Happiness; destination or disaster?
I have given up on this idea of a relentless happy attitude, aka Pollyanna. In fact, I am learning more from my anger, resentment, and hopelessness. In one of my doctorate classes, we were discussing the idea of happiness. Everywhere I turn, I am reminded to be happier. Our discourse went further, and there was talk about social media, movies, articles, workshops, and self-help books, all telling us we are not quite enough.
Eat better. Do more yoga. Look a certain way. Work through your trauma harder. Be more productive. More calm. More gratefulness. More mindfulness.
Essentially, we determined that being a better version of ourselves means a happier, shinier, and more polished me in our class conversation. My question was, who decided that being happy is the ultimate goal of being human? The evidence around me most of my formidable years pointed to other conclusions. I learned earlier that the world is tragic, brutal – completely unfair and unjust. I found my version of nomadic Numbville instead of Disneyville. Thank goodness, because who wants to live in a land of fancy fantasy. Not me. I like reality with all its dusty roads of zigzagging and uncertainty.
Recently, I learned there is a middle path. This came to me through trial and error, suffering, and self-judgment. It’s not that I don’t believe in the concept of happiness. I just don’t think one can be consistently happy and ignore all the subtle, intricate, and poetic aspects of being alive. Sometimes they suck. At times, it has been hard to be happy. I have put on my Disney character mask and create that illusion of happiness and peace. Maybe I needed to do this to get me through the really tough times. Instead of being Snow White as a way to exist, I am choosing to be more expansive and have a human goal of experiencing more moments of happiness, as they flit and flutter like the hummingbird outside my window.
Rumi, a past poet, and philosopher reminds me that every morning is an opportunity to start anew. Each joy, depressive state, or rudeness offers me some momentary awareness. Of which, I need to welcome and entertain them all. Each emotion is a visitor to my mind and spirit, with an interesting conversation to share and offer insight. My darker emotions of anger, guilt and regret are welcome and respected visitors, but I don’t allow them to stay long. They are not always fun but interesting and instructive, I can attest.
When my father died when I was eleven, I went into overdrive. I wanted to outrun life and not allow death to catch me. Constantly searching for the meaning of life, I would read books and try to absorb the sage wisdom from those who had come before me questioning existence. What I have learned over the years is that the answer is still unknown. As the Buddha said, “Life is suffering.” I have determined that my job here on Earth is to evolve through the challenges that present themselves and expand myself through them. My emotions bring wisdom and guide me towards a more balanced mindset.
This idea is like looking through rose-colored glasses when wearing gray-colored glasses, and the prism depicts my neurotic, over-thinking, restless, depressive self. There is no such thing as a continual state of harmony and happiness. It sounds great in theory, but I want to feel frustrated and despair when life lobs curve balls at me.
I want to feel the full experience of life, with all the mysterious, complex, confusing, exasperating, and exhilarating feelings it produces. Happiness is incredible, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Life is hard. Life is really hard sometimes. It is always a yin-yang, the sweet and the bitter, the fire and ice, the beauty and the beast! I wish I could devise a Darwinian reason for how and why we suffer, how we innately cause ourselves and others to hurt. Our drama, complexity, and brilliant capacity to shame and sabotage ourselves truly serve no evolutionary purpose. Or does it? Maybe it pushes us past our comfort zones? I know it often can hold people back, myself included, from peace and productivity.
As modern humans, we only seem to grow more complicated into finding ways to delve deeper into our wounds and self-awareness. Like, everyone should have been to therapy once in their lives. We must continue our expansion in our capacity for self-examination and empathy. Awareness is ultimately what we seek. The consciousness of the emotions we exude is our highest goal, not happiness itself.
No, my life was constructed to be a drama, with a few tragedies with dumb sitcom vibes, laugh tracks and the never dull but necessary lessons from a documentary. I am no longer hard on myself about trying to maintain my Pollyanna personality. I am not longer tricking myself into living my life in a continual romantic comedy, full of meet-up cues and uplifting music as I meet my lover in the rain and tenderly kiss him. My goal is to be authentic and remind myself and others that our most interesting, creative, and impactful fellow human beings led lives full of inner conflict, doubt and rode that emotional rollercoaster too.
I am diving deep into myself and love what I find and gently change what I don’t. I will fail and flail, but isn’t this the best course to take and live the perfectly imperfect human nomad way?