Anyone think that by chasing happiness, your life is gonna magically turn itself around?
That if you could just be happy, dadgumit, your rivers of worries and heartaches would align with the sea and flow effortlessly out of sight, cleansing your life and freeing you to get on with the important stuff.
Imagine. If that happened, you could finally organize your side hustle or join a dodge ball league or a million other things that call to you in the middle of the night while you deconstruct your life’s choices, trying like hell to figure out where everything bottlenecks and just goes to shit.
When life is better, when I’m happier about, well, everything, that’s when I’ll get to the good stuff.
Yeah, I used to think so too.
I’m here to let you in on the not so secret secret of how to make your life exponentially better (by the time you finish reading this post).
Pop Culture drives the happiness movement.
SHARE THE HAPPY!
WHY THE HELL AIN’T YOU HAPPY, HOMBRE?!
I will say that I consider myself a realistic optimist.
Realist: a person who understands what is real and possible in a particular situation and is able to deal with problems in an effective and practical way.
Optimist: a person who habitually expects good things to happen.
Doesn’t mean I’m happy all the time, just means I get life and understand that one can move through ups and downs in a manner that doesn’t equate to pop culture standards of an exaggerated state of being.
(In my head, and now here, I said to myself as I wrote those words: Fuck that noise.)
Let me explain…
Happiness is a feeling that doesn’t swim well with life’s vicious shark attacks.
Happiness is the little fish that gets chomped in the process of life’s school of ruthless sharks descending on your lovely beach.
I can’t imagine that when life’s SHARK WEEK! happens to you, your thoughts will run to happiness, or that you will try to remember happiness in that moment.
Or, maybe that is entirely my failing. Maybe you will find your happiness while bleeding out.
Optimism is an entirely different thang.
There you are on the beach, an arm severed, wondering how in the hell you’re going to survive, knowing the reality of your situation is dire, when suddenly, someone offers help. Suddenly your reality has a bit of hope, you might get through your shark attack and be able to move forward.
It might be a just glimmer, but that’s optimism.
The side-eye I give to the happiness movement is that it leaves a trail of guilt in its wake. BE HAPPY, DADGUMIT! Um, no can do at the moment. Can’t you see that life is trying to kill me?! ~arm spurting blood with each heartbeat~
I have enough to feel guilty about in my life: snarky comments, too much cake (wait. is that even a thing?!), staring at my smartphone too long in others presence, knee-jerk eye rolls, pretending I’m asleep so Garry lets Dex outside on a weekend morning, sharing fart jokes with someone who obviously does not appreciate funny sounding body functions.
To add BE HAPPY! to that list when the reality of whatever shark attack I’m moving through at the moment is decidedly NOT HAPPY, seems like I’m hammering my own thumb…on purpose. No thanks.
Instead, I’ll remain my optimistic realist self. I’ll know that while happiness is not required to live a good and healthy life, and it’s lovely to feel and I’m sure I’ll feel it over and over again in my life, the difference will be that my happiness will be a natural occurrence, a byproduct of living and not thinking about doing.
Which really makes me wonder: is happiness something you can teach a person to be?
Sure, there are traits of happy folks, there are meditations to dwell on, there are smiles to wear and hearts to shift, but is the actual place of being happy, a teachable, tangible, emotion?
If it is, then it seems as if I could teach myself to be angry all the time, too (not gonna happen, but come on, play along).
The thought of teaching myself to be angry is laughable. FYI: I’m not talking about righteous anger here. I’m talking the simple act of feeling angry when stuff happens. BE ANGRY, DADGUMIT! Logically, we know that method probably won’t work. Plus, it certainly isn’t necessary.
My reasoning is if it doesn’t work for one emotion, it most likely won’t for another.
I’ll hang on to my natural traits of being an optimistic realist, instead. Doesn’t mean everything goes my way. Doesn’t mean that it’s a false put-on. Doesn’t mean I have to force the feelings. I don’t even think it’s a choice for me. DNA and all.
While it would be amazing to feel happy for the majority of the time, while moving through this life, I think so much of what we read about needing is a direct effect of folks feeling emotions that aren’t in the happy realm, the emotions that aren’t as socially acceptable as a giant HAPPY. It’s tough to be sad and depressed and upset. Yet, those are also healthy emotions to feel, you know, as long as you work through those badboys.
With pop culture breathing down our necks if we express anything other than the sweet light of all is well, it makes sense that we see so many imploring us to BE HAPPY, DADGUM IT!
I don’t think it’s that easy; I don’t think manufactured happiness is necessary to living a good and healthy life.
I’ll take my realistic optimism and on the days I’m having a happy, I’ll be grateful for it. I’m just not going to dwell on making that my emotion of choice.
So, how does one, how can one, make their life exponentially better knowing that happiness may be elusive?
Lean in, my babies, for here is the not so secret secret:
Appreciating, accepting, the right here, the right now, of your life.
I tell no lies.
When you can appreciate what you have and where you are, it demands you clear a space in your mind and heart.
You will find joy. A joy that transcends happiness.
You know when you plan a trip and you carry the joy of what will be around with you, right up to embarking on the trip? Then, maybe, the trip falls short of your expectations? When you appreciate the here – the now – of what it is you DO have – it won’t matter.
The upside is that your unmet expectations will turn into a much-told anecdote that bears the fruit of compounded joy.
Appreciating what you have, when you have it, makes room for the kind of happiness that actually makes a difference in our lives.
You can’t Amazon Prime that shit. (don’t ask me how I know)
You can’t download it into your psyche.
You can’t drink/eat/drug your way to the Yellow Brick Road.
The external fades; the internal stays.
Look around you.
Appreciation in its most simplistic form is recognizing that you have shelter, electricity and food.
Scoff if you’d like, but Google how many don’t have the basics. Sobering.
Does someone love you? Amazing. Hope you appreciate their love.
Do you have a pet? Give ’em a squeeze. Unless it’s a porcupine – then maybe a well-distanced smile o’appreciation.
Do you have books to read? A smart phone? Shoes you love? A car that works?
Do you have a bed? Pillows? A working bathroom?
Do you have neighbors that wave hello (or throw you a stay-off-my-lawn old man fist)? Do you have a favorite grocery store? Are you employed?
I’ll stop. You get it.
We don’t need no stinkin’ manufactured happiness. We need appreciation, which will drive joy, which will f’in’ change your life.
Appreciate where you are and what you have for a few days, then come back and tell me if your life isn’t exponentially better for the acknowledgement.
It’s the secret sauce of success (in all things), y’all.
Go. Appreciate. Live a better life.
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