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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Get Happy

Some people seem to be effortlessly happy, and not in a naive, false sense. I have met people, who seem to be relatively aware of themselves and the world, and still genuinely happy. Everyday their happiness effervesces out of them like freshly uncorked champagne bubbles out of its bottle, naturally infectious in the best of ways. I am not one of those people. My happiness is more like the first flowers of spring, a special occasion carefully cultivated through cold winter months. I could be wrong, but I think most conscientious people are like me. It's hard to be knowledgeable of current world events, and striving through personal life difficulties, and still be happy. You have to actively go out seeking happiness, tie yourself to it, and tend to it daily.

If I going to discuss it, I should probably first lay some boundaries to define it. Let's be clear that I'm talking about deep, long-lasting, fully-aware happiness. I am not talking about fleeting moments of random joy, though I think that's an important part of getting happy. Also, I'm definitely not talking about the things we do to temporarily assuage crushing stress, bitterly insidious sadness, or the occasional loneliness of the void, the bandaids we put on gaping wounds that are nothing more than distractions. That's not true happiness. True happiness is like an oasis in the desert, waxing and waining, yet always enduring harsh elements enough to quench an essential human need. Though equally and universally important, true happiness is totally personal, unique to each individual person. I can only tell you about my own journey for happiness, and hope that you can relate to it, though your path to getting happy may have a completely different direction.

I believe in a few of my favorite things, small gifts I can give myself everyday: a cup of tea, a hour with a good book, sunbathing with my cat, cooking a delicious meal, falling in love with a tree, walking to the record store to buy a new album, singing loudly in my car, etc. I love these things for their easy simplicity, and because they do not require anyone else's involvement. I am the only person responsible for my happiness. If I am unhappy, the best and fastest way to get happy is to take matters into my own hands. I do not need someone to make me happy, to affirm my happiness. My happiness is mine as an independent woman, who knows her worth, and is fully capable of enjoying herself by herself.

I believe in counting my blessings. For a variety of reasons both personal and situational, my life hasn't been the easiest. Still, I have much to be grateful for. Things could be much worse, and I'm still getting by. Even in the most devastating situations, when they interview people who've endured of genocide, war, rape, and natural disasters, they find things they say they were grateful for: community, generosity from strangers, or even the sheer human will for survival. I've got a place to live, enough food to eat, an education, good friends, a reasonable sense of myself, a job, and no debt. Compared to many, my life is golden. When we get wrapped up in hectic drama, needless toil, running in circles, eating our own hearts out, it's easy to get selfish and forget all that we already have to be happy for.

I believe in sharing. To borrow a quote from Into The Wild, "happiness only real when shared." Though my happiness is mine alone, it grows and gains meaning when I let it mingle with other people's happiness. I learn so much from people when I allow my path to cross theirs for a while. In turn, I strive to live by example, to be the change I hope to see in the world. There is a transformational magic that happens when something imbued with genuine happiness is set loose among humanity. One person getting happy can inspire ten more people to do the same, but only if they share their experiences. By sharing my happiness I give it a purpose greater than myself, and that makes it all the more real.

Of course, it seems to take a certain amount of discomfort and unhappiness to spur us to change and grow. You can't have a high without a low. If you're not inherently happy, you have to work hard and actively move to get there. I am not an expert. I'm still making mistakes and learning from them. Unhappiness can still invade my soul so softly and quietly that I find myself nearly drowned before I even realize I've gone swimming. Personally, I keep a small place in my heart for the most pitiful and embarrassingly desperate moments of my life. It's the rock-bottom times that remind me of the importance of happiness. It's messy, but it's human, and it keeps me actively resolved to get happy.

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