Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Happiness Happens...or not

"Solitary Cloud" | 20"x16" | Acrylic on Masonite

Driving to the infusion center today I heard on the radio that today is “Happiness Happens” day. I paused to think about that phrasing.

No, it doesn’t. Little happiness fairies do not just follow us around blowing twinkling mood-enhancing pixie dust on us with their glittering wings while unicorns prance around leaving rainbows in their wake. No matter how much I wish it were true.

In the past few weeks, I have had a third cousin diagnosed with stage four cancer, lost a family member to suicide and watched a friend deal with a life-threatening/life-altering injury to his youngest daughter. I’ve had my own struggles trying to drum up enough work to pay for my vital infusions and fears about having to find new health insurance with my pre-existing conditions. The mythical creatures of happiness are not real, but thankfully the state of happiness is and it’s just as vital to me as my infusions.

While I’m sure there are people that this might be true for; people who do walk around in a never-ending state of bliss. For the most part, I believe happiness takes work and is often a conscious choice. Each of us have challenges in our lives whether it's health related, financial, conflicts with family, losses of any type, past or current trauma and often more than one going on at the same time. We may face these issues at specific points in our lives or are forced to confront them every day. It’s understandable to be consumed by anger, fear and sadness. I think that’s the easier path to take; to sink into a mode where you no longer enjoy the world around you. You no longer see the good in it and it can be nearly impossible to pull yourself out of that alone.

I choose happiness. It’s not an easy road and people expect it to be. Why should you have to work to be happy? I don’t think humans as a whole have evolved to accept a state of happiness. We get bored. We provoke conflict. We create problems, but if we learn to redirect this natural tendency, to reframe our lives, we can live meaningfully with purpose and do good in the world. Each and every person has the potential to make a positive difference, to start a ripple that spreads and envelops others. You can turn your darkest hour into a light to lead others. Being happy should have higher value than we currently give it.

I do fail from time to time, but that’s not a reason to give up. I’ve learned to be grateful for what I have rather than mourn for what I’ve lost. I’ve lost a lot. I am grateful for the experiences I was able to have when I was younger. I am grateful for the experiences I have now. I’ve said it many times, but the little daily moments of joy add up to so much more than the “big events” that as a culture we use to mark the passage of time. If you have to miss out on those big moments, you really haven’t lost a lot. We each get to define what is important to us. Those definitions are often in flux and change (and they should) as we progress along the timeline of our life on this planet. I think if you don’t stop and examine your life from time to time, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Change is hard, but necessary and is the only constant.

Today was not a one stick day at the infusion center (see photo below), but for now, I still get my treatments. They work. I have a great team taking care of my health. I am ALIVE and I’m not going to let a little extra pain diminish my gratitude. Look around you and find an object, a moment, a person that made you happy today. Search for these every day. Soon, it will become a natural part of your day to notice the little things. That’s the beginning of making happiness happen. Don't wait for the unicorns. They may never come.

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