Lately I’ve been beating myself up for not being happy all the time. If you’ve read some of my recent posts you know I’ve been feeling down, unmotivated, confused, afraid and ‘trying’ to accept that. My success rate is pretty dismal. Truth be told I’ve been resisting it with every fiber of my being.
Because I have a belief I’m supposed to be happy all the time. Or at least as often as possible. And when I’m not happy, I should be actively working to shift my mood so I can be happy again. Working at happiness. That sounds fun, right?
There’s a fine line between healthy positivity and neurotic obsessing. I should know. I cross it regularly. And when I can’t be positive and happy and in love with life every minute of every day, I beat myself up. I compare myself to other people who seem to have it altogether. But I had it all wrong.
As Bridgette Boudreau wrote in her post My So-Called Emotional Life, “Happiness in its healthy state is a passing emotion. Its role is to show us when a particular thing or event is joyful and then it passes. Happiness is not intended to be a static state.”
The down times don’t mean I don’t have a good life or I’ve chosen the wrong path, or there’s something wrong with me, or whatever other meaning I assign to them. They’re just a reminder I’m human.
When I constantly strive to maintain a state happiness, anything less feels like failure. I don’t blame myself entirely…I had some help. Everywhere you turn the message is happiness at all costs. We’ve created an entire industry around it. It’s called advertising. Turn on the TV, listen to the radio, read a magazine, or even my favorite genre of books, self-help, and you’ll hear someone touting happiness like it’s the end all be all. Buy this product, take this pill, get this job, go on this vacation, find the perfect mate. And on and on it goes. The message is your goal should be happiness…24/7.
And I bought it. Hook. Line. Sinker.
As Bridgette goes on to say (and I’m paraphrasing here) the real goal is peace…no matter what emotion you’re feeling. What a relief!
The last month has been difficult. And even though I’m not on top of the world, I am feeling like I’m slowly coming out of this. That’s the way it usually goes. My friend Donna reminded me, “Maybe you just needed to rest.” She could be right. I certainly did alot of that over the last month. Maybe there was some emotion I needed to feel, that I wasn’t allowing myself to have. Maybe there was no reason at all. I’d love to say I’ll handle things differently next time. That I won’t fight it so hard. That I’ll realize it will pass. But I can’t say that with any amount of certainty. What I can say is I discover a little more each time I go to that dark place.
Slowly I’m learning whatever it is I’m feeling–happy, sad, afraid, joyful–I can just be with it. Invite it in. Make peace with it. And let it go on its way when it’s done with me. I don’t have to hold on so tightly. It will take some practice. I will forget. And then something will remind me. Isn’t that what life’s all about?
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