I feel like I’ve spent most of my life searching for happiness.
It seemed to be always just beyond my reach. I thought that maybe people like me weren’t born to be happy. That a certain amount of struggle would always be part of my life. Or, that happiness would come with the next “thing”—the bigger house, a new job, when the kids were older, or whatever the next thing was. It turns out, I was wrong about all of that.
They say that money can’t buy happiness. I have found this to be true. I’ve never owned an item—large or small—that made me happy. Money can buy security, and that can make life a little easier, but that’s not the same thing. Waiting for material wealth or possessions to come into my life and make me happy was seriously misguided. It would just never work that way.
Waiting for the next stage in life—a job change, a move, the kids getting easier as they grew up—also misguided attempts at finding happiness. What that actually did was reinforce that I was unhappy in every moment that passed while I was waiting for the next thing. I was so focused on all of the things I didn’t have yet, I couldn’t appreciate what was right in front of me.
Happiness was something I hoped and prayed and wished for. It was the only thing I wanted in life, and somehow also the only thing that I could never find. Happiness didn’t just happen for me- I had to learn how to make it happen. I had to learn how to choose it for myself in each moment of every day.
Upon honest assessment, I found that my life was all wrong. I was married to the wrong person. I didn’t feel at home in the house my ex-husband had chosen for us. I didn’t have a presence there—I didn’t really have an identity at all. I was just a house wife. I didn’t do anything with my time except take care of my home and family. I was bored, unfulfilled, and unhealthy. I had stopped dreaming for myself, my life, my future.
But, it was more that all of that. I didn’t feel at home in my body. I was disconnected from myself. I didn’t feel at home in our social circle. I spent a lot of time feeling invisible, feeling less than, feeling unworthy of the happiness, health, love, and purpose that I always seemed to be lacking.
I believed that my only purpose on this earth was to raise my kids. The ironic thing was, I wasn’t really even doing that to the best of my ability, because I didn’t know who I was. I couldn’t be the mother I so desperately wanted to give my children while also struggling to be the woman my ex-husband wanted me to be.
I didn’t recognize that girl—the weak, watered down, unhappy person I had become. I couldn’t even see her in the mirror anymore. She was like a shadow, like dust.
I had to find a way to escape my hollow existence if I was ever going to find happiness in this lifetime.
The first step for me was eliminating all the things from my life that didn’t fit with my most authentic self. I had to completely unravel my life and then rebuild it.
This meant getting a divorce. I had known for many years that our marriage was toxic. I had no idea the magnitude of the pain it was causing me until I found the courage to end it.
This meant selling the house that my ex-husband chose for us. The walls felt like a prison there. It was a status house, a grand façade to show the world how successful and perfect he was. It was a monument to my lack of identity, and inability to stand up for myself.
This also meant walking away from friendships that weren’t healthy for me. Parts of my circle wanted the meek, miserable housewife version of me. When they saw that she was dying, and a new me was beginning, many of them walked away. I had to let them go, trusting that it was the most loving thing I could do for myself.
I began reevaluating my career, and my future goals, and learning how to dream again. I had to take control of my physical health, I had to actively work to heal my emotional wounds, and learn how to reconnect with my spirit.
As I stripped away years of pain, years of living a lie, and all of the things that didn’t fit with the person I wanted to be in my heart of hearts, I began to smile again. I could see my light. I could feel it radiating out into the world, bringing me new experiences, opportunities, and relationships to me that felt real, true, and right.
As I began to feel more comfortable in my skin, I could see that happiness was in fact possible. It wasn’t nearly as elusive as I had once believed. To become truly happy, I simply needed to choose it for myself—and keep choosing it every day.
I needed to create new boundaries for myself. I needed to give myself permission to say “yes” to the things that brought joy into my life. I needed to remind myself to say “no” to the things that caused me stress, grief, or pain. I needed to make time to do the things that felt good to my soul—without guilt—every day.
The most amazing part of finding my happiness has been watching it multiply. When I let go of all of the things that were holding me back, and began moving in the direction of joy, my whole life got better. I was able to accomplish goals that I once believed were impossible. I got to know myself intimately, and appreciate all my little quirks and flaws, and even my scars—in them I could see my strength, fortitude, and beauty.
My life today—the woman I am in the here and now—is an absolute miracle. She is far more powerful than I ever imagined. Her power comes from the ability to live from her heart—choosing love, joy, and peace in each moment.
Everyone has the power to create a happy life. It begins with a careful self-assessment. If we can identify the obstacles that keep us from the peace, joy and success we crave, we can begin to make changes that move us in the right direction. When we know ourselves intimately, and learn to choose from our hearts, we cannot make a wrong choice.
We can create all of the wonderful things we desire—one day, one choice, one moment at a time.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Editor: Catherine Monkman