Lately, I have felt an immediate sense of guilt for being as happy as I am. Any problems that I have are really typical everyday things; not enough hours in the day, maybe having to wait a few weeks longer than I would like to for major purchases, the door panel to my driver side door falling completely off and the tailgate getting stuck the same week our LLC taxes are due…but there really isn’t anything egregious. With all that is happening in the world today, and with family members that are struggling to find their own happiness, I actually feel bad for being content and pleased with my life. I’ve been “happy-shamed”.
After battling with depression and self-created drama through my 20’s, I made the deliberate choice to be happy one day. That day was truly the beginning of my life. Since then, I am happy every day. Maybe not all day everyday, but everyday. Recently, I walked in on my family having a conversation about Michael and I. I rounded the corner right at “well, they’re happy now, but just wait until they are not.” What a shame that someone feels the need to happy-shame us…family at that. I have found that happy shamers are typically not happy folks, though they may think that they are. What happy shamers do not know is that we see the world as we are. Angry people see the world as angry. Fearful people see a world to be fearful of. Happy people I believe see the world as a whole. A world of dualities. I think happy people see the good in the bad, or at least try hard to. However to unhappy people, especially happy shamers, happy people appear to be delusional when in fact, happy people have a great awareness…they just choose to be happy through it all. This is the only way that I can wrap my brain around my family practically waiting for our happiness to unravel. They just do not know any better. For if they themselves were in a inter-dependent relationship, they would see how well Michael and I work together. We’re seamless. When we disagree, we discuss and re-negotiate. It may take a week or two, but we discuss and re-negotiate like the partnership that we are. The happy-shamers only see our disagreement.
Here is yet another example; when I had a part-time job to make ends meet after my divorce, I loved the company and the people so much that I stayed for years later. One of the store managers was one of my biggest supporters, and we had a wonderful relationship. She was nurturing and cheered me on during the darkest days during my divorce. Then, she went through her own divorce right at the time that I was riding very high in life. I was happy, very happy. There was a lot of good going on for me, and I was grateful that my darkest of days were long gone. Then, one day out of the blue, she stopped talking to me. She would ignore me, and any attempt that I made at conversation was like talking to a door. I would be laughing while working with a customer and look over to catch her glaring at me, looks of downright disgust. I went out of my way to be more kind and helpful. In an act of empathetic solidarity, I left her a bag of her favorite candy on her desk. Still, the happier and the nicer I got the more angry with me she would become. I decided to resign. Though I missed my peoples and the meaningful work, I felt it was the most compassionate thing to do. I never found out exactly why she started to treat me so badly, but the evidence is there to support my theory…I was happy shamed.
What the above happy-shamers fail to understand is that I am not happy because I have xyz in material goods, I am happy because I have made my insides that way. Material wealth is fleeting. You can lose yourself for a lifetime in pursuit of material goods. When it breaks or loses it’s novelty, you’re unhappy again and in pursuit of the next fleeting moment of happiness. I know personally that it is a cycle that will never end. I chose instead to work hard to learn just what happiness means to me, and how to readjust my perspective when things are not the best. I am not financially rich, but I am wealthy. I have a wonderful and unabashedly affectionate husband that I waited several lifetimes for. Our son is extremely healthy, vibrant, and smart. We shower him with love, guidance, and direction. Michael and I have started a business together, which will inevitably be a large company. One that we hope our children can expand to their own unique vision. I have a corner office in the law firm of my dreams. I am often asked to lecture and teach what I know, and I love that. We have loving friends. We have a brand spanking new, fully renovated house in a wonderful part of town that we are lovingly crafting into a home. A place where we and those that we love can come to be nourished and restored. A place representative of our deep belief in laughter and love. We live below our means and have minimal debt. What we do have is symbolic of our lifestyle; a truck to haul thrifted furniture to redesign as a family project, and keep from a landfill, and to haul my son and I’s horse stuff around. A horse because we want our son to grow up with learning the responsibility that horsemanship and ranching provides. My writing career is taking off at the same time my legal one continues to expand. Michael has finished yet another manuscript and is about to record his spoken word in a recording studio. We have built something wonderful here. We continue to build something here. I have no reason to hide any of this, yet I feel like I have to. I feel like if I get too happy or too talented, some people think I’m on drugs, delusional, lying, or my worst fear realized, as articulated previously, starts praying for my downfall.
