Get Happy - Stay Happy
My Dad sent me an email the other day about a picture I posted on Facebook. The photo in question shows me with a rather intense disposition written on my face. “Looks deep son, I hope you were happy when you took that picture.” Was my Dad’s comment on the photo. As usual, Dad’s comment got me thinking. My Dad has always wanted only one thing for me, which is the same thing that we all want for ourselves and the people we love…happiness.
My Aunt asks me point blank on occasion “Are you happy?“ I’ve always found it a strange query. ‘Kind of, yes, I guess so, not really’…what to say?
Every day we are asked this question in a way - ‘hey how’s it going?’ This question is almost always met with the obligatory 'great' (which I find annoying), ‘I’m doing fine’ (the right answer), or ‘oh, gee not great, let me tell you about it (not the right answer, no one cares). The reality is that with the possible exception our family and very closest friends, most people that ask how we are don’t really want to know, they are just making small talk.
Happiness isn’t a subject for public consumption anyhow. It’s a subject for us to evaluate in the privacy of our own thoughts, our conversations with God, our therapists office, and yes, around those closest to us.
As to the question of how we’re doing or are we happy - There are probably 5 to maybe 7 people that truly care how we are doing – they are our ‘A’ team. And that’s if we’re lucky - not everyone has one.
It appears that some people don’t have an ‘A’ team, or maybe even a ‘B’ team for that matter, perhaps just a lot of ‘facebook’ friends. What a strange day and age we live in where people know everyone, but they also know no one. I just read an article on friendships and the vast majority of people polled said they were dissatisfied with their friendships and many admitted have none at all. This despite us living in a time of instantaneous connection - connection without meaning and intimacy it seems. It’s enough to make one unhappy, unless that is you can keep running fast enough.
The other day I was talking with one of those people on my A team about happiness. I was noting that happiness has been a rather fleeting concept for me in recent years. After a very tumultuous period of my life that ended in divorce, I started a new chapter and thankfully a peaceful one. Obviously finding peace was of paramount importance and found it I did. But what people don’t tell you when you find peace is that while the lows aren’t as low, the highs aren’t as high either. This is why people stay in situations of abuse - Drug addicts don’t stay for the hangovers, they stay for the high. People don’t stay in abusive relationships for the abuse, they stay for the make up. Hear hear.
Happiness though isn’t about those highs or lows. It isn’t about a change of location either. The reality is that peaceful scenery comes and goes in our lives. Our locations and relationships will change, but battles will continue to happen regardless of our address. We cannot avoid the lows and we cannot seek happiness in the highs. True happiness and real peace is found outside of people, places, or things…it’s found within.
I have set an intention in my new life in redefining what it is that makes me happy. That has been and continues to be a process. The highs of the passion that I always sought in people, partnerships, or work & ‘fun,’ I now seek as simply a quiet and calm presence of just being myself. In doing so, I don’t have the highs of a 9 or 10 but I don’t have the low’s either. The idea is to get to a solid 8 and stay there…I’m working on it. My friend Tricia and I call it get happy/stay happy. The point is not to seek happiness in the highs that many of us seek - people, passion, distraction, money, recognition, a killer bod. These things ultimately are beyond us and by their inherent nature, temporary. The point is also not to get thrown off by the lows that many of us succumb to – money problems, health issues, relationship problems, stress at work, and so on. These will happen and our job is to accept these things and learn from them.
In order to get happy and stay happy I intend to love more, and live authentically - To like myself and be ‘happy’ regardless of having of the things that bring us highs and despite encountering the things that bring us lows. And so it will be. Like exercise, happiness (and authenticity) is a habit and a practice. The reality is, happiness is a decision. No one and no thing can make you happy and no one can take it away from you either. We decide our thoughts in any given circumstances. One of my favorite books, Mans Search For Meaning states that our only freedom truly is this ability to choose our thoughts. Everything can be potentially taken from us - our health, our money, our family. However, no one and no thing can take our thoughts from us – our thoughts are up to us. If Viktor Frankl could decide not to hate the Nazis that killed his family and destroyed his life’s work, then I can decide to be happy despite not having everything I want.
Only the power of our thoughts/our mind are sustainable for the entire journey here on earth. Even love will disappoint us – people will leave us intentionally or otherwise. As the years pass, I’ve learned that our only real job is to face our thoughts and face ourselves. ‘Happiness’ is there - In facing ourselves and in accepting what we see. Happiness is nothing more than being content with who we are - Regardless of highs or lows, circumstance or goal, or person, place or thing. That is peace. I think this is what Jesus meant by saying the kingdom of God is within you. We spend our whole lives looking for a way to find heaven, and heaven exists all along within us if we are courageous enough to look within and stay there.