Have you ever wondered where happiness comes from?
When I was a child and adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wanted to say “Happy“. To please the questioner, I would verbally respond with whatever career choice seemed most appealing at the moment, but “Happy” was my true secret answer.
The “H” was always capitalized to give the word importance; the bold made the word shout with glee; the italics added a wistful note to the dream. The word “Happy” played on the movie screen in my mind for a long time. I saw it as something I could hold in my hand and gleefully wave like a banner.
I was not an unhappy child, although I thought I was. Poor tortured me.
I had unhappy experiences as a child but none were abusive or tragic. Any emotional scars they left were of my own doing as I allowed my sensitivity and empathy to etch schoolyard taunts deep into my psyche.
Looking back with the wisdom of age and surprising sanity, I believe I did more emotional damage to myself than any other person I’ve ever encountered could have done to me.
But before wisdom gave me insight into myself, I wanted to be “Happy“.
I couldn’t define it. I only knew I felt it when I was reading, or writing, or playing outdoors in the bright California sunshine. I felt it at the beach, sitting at the edge of the ocean, staring out to sea.
But it still wasn’t quite what I thought it was. Happiness manifested as contentment and “content” wasn’t what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I engaged in a constant pursuit of that elusive intangible for years, convinced that I would find it from some external source. My search took me to Texas, then Illinois. I looked for it in the men I dated and through marriage. I prayed I would find it in work. For much of that time, I was convinced that I had found happiness and I suspect I had. However, something always happened to leave me dissatisfied, convinced I had been fooling myself, ultimately questioning the value of the location, the relationship, the job. So I would make a change, positive the grass was greener on the other side.
I stopped writing because that seemed like a cop-out. I told myself writing is an internal process. My thoughts and ideas wouldn’t bring “Happy“. Happiness didn’t live inside.
How wrong I was.
I was my own worst enemy. I spent far too much time over-thinking and dwelling on the negative to realize the path to happiness wasn’t a path at all.
It wasn’t until I began to write again that I saw the error of my ways. Several other things happened around that same time, but writing had the single most important impact needed to bring a clarity and vision that I had lacked.
Through my written words on the computer screen, I began to see that happiness is not an elusive intangible. It is not some substance that external sources provide.
Happiness is an action. A personal heart-felt decision to live a life well lived, one pursued with passion, courage, and honesty.
If I am unhappy, it’s because there is something wrong inside me, some reaction or gut instinct or flaw that I need to examine and then take steps to amend.
Today, I am responsible for my own happiness. I see it when I write. I can hold “Happy” in my hand after all.