When people ask you if you’re happy, how do you answer them?
When I was a child, I would have said “yes…” without a second thought.
Somewhere along the line, though, I forgot about my happiness. I lost sight of what joy really is and what it feels like – how to experience it. I started drowning in a whirlpool of thoughts, mind patterns attached themselves to me like heavy weights and pulled me down to the bottom of an ocean of panic. I would fight to bring myself back above the waterline, to breathe, but I could never reach the surface. I kept going down, down, down, hindered by my aching muscles and waterlogged mind.
I spent all of my energy trying so hard to pretend I was happy. I did not acknowledge my fears, worries, or anxieties. I stopped eating because the sickening knot in my stomach constricted me. Silently, I consented to the dark shadows under my eyes because I feared sleep; after all, as soon as I drifted off to rest, my demons took advantage of my defenselessness.
I boarded up my heart, closing it to everyone and everything… including happiness.
To me, a broken heart meant death, so I kept my heart safe within a protective barrier where nobody could see or touch it. It kept feebly pumping from behind the walls, but the blood that flowed through me was imbued with loneliness.
I mistakenly thought happiness was the in-between moments when I felt numb; a temporary reprieve from the disquiet, the moments of calm before the storm, waiting in foreboding anticipation for the next monsoon. I was full… full of sadness, anger, loss, and grief. All of the things I did not want to feel consumed me. The problems I did not want to deal with pressed on me from inside, overflowing like a shaken soda can.
I had to learn to make room.
Once I created space within my heart, I experienced a paroxysm of happiness and joy that I did not know even existed. It was euphoria.
Happiness does not exist without sadness.
I had to learn how to be OK with the grim, the devastating, the melancholy, before I could feel the good. I could no longer exist on such a delicate thread, wound so tightly I could feel the fibers of my being splintering. I needed to expand; I needed to grow.
There’s a beauty in getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Discomfort expands your capacity on what you can handle, both emotionally and physically. I started taking risks. I stepped outside of my comfort zone, which I realized wasn’t even that comfortable, anyway. I slowly and carefully started let myself trust and to let myself be vulnerable with those in whom I put my trust.
Then, after I learned how to be happy, a swarm of other loving hearts joined mine. I’ve been so lucky in my life. I attribute my recovery of joy and rediscovery of happiness to those other hearts: the incredible spirits who not only appreciate me for who I am, but who want to spend time with me because of who I am. The love with which they imbue my heart keeps the blood pumping through my veins, blood now full of hope.
Love is life. Love is happiness. Love is joy.
Now, when people ask me if I’m happy, I can, once again, honestly answer with an immediate, resounding, joyful “yes!”
Originally Published on Words Between Coasts