Happiness is a choice. Of course, there are degrees of chemical imbalance that can influence mood; but often happiness, and the ability to stay within that mental framework, takes work.
Over the weekend a friend of mine shared that happiness can only be experienced fully if deep sadness is known. Not to say that our lives need to be catastrophic to experience true joy, but our spectrum of emotion changes—it becomes a broader range when we confront adversity.
Happiness comes to us by focusing on the positive. Many consider this to be the American “blind optimism” approach. I believe that the effort to be happy is separate from this two-dimensional notion.
I strive for happiness because I am aware of the depths of sadness. I empathize with people’s pain on my morning metro commute. As the train shakes, squeals, and 1970’s lights flicker as we go towards the depths of hell on a Monday morning, I empathize collectively with people’s pain. Sometimes I wonder if I begin to absorb it. I care too much.
I strive to be optimistic because I can identify communal pain. I know how tears can lead to a dead end. While okay to cry for release, the self-induced sobs that are aroused from stressful images on repeat lead you nowhere but further down.
I want to be happy.
Bell Hooks writes that our culture suffers from lack of love and compassion. The “lack” is a disease.
It is love that creates connection. It is love that builds community. It is love that can establish a healthy identity. And it is love that can heal and create a sense of belonging and safe haven where we can journey towards, find, and establish a sense of peace. Here, societal additives and material decorations matter less.
I am the light and so are you. (Feel corny yet? …wait there’s more)
Hooks reminded me that we are social animals. If you isolate an ape in a cage you will see him start to decline in health. And we too will die an emotional death if we choose to abstain from connection.
Not to say that being alone is unimportant. I’m writing right now. Alone. But to ultimately share my light.
For the sake of my conscience I must:
- Recognize my desire to be happy
- Look acutely at what deters me from this goal (looking towards the past)
- Forgive myself for being imperfect and human
- And recognize my gifts. What is my light? How do I share it with the world?
These thoughts lead to self actualization, satisfaction, and contentment even when we haven’t gotten the perfect job, made enough money, found the “perfect” partner….None of these variables incorporated into your life, together, will improve your perspective on life if you’re not seeking contentment in the ordinary first.
We become happy when we learn how to perceive light—the positives—and identify how to share our own. This can begin when we forgive ourselves for being human.
Perfectly imperfect we share ourselves, and therefore the best version(s) of ourselves. With this mindset, we create our own haven of love and connection when we identify our true selves, accept our vulnerability, and reach out to others in this experience. When this happens, all other wants and needs become less important.
We will never be true experts. We must recognize that there will always be more to:
….than we could ever conceptually do in one lifetime. But when we situate ourselves within a community, we realize that we don’t have to have or know it all. Our light burns more brightly when we recognize how we can share it with others and complement the community.