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I think I am missing something.
I watch people on TV, in the grocery store, at the mall, or in my neighborhood, and I think they all look so put together—so happy. While I think I look sad or angry or stressed out—and I definitely don’t have it all together.
I used to say, “this is my happy face.” It was always good for a laugh, but it was also true. I feel things on a deep level. I constantly worry. My mind races. I just don’t really do the light, breezy, “happy” thing that other people seem to have access to.
Don’t get me wrong—I laugh and I love. I am deeply loyal. I have friends.
But I am happier on my couch with my dog, my computer, and a snuggly blanket than I am going out with a group of friends or meeting up for drinks. (I am writing this post on my couch, with my dog, my snuggly blanket, and my computer.).
Psychology Today has this to say about happiness:
“More than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life—that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction.”
But, what does happiness look like to someone like me?
I am still healing from betrayal, from broken promises, from having to rebuild a life I didn’t think was broken, and from feeling like I wasn’t enough to fix it.
I still wage a regular war against the inner critic that says I’m not enough—as a mother, as a writer, as a leader, as a partner, as a sibling, and as a daughter.
Is there even room for happiness in such a quagmire of emotionality?
I turned to Pema Chödrön for some inspiration. She has lived through some of the same experiences as I have, and yet, she has found peace and inspires so many others with her teachings.
Her advice? Get to know your negative thoughts. Experience the disappointment. Stay with that feeling. The important takeaway for me is to experience the disappointment without creating an additional story about it.
My girl Brené Brown calls that inner voice storytelling “confabulation;” the story I am making up. (Yeah, you guessed it, I am pretty tight with confabulation.)
What does all that mean to me? I have to make room for happiness by cleaning out some of the emotional clutter I keep bringing with me.
It’s a new year, so it’s time to trade out some old habits for four new ones:
Recognize when I am making up a story in my head and stop.
Ask myself what it is that I am feeling, and what that feeling is connecting me to. Take responsibility for my stuff and recognize that I cannot control the choices of others.
Talk back to the inner critic who says I’m not enough.
Focus more on the people who have stayed and continue to support me than the people who have left me. They are not taking me anywhere positive. I have to identify who is on my team and invest in them, rather than chasing someone or something. If I am not able to be on my team, how can I ask anyone else to be?
Be two feet in.
Elephant Journal founder Waylon Lewis says this regularly. I often feel like I am dipping my toes in the pool and looking over my shoulder at the same time, rather than just jumping in to the next part of my life. I have to believe in myself and the power of my dreams. If I don’t believe, who else will?
Do something each month that scares the hell out of me.
I can talk myself out of pretty much anything. Months ago, I said I was going to go to the Women’s March in January. The closer it gets, the more excuses I create for not going. I have been sick. I can’t afford it. Basically, I need to work past this fear and repeat step 3: “Be two feet in.”
So, what is happiness anyway? It is what you make it. And that is always enough.