Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This is happiness, or rather; this is life.

I think....this is what it means to be happy. It's come upon me unexpectedly, but somehow things in my life suddenly seems to be falling into place, and even more crucially, I am actually able to appreciate it.

Yes, I still often feel sad or upset. And I still spend a remarkable amount of time with vague but persistent feelings of guilt settled in my stomach, ready to lurch out at any particular "misdeed".

Last week I got so grossed out at something that I threw up. I haven't done that in years--those of you who knew me as a child know that I used to do it all the time--I've always had a weak stomach. I'm not upset about this incident, though. I think it is all part and parcel of, funnily enough, being happy. It means I am more connected to my feelings--it means I've lessened my reactions that push away anything unpleasant.

I still feel, yes, sad/guilty/bad for even extended periods of time, say a week or so. It's not that that has gone away.

The point isn't for the bad to go away.

The point is--I am open. I got good news today--I got a work study job which will enable me to make it through the next year. It's a real relief.

What is amazing is--I have felt happy about it all day. My moments of satisfaction, happiness, respite from worry--used to be so short-lived. For example--my junior year of college I found out that I'd received a very high honor from my university--for a moment I was elated, but by the time I'd told my parents and a couple of friends, most of the good had worn off--I'd already begun to convince myself that it couldn't be such a great honor after all if they'd given it to me--it ever so quickly became empty. Throughout so much of my life, my accomplishments have earned me only a few moments of happiness, soon to be followed by a sense of hollowness.

But today, I've been happy all day! I went into Berkeley this afternoon, and I was positively glowing, smiling at everyone I saw, laughing to myself, enjoying myself.

Not having a job had been a big worry, but it, like so many other worries in my life recently, has now been resolved, and somehow, I haven't lined up another worry to rush right in and take its place. I've actually been letting myself enjoy it.

And--I find these days--it's not only moments of happiness I am experiencing, but sometimes even joy. It's been so long since I've been able to experience the kind of glow--a glow that seems to be cropping up here and there almost regularly now. I went to a concert a week ago--I was so moved that I wept, sitting in the sunshine in the park. I was overcome with joy. Music does seem to be the most frequent conduit for ecstatic joy for me, these days--but I have had music in my life for all of these years. It is not the music that has changed, but my ability to be open to it.

I wish I could say how I've gotten to this point, so that I could share techniques and ideas for those of you facing similar challenges in your lives. I don't know entirely but it seems--now that I've gotten used to the idea of going to grad school in the fall--I've started to become open to hope. I am genuinely excited for several upcoming events in my life (it's been so long since I was able to feel excitement like this!)--starting school in the fall, finding an apartment in the city with a friend, being a bridesmaid in a wedding, and much more! I think the presence of hope has a lot to do with my ability to experience happiness and joy in the moment.

What has changed that allowed me to hope again for the first time in what seems like eons? I think it is partly circumstance--several good things have happened to me all right on top of each other.

There's more to it than that though, I think--something also is slowly unhooking me from my worry-tendencies, leaving me free to flow along with the good things passing my way, to take risks. I feel like I'm stepping out into the flow of life--I am the joy of swimming in cool, invigorating, moving waters.

Also, I am experiencing moments of self-love. Of truly believing that I am a good, extraordinary person, and feeling the joy of that knowledge.

Many of these things I have practiced--I have practiced taking a moment to tell myself "good job" when completing a task, I have practiced compassionately forgiving myself for my mistakes, I have practiced keeping myself to painful feelings rather than shutting them away. I haven't practiced them with any remarkable sort of discipline, but even the seemingly small efforts I've made perhaps are adding up.

I am not happy all the time.

I'd like to share some wisdom recently voiced by one of my best friends--The point of life is not to be happy, but to feel whatever you're feeling fully, to truly be with what comes up for you rather than going through the motions.

There is no point in the future that I will reach where I will be fully happy, where everything will finally fit and make sense. This--some days of guilt, some days of sorrow, some days of boredom, some days of happiness, some days of hope and joy--this is it. Right now. Before I have achieved my goals--before I am a counselor, before I have a partner and children, before I am a leader in my community.... Not then, but now. Days of silly activities, like Star Trek marathons and ice cream--days of boring activities, like chores and job applications--days spent with others, normal quiet moments, fun moments, deep moments--these are life.

This is happiness, or rather; this is life.