I am finally at a point in my life when I am done with the crazy. All I want is to be happy and live life on my own terms. But there are so many barriers.
I want to say that conditioning and society are significant hurdles for me, but they aren’t. In many ways, I’ve always walked to the beat of my own drum, albeit with a little guilt, shame, and confusion thrown in. The struggle is in remaining true to myself and not getting sucked into the hype. My biggest hurdle is people, life. I fear that my grasp on happy is so fragile that it is tested every single day. There’s the pissy coworker that stirs up so many negative feelings because they are a constant reminder of the toxicity and imbalance in the office. The arguments with my husband that always feel like a sign of the end. The news. Social media. Being a parent.
Basically, sometimes I feel like I will only be happy if I am 100% alone with no internet access. But, of course, then I’d be lonely. But now I understand why so many philosophers and spiritual leaders spent months or years alone. There is freedom in solitude. Still, it didn’t last for them, and it certainly won’t last long for me.
Since I won’t be sitting alone in the woods for months, that makes happiness seem completely unattainable.
That can’t be right. Happiness cannot be predicated on situations, circumstances, and people. That way lies perfectionism, and I’m 1000% sure that living life that way will guarantee unhappiness.
Upon reflection, I realized my idea of happiness is situational. It’s the happiness of a day at the beach or an amusement park. Don’t get me wrong. That kind of happiness is still wonderful, still necessary, but it is not what I am looking for. In realizing the difference, I am able to understand what I need to be happy.
Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. Intellectually, I have a working theory of what I need to be happy. In reality, I can now identify some of what’s missing in my life that leads to me being unhappy.
The first thing I needed to change was my definition and ideations of happiness. In my head, happy me is a glowing goddess, constantly laughing and smiling and always unbothered. Nope. As I am a mere earthly creature, that is not possible. Happiness is not having a perfect, flawless, conflict-free life. It isn’t constant smiles and perpetual unruffled feathers. Meaning, I can want to cuss someone out and still be happy! Again, happiness is not situational. It’s internal, like peace of mind. This is comforting because the happy glowy thing doesn’t work for me, and I really like to cuss.
Now that I have a revised definition, the hindrances to my happy are glaringly obvious. I crave quiet time, free time, and writing time but rarely have either. I crave being surrounded by things that make me smile. My job is filled with more tasks that frustrate me than those that make me feel fulfilled. And, no matter how much I try, I find it’s difficult to feel present in my body even if my mind is present in the moment; the two are rarely aligned and in agreement. Nearly everything in my life is a responsibility or obligation. The list of things that bring me joy is pretty small, and the furnishing and items around me do not bring me joy. And despite my best wishes, I am practically a sitcom mom. You know the one. She loves her family but is five seconds away from losing her ever-loving mind. It’s not my family, but rather the imbalance of not meeting my own needs, which are so simple yet elusive.
Side note. Apparently, people do learn to respect your boundaries, as long as you do. Slack off, make too many exceptions, or backslide, and all bets are off. You’ve got to start from square one.
The saddest part of all this is the future has started to feel like a burden. Not in an “I don’t want to live” way, but in an “Oh, there’s so much work to do” way.
I have been battling myself since covid. Somedays, I feel like multiple people with dissimilar desires. Mostly, I feel like go-getter me got mauled by the hibernating bear me some time back in November. The poor girl was swallowed whole. There’s not even an earring left. I have lost all interest in hustling, proving myself, and climbing the ladder. In fact, I want to knock the ladder down, disassemble it, and build an elevator. I’m over capitalism and inequity. I am done with all the boxes I’ve been asked to squeeze myself into. And I’m over the bull. I wish I were a witch so I could make a BS blocker. Then I’d sell it everywhere, be a trillionaire, and… Well, let’s be real. No good has ever come from someone having that much money and all the power that comes with it. Also, I digressed.
I just want to be happy! I thought the past held the keys to my recovery and happiness. Like, if I could just recreate that period, I’d be whole again. But it doesn’t work that way. I should have known because The Lion King is my favorite movie, and Rafiki is wise.
I’m not the same. My wants and dreams are not the same. Though my past holds a lot of clues and explanations, it cannot heal me. In fact, I have to heal it. And living there keeps me trapped, locked in a vicious cycle of what-ifs, remember when, and spent potential.
I lived my best life then and made amazing memories. But it wasn’t the end of my life, so I need to learn to make the best of the life I have now.
Here’s what I know. Being happy can’t be added to a 3-page to-do list. Meditation won’t give me a permanent smile. Therapy can’t fix what I don’t yet see or won’t yet face.
All this means happiness really does have to be intentional, nurtured, and cultivated. I can’t force it with a thought or mantra. I can’t take a pill or sip the right wine. And lord knows I wish exercising gave me that high others get. But, sadly, it does not. Most importantly, being happy won’t prevent me from wanting to cuss out an entitled, whiny coworker, customer, or rude shopper. Happy or not, my temper will still flair quick and burn hot and fast.
Three years ago, I thought I would be done by now. Fit, fabulous, and happy. Instead, I’m chubby, questioning, and annoyed. And that’s okay. I am where I’m supposed to be. If my journey had stopped two years ago, I would have never learned to stop using productivity at work and home to make me happy and prove my worth. I would have never learned my worth.
Sometimes you have to hear something multiple times before it resonates. “Be here now” has been showing up in my life for over six months. Again, I thought I was doing it. That is until I realized that I was having panic attacks again and not even recognizing them as such. Read that again. Crazy right? What’s crazier is six panic attacks in less than two months for someone living in the moment and practicing self-care…
Look, I’m not saying self-care and mindfulness will eliminate my anxiety entirely. I am saying that if I was actually living mindfully, it would not have taken two months to recognize my own panic attacks. Truthfully, it’s just not ingrained in me yet. Happiness, mindfulness, peace of mind, and spirituality are all life goals. Works in progress. So, when things get a little challenging, my brain switches on the autopilot and goes right back to my defaults.
I want to be disappointed because I hate that I lost control and lost touch with myself. I hate that old habits die hard, but I’ve learned enough to give myself grace. More, the simple act of adjusting my definition and vision of a happy life has saved my sanity. Happiness is not an algebraic equation. It’s not even an if-then statement. I was thinking about happiness the way we’ve all been taught. Follow a set of rules or achieve a set of goals, and you will be happy. Immaculately organized house, drama-free job, harmony at home, banging body, discretionary funds, travel…
You see? When does it end? What happens if I have all but one of those? Will I still be happy? What if achieving all of them causes something else to be out of flow? Can happiness prevail? Can I be happy if my current situation is all there is for me, if this is as good as it gets? Happiness has to be more than the reward for checking a set of boxes, or it will never be attained. It’s a constant moving target.
So, what in the world does all that mean? Well, nothing if I don’t make impactful permanent changes. If I don’t change, I’ll be writing a similar post next year after the burnout of 2022 is over. I achieved all my goals, and it made me sad and anxious, and being unable to conjure new goals made me question my worth. Checking that last box did not make me happy. It made me question everything around me. So I had to reevaluate my outlook on life, goals, and happiness. Right now, I’m in the discovery stage. All I know for sure is that I need to tip the balance to increase the things that bring me joy and make me smile, and decrease things that feel like a burden. Some tasks, like buying more purple clothes, will be as simple as swiping my card. Others will be harder, like not absorbing other people’s bad moods. Either way, my happiness is worth it.