The New Year is a great time to take a look at how you would like the next year to go, to plan, to see what you can do differently to make it a better year. I used to spend previous New Years (and most days in between) looking for changes that would bring me happiness. This is how I found it.
“I thought it would make me happy… It didn’t.” The story of my life – always searching and never fully achieving “true happiness.” But what does that mean? What is happiness? Some say it’s not a destination, but stops along the way to a greater purpose. Some say the way to a greater purpose is THE purpose of life – in other words, the purpose of life is to find your purpose. I’ve tried lots of things that seemed like they would lead there. If I had the right job, I’d be happy. If I was taking the right classes or in the right major… If I was with the right guy… If I was with that other guy… If I had a baby… If I had a dog… If my hair was longer… If my hair was shorter… If I was skinnier… The list goes on, almost infinitely. As I write it out, it’s all so superficial. But even when I tried to find a spiritual solution (one of my grandmothers told me that I wouldn’t have depression if I truly believed in Jesus), I was left with more questions than answers and felt more alone than ever. Sorry to say, even Jesus didn’t make me happy. Nor prayers.
Maybe it’s not a destination; maybe it’s not even a path or anything concrete. Maybe happiness isn’t a thing. Perhaps it is just one of many emotions. Maybe what I’ve been imagining to be happiness is really contentedness (or lack of restlessness) that I equate with happiness. Maybe my vocabulary needs to change. Maybe I need to just stop thinking and searching and just live.
In the last year, I have been more stable than I think I have ever been in my entire life. I still have ups and downs, but nothing over the top. I have been just as busy as ever, but it hasn’t seemed as difficult. I have worked on becoming more mindful and feeling appreciation for the things I have, the people in my life, the feelings that flow through me. I have found contentment in purposefulness, in hard work that keeps my mind occupied and focusing on things other than my illness. I have made a conscious effort to not search for something better, but to be thankful for what I have been given. When I stopped trying so hard to run from my life and my illness, I feel more at peace. The restlessness and need to search for the elusive dream of happiness has subsided, simply because I don’t need to look for it anymore. I am now creating my own happiness, my own contentment. I am taking the good and the bad and being thankful for them – both the good and the bad.
Instead of saying, “I’d be happy if…” I now say, “I’m thankful for…” I’m thankful for my husband who supports me through all my ups and downs, even when I told him he didn’t “make” me happy. I’m thankful for my son who loves mommy no matter what! I’m thankful for my job and my co-workers – even though there are things I’d like to change, I mostly get to do what I am good at, the pay is decent, the benefits are amazing, and my boss and coworkers are supportive and understanding. I’m thankful that I am mostly healthy, and I recognize that there are things I could do to be more so; I am thankful that I can make changes to be healthier. I am thankful for my dog who, even though he pees on the floor sometimes, is silly and likes to snuggle, especially when I’m feeling down. I’m thankful that I have creative outlets, and I know I need to use them more regularly. I’m thankful that I can take graduate classes to help me be better at my job and grow in the field. I’m thankful for feelings – some hurt, some are scary and many I am still learning to control, but there are so many that are wonderful and make being human worth it. I’m thankful for the ups and downs, without which I wouldn’t appreciate the stable times as much.
I have made a promise to myself that I will strive to be thankful for something everyday. Some days are easier to find good things than others. The dewy green grass or the newly fallen pristine white snow or the brilliant autumn leaves that look like they are on fire – all are little things I have noted on my gratitude list. Cool breezes, the shade or a cold drink of water on a hot day; the first bite of my favorite dessert; the first bite of food when I’m really hungry; just having food to eat... Things to be thankful for are everywhere when you take a minute to look. None are silly – they are all wonderful. To me, that is happiness or contentment. It’s everywhere.
Read the rest of Beka's posts for IBPF here.