Living each day much muchier
Last week, I got knocked back for a job that I really, really (really) wanted. It surprised me because I’m more than qualified, experienced and passionate about the industry. Yet, I found myself standing at the tram stop on Friday, staring at a ‘you were not successful’ email and feeling gutted. I hadn’t even made it to interview.
I’d made this job into a way forward for me. I pinned happiness to it. I saw myself in a life that included it and then watched it dissolve without ever having existed.
I fell into a trap.
It’s natural to pin our happiness to things, events, people, careers, relationships and life pathways, even if we’re told not to.
Apparently happiness comes from within.
Ah, within. The profound within. It sounds mystical and rather nice. Wouldn’t it be great to have happiness unaffected by the problematic world?
‘Happiness from within’ is an esoteric phrase. You only understand it once you’re on the other side and because it’s profound, it’s almost impossible to explain any other way.
It’s a profitable industry. We’re all looking for it. Pursuing it. Hoping that one day, we’ll find it by the sea or in a book. Maybe it’s in a yoga pose. Maybe God gives it to the faithful. Maybe it rubs off like a lucky charm.
Happiness from within feels even more impossible when you’re cheerless. When you’re unhappy and you know it, you still clap your hands and hope for the best. Meanwhile, it becomes defined by what you lost or desperately want. Sometimes it hurts so much, it burns. Sometimes it settles into resignation. You keep going. You keep clapping. The cycle starts again.
Our instinct to connect happiness with things is not misguided.
Of course it comes from things and we already know what they are. Family, friends, romances, beauty in nature, art, ideas and the mirror. It’s achievement. It’s helping others. The list is long and for good reason.
What happiness is not is the one or two particular things missing from your life. You know what they are.
Happiness comes from within because it’s a reservoir, a storage unit, a bank.
It comes from within because your choices fill or deplete the reservoir. Happiness doesn’t come from a single choice gone well or even a few choices; it’s only ever the by-product of many.
If you continue to do things from your happiness list (and yes, it’s necessarily a list), you nourish yourself and expose yourself to what’s beautiful about life. You give yourself the agency to be happy. It doesn’t happen straight away and it’s not hard to do, but it is cultivated habit.
One day it catches you quite by surprise. You’re lit up from the inside, someone comments how happy you are or with wonder that you seem to have it all together. Good and bad things happen, but you’re still fundamentally happy. It’s mysteriously and ineffably ‘within’.
WARNING: You will still feel the ache of things you’ve lost or desperately want. It’s no good pretending you won’t. Platitudes like ‘you’ll find it when you stop looking’ or ‘love yourself first’ are all unhelpful and downright irritating ways of describing the same truth.
Life can still pretty damn good, even without the thing you want most. It’s good because your reservoir is mostly full. It’s missing things that would make you happier, but you’re doing okay. More than okay. The opposite choice is to put your life or your heart on hold or to poo poo other things from the happiness list because they’re not as good as that one thing. All you’re doing is emptying the reservoir. As it empties out, so do you.
‘Happiness from within’ is not magic. It’s not arcane. It’s subtle and simple.
Make the choices that only you can make. Everyday, little choices and occasionally, big ones.
Who gets to be happy? Well, you do, if you start now.