I woke up tired this morning. Tired and discouraged, with a very persistent thought pushing its way into my consciousness and going in circles through my head. “I am about as unhappy as I have ever been.” Whatever dreams (or nightmares) I had that provoked this unfortunate insight are lost to daylight and wakefulness. But the feeling remains. A heaviness. Numbness. The feeling of being profoundly unhappy…and having been this way for a very long time. Which brings me to the second dreaded insight. I have never truly been happy. Ever. I guess I am not even sure I know what it would feel like. To be happy. In spite of the fact that things weren’t the way I wanted them to be. To simply be happy…because.
Perhaps, learning the lessons of life during an abusive childhood, I wasn’t taught how to find and maintain happiness. Or, more accurately put, I wasn’t taught how to be happy, no matter what. Perhaps that is why I am in the state where I currently find myself. Perhaps that is why happiness has proved to be such an elusive dream.
In honesty, there are a couple of short periods of time in my life when I can recall having a feeling of happiness. The first was when I fell in love for the first time and he said he was also in love with me. It was magical. I had never been loved, having suffered a smorgasbord of abuse at the hands of my parents. Love, before this magical time, that is, meant pain, rejection, hatred, being used, hit, raped, molested, derided, demeaned and defiled. Suddenly, someone wanted to be around me! They held me and kissed me! Valued me…thought I was someone who mattered! I felt stirrings in my heart that I had never known; lovely and exciting. Wonderful and joyous. It was short lived because first love rarely lasts. But it was a treasure I held to tightly. I had finally tasted of happiness and I loved the taste of it. Even though it ended the very day we gave each other our public vows to love and honor each other forever.
The second time I can recall being truly happy was when my ex-husband asked me to marry him. Being engaged that beautiful fall, learning about him, falling so deeply in love with his quirks and traits, was intoxicating. But once again, almost as soon as we were married, he decided he didn’t love me after all. Didn’t even really like me. The happiness and excitement I had felt for a short time, that feeling that my life was finally about to begin, evaporated completely.
Suffice it to say, I have not found happiness in romantic relationships. Even though I have always believed that is where true contentment and happiness would be found.
Nor have I found it with friends and family. There is always something about me that doesn’t measure up. That provokes disfavor with others. I try to be what they want me to be, but I never succeed. So I’m never welcomed into that wondrous inner circle where acceptance is lavished and forgiveness is plentiful. My friendships remain on the level of good acquaintances. And this doesn’t bring me much happiness.
God doesn’t bring or promise happiness either. Eternal life? Forgiveness for our sins? Yes. But in this world, you will have tribulation. Even though He has overcome the world.
Life has been hard. It has been a struggle.
I’ve worked hard, attempting to build some security into my environment by achieving and performing, trying to get ahead just a little bit so everything wouldn’t always be so difficult. But instead of recognizing and rewarding my hard work and dedication, I have found my jobs collapsing out from under me. Watching everything I worked hard for fall apart, again. Forcing me to start over, again. To prove my value, again. The promotions, raises, rewards, and recognition have gone to those who stabbed others in the back; those who excelled at political positioning and game playing. Or to those who were prettier, more confident, cooler, less strange, less awkward and klutzy than I. No job has ever provided me with a feeling of happiness. Nor given me a sense of fulfillment. Jobs have been means to an end. An end I have yet to achieve.
Although certain things in my life have brought me a sense of enjoyment, they haven’t provided me with an overriding sense of happiness. There seems to be a big difference between gratefulness and happiness.
For example, I am grateful to have a roof over my head at the moment. To not be homeless. I have been grateful for owning a nice home of my own in the past. One that had adequate space, structural soundness, and that pleased me ascetically. A home that appeals and is also located in a relatively safe part of the city makes me feel good. But it doesn’t give me a reason to live or provide a sense or purpose. Nor does a nice wardrobe, though I do take pleasure in having one. Or a new car, though a reliable one is much less stressful than one that is unreliable. Being thin, so I can wear anything without fear or ridicule, has probably come closest to making me feel a sense of happiness as anything has. The less there is of me, the better I feel. But it is a constant struggle to remain thin. And it’s a battle I’m not currently winning, as I’m very unhappy with my body right now. Being with my dogs, watching them play, seeing them happy, enjoying their exuberance, gives me a sense of well-being. It makes me feel good. Keeps me alive, actually. But is that happiness? Does it make me a happy person? I don’t know.
I am grateful for the positive things that life has, at times, brought my way. I am grateful even though there haven’t been a great many positives. But the things I am grateful for do not, in and of themselves, make me a happy person. Feeling happy and being happy seem to be quite different. And while the blessings of life can make me feel happy on occasion, they do not, over time, make me a happy person.
I have concluded that feeling happy and being happy are two very different things.
I am grateful. For all the good that has come my way, even though there hasn’t been all that much of it. Mostly, there has been lack and rejection. Hardship and struggle. Confusion and isolation. So when good things happen, I feel especially thankful. Yet, this has not made me a happy person. The feeling of being happy has proved fleeting. Being a happy person has been even more elusive. True abiding happiness is not something I comprehend or possess. I think this is a defect. A flaw. Another way in which I am broken. And that disturbs me.
I know people who are happy. Their happiness seems to come mainly from relationships. Relationships with family, friends, a partner, their children and grandchildren…all of which give them meaning, a sense of purpose and belonging. A reason for being. They find joy in their connections with others. Deep connections. And even when life is hard, those connections provide them with joy. Enough joy for them to believe life is worth living. To think the good outweighs the bad.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to forge these types of connections. Yet another area of brokenness.
Why do I awake with a heavy sense of unhappiness while another wakes with a sense of exuberance for life and with an overriding sense of happiness, regardless of circumstances?
My question to you is this: Are you happy? Not just feeling happy because of something. But really, deeply happy. Maybe you’re not pleased with the circumstances of your life. But would you describe yourself as a generally happy person? And if so, why? What is it that makes you that way?
I am seeking to understand. To learn. Maybe even to change. Because I am tired of being unhappy. Of waking up with a deep sense of overriding unhappiness and regret. Nothing I know to do is helping me to find the magical road to happiness. Maybe you can point me in the right direction. Maybe. I certainly think it’s worth a try.