Thoughts on Happiness

For most of my life I lived in a state of unhappiness and hopelessness. I was an unhappy child. I spent a lot of time alone, and I cried sometimes for no apparent reason. By the age of 14 I discovered alcohol and drugs that not only helped numb my emotional pain but created a state of euphoria that gave me something to look forward to in life. I spent my teenage years, my 20s, and half of my 30s chasing that euphoria that in the end lasted for about an hour before I numbed out, and numbing out was desirable to feeling depressed.

Every day I’d wake up dreading going to school or work. I hated my life. But I had no idea how anything could be different. People would tell me to accept life, and I thought I was accepting life. I had accepted that my life was miserable, and I’d come to a belief that that’s just how I was, a sad person, and that for some people, maybe most, that’s just how it was. Everyone else seemed able to cope somehow, and I seemed to be able to do the same, because I had a job, a significant other, and a place to live. I didn’t know how others seemed happy, and I thought perhaps they were delusional and only thought they were happy. They couldn’t see that the world and the people in it are terrible.

It’s hard to make someone else understand how I came to accept life on life’s terms, to be content with life on life’s terms, because if you’re like me, you can’t understand it until you live it yourself. It took the experience of real spiritual growth to be able to achieve that kind of happiness. Getting outside of myself and helping others in every area of my life is a big part of how I found and continue to find peace.

Finding peace and happiness is not something I found one day and kept forever. It takes continued practice in all facets of my life, and it’s most difficult to do in the relationships with people I’m closest to. It’s also difficult to do at work, where I often fall short, making the mistake of putting progress or my ego in the disguise of work ahead of spiritual practice. I often forget to help customers and co-workers or my boss at work – or more likely I just don’t want to help them. But I keep working on it day after day, allowing myself mistakes with a reminder to do better next time, and I try to be gentle with my reminders.

Most importantly I ask a higher power for help. Especially during times of distress, I ask this higher power, which I call God, for help. I whisper it in my head. God, please help me. God, please show me what to do. One doesn’t have to believe in God for this to work. Just remove the word “God.” Please help me. Show me the right thing to do. Give me the strength to do the right thing. Give me courage to do what’s best. I often improvise, thinking of whatever comes to my mind. Show me how I can be helpful today. If I have a problem, I ask for help with that. Please teach me patience and show me how best to deal with this situation. I ask for help in growing and becoming a better person. Really, I just think of what I’ve learned in my reading and talking with others about living a more spiritual life, and I try to do those things. A lot of it involves helping others, a task in which I often fall short, and so I ask for help to remember to do that.

I wish I could give what I have to others. If there was a simple handshake that would transfer everything I’ve learned in the past five and a half years, which is when this psychic change began to happen for me, a simple handshake that would infuse some other sufferer with all the love and joy that’s possible, I’d do it, and I’d do it to everyone I know, even those who I don’t like. Because “hurt people hurt people,” as I’ve heard it said, and if all the angry, hateful people in the world were not so angry and hateful, they wouldn’t treat everyone else so badly. I suppose one could argue that a hug or the words “I love you” can do that, and I do think that helps. But only experience and an open mind can really give a person the kind of spiritual awakening I’ve had.

When I was a little girl my mother once told me she believed she had a guardian angel, and I think she may have told me it was her dad, who’d died before she turned a year old. He’d drowned saving someone else’s life, a real hero, and she never had a chance to meet him, though she became close to his mother, her grandmother. For some reason it never occurred to me that he could be my guardian angel too, though looking back on it now, I see that he could’ve been and maybe still is. What I felt at that time was sadness and fear that I didn’t have a guardian angel because I didn’t feel the same way, protected and safe by some divine presence. Today I feel that I have many guardian angels, including my friend who recently died, my dog who died on June 16th, and my grandmother who died when I was 18.

Though we never got that close, my grandmother, who we called “Nanny,” lived in our house when I was little, and again when I was in high school when she was dying of cancer. Nanny spent most of her time in a murder mystery novel, but she was funny and feisty, and blunt with her opinions. She became an alcoholic later in life and didn’t quit drinking until she had a year left to live due to cancer. I often think of her life, especially her younger years, and how she came to marry four times to husbands who each died in war or of disease. Nanny was poor, but the things she needed always seemed to find a way to her, often through my mom’s help, or the help of her other children. She lived her entire life escaping in some way, or so it seems to me, either through a book, television, or alcohol. I like to think that now, in the afterlife, or wherever we go after we die, Nanny gained clarity and lives on in the spirit of pure love and wisdom, that maybe she is with me now in those moments that I think of her.

I like to think that whoever I’m thinking of at the time, whether it’s Nanny, Michelle (my friend who died), or my dog Dakota, that they’re with me in those moments, in the form of an angel, and maybe they’re even with me in the moments that I’m not thinking of them, perhaps when I need them. I like to think they’re rooting for me, and they know that everything will be okay, and they want me to know that too. They want you to know too. They especially want my friend to know, the one who’s in detox for the umpteenth time and who’s being transferred to rehab. They want everyone to know.

They want everyone to know that life is too short to be unhappy, and that the way to find peace is to search for peace. Bad things will happen because that’s how life is, but good things will happen too, and my happiness is a choice that I make every day. it doesn’t mean I won’t be devastated when loved ones die, it doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated when my day doesn’t go as I’d hoped, but it means I find gratitude in what I have, I try to help others, and I put one foot in front of the other, day after day.

Here’s a song I like because it’s so true and fun. I searched YouTube for a video on it and found this one of some people at a dance camp, and I love to watch people dance, so I thought I’d share it. I found two different videos of the same people doing different dances, so I’m sharing them both.

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