What’s your happy?

Is it a physical place? Is it a person? Is it a thing you find or carry with you? Is it a memory? Or is it simply being?

I write this while basking in the embrace of my long-time happy: the mountains. So, partial to personal locale, I originally began with, “what’s your happy place,” assuming all else required the elusive achievement of enlightenment. Ha! How silly…and yet, I think it is safe to say that most of us will answer that “happy” is inspired by or dependent upon something more tangible than existence alone. We covet our things in this life: our connections and our possessions both physical and thought-based. Having not (yet?) found enlightenment myself and selfishly not wanting to undermine the beauty I feel when happy, I’ll also say that I think that it is OK. Selfish happiness has a place in this world. If for no other reason than having something that makes you happy has the potential to make you a kinder and more generous person. Not to say that happiness and niceness always coexist, but perhaps we can agree that happy people are more likely to be nice to those around them than people who are grouchy and mean.

I digress! So, what’s your happy? Why do I even bother asking? Because it’s important! Why? Because how are you ever to live a happy-dominant life if you don’t know what gets you there? And I don’t mean get there for a minute, I mean the kind of happy that seizes control of your every essence and saturates your heart with contentment, causing it to pump out HAPPY! through the arteries and perfuse every fiber of your being. The kind of happy that leaves you wanting nothing but to feel it forever; you have found what makes you hum and with it, you are bigger than you’ve ever imagined you can be and smaller and more humble than you’ve felt before. Yes? Know it? Or are you raising your eyebrows and sick of reading? It’s not the gluten-free, sea salt, organic cricket granola talking, this is real- it CAN be real, you just have to find what brings it about, latch onto it, and then work to achieve that in your every day. Easy!

Letting yourself feel happiness- be it in the form of excitement or ease, can be a challenge. Correction – a massive, seemingly insurmountable challenge. In our society, happiness carries so many negative connotations- especially if you live in a big city. Happy people are lazy…happy people selfish…happy people have no ambition…happy people don’t put enough emphasis on what really matters in life…really?? What value does anything in life have if you’re not happy? It’s why money can’t buy happiness…it can just buy things you like and make yourself and others more comfortable, maybe making it easier to find happiness, but those are two very different things.

Happiness has suffered a great devaluation somewhere along the history of mankind. I think about how long it took me to forgive myself for wanting to be happy. How ridiculous that looks now, jotted down in type. But, it’s true. I felt such overwhelming GUILT for wanting to be happy. The years, months, weeks, days, until I finally felt the weight of my unhappiness in every second of the day. I actually had a continuous countdown in my mind to the moment when I would be allowed to be happy. Look at that sentence! Sure, there were positive moments, but nothing pervasive. I could barely even imagine what that would mean. All I knew for sure was that it was going to be sublime, if I could ever get there. And then, l realized I might get there, but what would be left of me when I did? Who would I be? Not the person I wanted to be, of that I was positive. Why did I have to suffer to become a person I would not want to be around? It is a terribly awful feeling to not even want to be around yourself. To know with every passing moment that you would rather be somewhere else in life; I mean to really know in your bones that you were not where you were supposed to be. I would ask myself daily why I was making myself suffer, why I was so unhappy, and believe me you, I had answers. So did my family. They all centered around guilt, expectations, norms…not happiness. With the help of a beloved friend, I was reminded (OK, to be honest, it was pounded into my thick skull that had thankfully been dampened by all the tears), that it was OK to want to be happy and to take steps to make that happen. Phew! How hard that was to accept! I hadn’t fully accepted it when I started making changes, but at least I started to believe it. I had to endure the disapproval of friends and colleagues, and you might as well if you decide to refocus your life around being happy. It’s not easy- in fact, it was the most difficult thing I have ever done. But, I can now proudly say that it was the single bravest thing I have ever done.

So, here the great big secret happy people know – YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY!! No excuses. None. Thinking of a time you were less than stellar? Of debts owed? Of obligations? Not to dismiss what have clearly arisen as important objections, but they don’t negate your right to happiness. You don’t have to earn it. You were born- congratulations! You earned the right to be happy in the split second you took that first breath. You don’t have to endure a path of misery to make the happiness sweeter. Start getting used to the concept. Roll the word around on your tongue. See how it feels to say, “I am happy.” Imagine what it would feel like to shout it out into the wind. It might take days, months, years to get there; it might take a courage you’ve never dreamed of and all the love and support of those around you, but you CAN CHOOSE to be happy.

So, what’s your happy? Think about it. You’re on your way.