On Being Happy
October 1, 2014 § 1 Comment
If you get offended reading about people that are happy, please don’t read this. If you roll your eyes when people state how wonderful life is, don’t keep reading. If you feel angry or upset when other people smile, just stop here.
How did I get to the point that I feel almost guilty saying that I am happy? Why does it feel silly to say that life is great? It’s almost as if it is a statement better whispered than sang; keep it low, among your best friends. Others don’t want to hear about it. They have enough problems, and there are so many things wrong in the world, why would they waste their time with pointing attention to positivity? You wouldn’t want to feel like you are rubbing it in their face, or showing off, or putting them down.
That is not what I am trying to do. And I know that most people feel better after reading something negative (how does that work?). But, I would just like to get this out:
I am happy.
And it’s okay.
I know that people roll their eyes sometimes, when I start to ramble on about some international adventure. I sometimes feel bad producing happy post after happy post, after painting after painting, after photograph after photograph, when other people have important (ie, sad and serious) things going on. I see ‘that look’ that people sometimes give me when I rave on about some opera performance or spontaneous trip to a different continent or story from the awesome place that I can call work.
I have traveled, a lot. Constantly. For fun, you might say (though for me, it is for necessity). I always get what I want, because I am stubborn and can’t compromise.
This doesn’t mean that I am a happy person.
Since I have been back in Austin, I can’t complain about anything other than allergies (fuck you, dammit). I have an ideal living arrangement, with wine and cats and opera music. I have a beautiful park and pond(s) outside of my window. I walk across it and, in two minutes, I am at my yoga shack, or at my massage studio, or at my favorite local theater. I spend my days down the street (past the best breakfast taco window in town and that one awesome coffee shop), painting scenery and costumes from morning until evening. At night, I write and go out and dance until dawn. Work days consist of either (a) working backstage with performers from all over the world or (b) learning about coffee and making delicious, healthy smoothies in a great cafe on the river, with fun coworkers and the best music selection to keep us boogie-ing all day long.
In other words, I am surrounded by everything that I love. The only complaint that I have is that I don’t have another 24 (or 2424 or 242424) hours in the day to do more of it.
Life is pretty perfect, isn’t it?
I am fortunate to be living this life. I am grateful for every single moment. But it doesn’t mean that I am a happy person.
Some of the most beautiful and happy people that I have met in the world have had nothing, have lived in a shed, have eaten off the ground. Some of the saddest people that I have met are millionaires, have successful careers, have perfect wedding photos and get a thousand ‘likes’ on every post they update on Facebook.
It is nothing new to say that money or fame or things don’t make someone happy. And we all know that everyone is different, and thus everyone needs different things to make them happy.
To me, happiness is personal, is a reflection of yourself, of what you want. Going out and finding checklists of ‘Things That Make You Happy’ aren’t going to do the trick. Yes, we have to take care of ourselves, and be nicer to people, and take occasional bubble baths. To smile more, and give things away, and surround yourself with people you enjoy.
But, these Checklist Things are going to be different for everyone. So, it’s kind of simple. To be happy, you need to do what makes you happy. You need to know what you like, and don’t question it. It doesn’t have to make sense, or have a reason, or even be feasible. It just has to feel good, and inspire, and make you smile. And then you do it.
And, (most importantly), you have to allow yourself to be happy. Despite me doing all of these great things in life, and living in these beautiful places, and meeting these amazing people, I, for the most part of my life, have not been happy- not as a general, longtime condition. Not because I am spoiled, or hard-to-please, or childish. I’m not going to give the “my life isn’t perfect” or the “my childhood was hard” or the “I worked my way there” speech (even though I could, all three), because that’s not the point. The point is that, even if I had this great, dreamlike scenario, it didn’t equate being happy… simply because I wasn’t. Because I didn’t like it, because I didn’t want to be…. maybe because I felt bad being happy.
And now, it’s okay. I learned to let go of those negative connotations associated with happiness, and not do anything that should make me happy. Only the things that do make me happy, and I surround myself with them, and it makes me smile, and I don’t feel guilty about it, because I don’t have to, because being happy in a world that is sad is okay, and it’s not bad, and it doesn’t make you a bad person. The same goes the other way. If you are in a situation in which you should be happy, but you’re not… it’s not your fault. You don’t have to feel guilty about it, it’s not bad, and it doesn’t make you a bad person. You don’t have to be grateful for it, if you don’t want to be, if it’s not something that you want. You don’t have to do it for anyone else, or even for yourself. There is no part of happiness that is a condition, or an obligation.
Being happy is a decision that people make for themselves. You don’t have to accept or approve of their decision, and they don’t have the right to do so about yours.
If having money makes you happy, do it. If being lazy makes you happy, do it. If being fit makes you happy, do it. If eating chocolate cakes at midnight makes you happy, do it. If traveling makes you happy, do it. If collecting old steam trains makes you happy, do it. If being alone makes you happy, do it. You don’t have to justify any of it.
I can say that I feel happy when I have my independence (financially and transportation-wise, with my own space and schedule), when I can do what I like (art and travel and dance and write), and when I am active and fit(-ish). Then I feel good about myself. I like when I am surrounded by a place that inspires me (usually something old and run-down and kinda gloomy, yet colorful). There’s a lot of simple things that make me smile, like dandelions and canvas ballet shoes and camel expressions and bubbly wines and thick parchment and French records and ladybugs. I know that I am demanding, and it’s okay. I’m responsible for it. I don’t have to tone it down.
And if you are happy, it doesn’t mean that you always have to be happy. You can be sad and angry, just because. Happiness is a state of being, and ‘being’ is an existence in the moment, not something consistent or uninterrupted or unchanging.
And if you are happy, it’s a good thing (if you want to be happy, that is) (some people don’t).
Don’t hide it.
It’s not selfish.
It’s not wrong.
It’s not bad.
And I hope that you
let it be.