I am in no way implying that I am without challenges, because I’ve got them. What they are, though isn’t so much challenges as they are a set of circumstances that I am meant to learn from. They are meant to grow me and polish my soul. But the biggest and the best lessons always take time to really learn from. I am somewhat-kind-of-sort of estranged from my mother, and definitely estranged from one sister-in-law. I work hard at the relationship with my mother-in-law…but I’m probably trying too hard which makes me appear desperate. I have two uncles that I will never speak to again. I have an ex-husband somewhere out there. I get mad a Michael often for his overly sarcastic tone. I struggle with patience and walking my talk a few times a week once a day. As organized as I am, I drop the ball sometimes often. I don’t save as much money as I should. I procrastinate…a lot. I continually look for ways to improve instead of being self-accepting, and as Buddhist as I am, I have a hard time living in the moment. I have become shy and have developed a social anxiety for the first time in my life. I never have enough time to do all that I am inspired to do. I more often than not get mired down in the logistics of doing instead of just doing it. All of this happens inside of my beautiful life, but I have learned how to change my mind about it. I have found, through much experimentation, what resources work for restoring my happiness, and I do them. For me it is things like prayer, meditation, crystals, and friends. Hand written notes to those I love, good coffee, a stiff cocktail, continuously making homemade dinners with dessert. Grocery shopping for my family, cleaning my woodwork, cleaning my saddle. My husband and son. My dog and my horse.
Happiness is a choice. And I am here to tell you from decades of personal experience, making the decision to keep pursuing your personal happiness takes commitment and discipline until it no longer does. During the climb, you are expelling limiting beliefs and old traumas, and it can be easier to give into the anger and the sadness. There is always someone that is ready to listen to your new juicy drama. There is always someone who is willing to compare war stories and give you sympathy, validate your anger, and feed you more negativity to keep you down in the muck. Usually their muck. Because it makes them happy to have you there – misery truly loves company. It therefore becomes extremely easy to surround yourself with those kinds of people because they take no work at all. Sit around and bitch. Bitch, and bitch some more about everything and anything and then you can see why some people just stay down there for the rest of their lives. It’s comfortable, even if it sucks. All the more reason that it is vital to surround yourself with compassionate and confident people who are themselves either very happy, or committed to working on getting there. In fact, it is a personal rule of mine to surround myself with those happier than I. I like to take notes.
Michael and I have worked really hard both separately and together to have what we have, and it takes both of us pushing one another to keep disciplined enough to keep building on top of our foundation. But there is beauty in the struggle for greatness as well. Some people quit during the struggle part and stop short of the greatness. That too is a choice. I am sorry that there are those that sometimes feel the need to keep themselves small because they fear the anxiety and the backlash of being deemed a braggart. However, I ask anyone reading this to consider one of the Universal Laws, the one that states that energy begets energy. If one who truly loved life were to keep all of that love hidden away like a deep dark secret, what purpose does that serve the rest of us? Do we not need happy people to inspire us to live our life true to our own purpose for existence? It does the entire world a grave disservice to hide away your good for others to see. We do it because the happy shamers are loud. We feel the need to downplay our inner genius because we don’t want Suzy Crabapple the next cubicle over talking about us badly. Well just remember that Suzy Crabapple has choices too. The world needs happiness because I think some people forget what it looks like. Remember, a candle’s flame is never diminished by lighting the flames of other candles. I didn’t say it, but whomever did had to overcome a whole lotta happy shamers to learn that.