of Becoming Unbusy talks with me about building a sustainable and “right-sized” life by “Becoming Unbusy” and how the tools of financial freedom and modern minimalism can help us move closer to the life we want.