Holding onto Happy

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.

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4 thoughts on “Holding onto Happy

  1. “Happiness is an action. A personal heart-felt decision to live a life well lived, one pursued with passion, courage, and honesty.”

    I love this, Hilary. You have a way with words and a way of seeing the world that is appealing. I hope your writing does make you Happy.

    (I’m trusting the HTML code works in a WordPress comment and that what I wished for you is Happy in italics and bold, just the way you like it. =)

    Keli

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    • Thank you so much for the compliment. I appreciate you stopping by. I’m still finding my way as a blogger and encouraging comments like yours are like the occasional chocolate treat…rich and savored. 🙂

      And the HTML code worked perfectly!

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  2. Age does have a way of making us wise up, doesn’t it? I think you’ve discovered the key:

    “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.”

    The people who design multi-million dollar ad campaigns to sell us all kinds of ‘stuff’ – and convince us the latest gadget will make us happy – don’t want us to figure this out 🙂

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