Two friends called yesterday. The first in tears telling me how, after The Divorce and instant remarriage of her ex, she faced the unwelcome fact that Mother's Day was never again going to be the happy event she desires.
"The kids were all excited telling me about the cards and gifts they'd given their 'other Mother,'" she said, through her tears. "I'm mourning the end of the beautiful story where I'm the only Mom to my kids. And it's sad."
My other friend shared how her mother inadvertently "got her" by saying something hurtful on her birthday, potentially ruining her "happy day."
So what's up with happiness? Why is it such an easy balloon to pop? And what can we do to sustain the ride?
Sad Truths About Happiness
Happiness is fleeting because...
• It's usually based in other people and things outside us going right and matching our expectations.
• Relying on the outside world to deliver what we want 24/7 is not only not happening, it's downright disastrous.
• Happiness is often confused with pleasure and thus has the ability to make us fat. (Damn those vente caramel macchiatos!)
The more I live the more I realize that happiness, the way we're taught it's supposed to be, is NOT what our Constitution wants us pursuing. I know it sounds radical. But you know what? HAPPINESS COMES FROM THE INSIDE OUT, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.
Seriously, what would it be like if we ditched the belief in happiness as an entitlement and replaced the Pursuit of Happiness with the desire for something lasting and genuinely attainable? Like:
• Inner stability and grace?
• The ability to walk (relatively) unruffled through life embracing the good, the bad, the great and the ugly, experiencing each moment and what it delivers with (relative) equanimity... sucking the marrow from Life's bones?
Frankly, ever since I let go the myth of happiness as something to attain and started generating it inside myself instead, I've felt nothing but RELIEF and... guess what? More happiness. TA DA! So, if you're tired of the roller coaster ride and are looking for something more reliable and fulfilling to pursue in life... read on!
3 Steps Towards Self-Generated Happiness
Unhooking from the pursuit of happiness means nothing less than upping the ante and taking personal responsibility for our own Internal Spaces.
It's about loving ourselves enough to let that love fill us and keep us afloat no matter what life hands us. It's about knowing what we want and heading for the goal -- not because attaining the goal will make us happy, but because the goal is inside us and going for it brings us a sense of fulfillment just by the doing.
So, are you ready? Here are the beginning tried and true steps to kicking the Dark Side of the Happiness Habit:
#1 Contemplate the times you've been happy and unhappy in life.
#2 What were the driving forces/conditions/situations behind your happiness? Your unhappiness? Were you happy because XYZ happened? Were you unhappy because XYZ happened? Or didn't happen? Really get into it and make an accounting!
#3 Now, close your eyes and imagine something you love doing. Take your time and think of someone you love. Imagine a puppy in your arms. Or sitting on a beach watching a glowing sunset with your lover. Feel peace in your body. Feel the sense of calmness, expansion and contentment that arises with your imaginings. Bask in this feeling you are evoking as long as you want.
Congratulations! You just discovered who is really in charge of your internal condition and how you feel: YOU.
Knowing you're in the driver's seat doesn't mean life doesn't suck sometimes. It does. But sucky moments don't have to define us. My friend crying on Mother's Day knows all about the Myth of External Happiness and she still felt terrible and she still cried that day. But part of what she shared was that, "This is really really hard. But it won't be an ongoing drama. I know I'm the one responsible for making myself happy. And that's what gives me strength and hope and perspective at times like these."
Strength and hope and perspective. Wow. Sounds like a much better happiness formula than a caramel macciatto to me.