When I was young, happiness always came later. “I can’t wait until Christmas.” “Only two more weeks until summer vacation.”
When the time actually arrived, I was often too busy to realize I actually was happy…and it never seemed to last as long as the wait had. “I’m bored. I wish school started tomorrow.” (Okay, I only remember thinking that during one summer…)
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked around and wondered what makes people happy? Why do I seem to be the most unhappy Christian I know? And all for no reason? How do others get to that place of contentment where nothing ruffles their feathers while I seem to fly off the handle over the littlest things?
Perception, for one thing.
Probably, no one is really as happy as they seem…and freedom from struggle doesn’t equal happiness. I always thought that if I didn’t have to work, everything would be roses. (Erm, no.) If I could just finish my novel, then life will be wonderful. (It’s finished.) When the editing is done, I’ll find a sense of balance. (Or at least have time to clean the house.) As soon as I send this off, my frustrations will end…
and on and on.
Today, I’ve finally realized that I need to stop looking for the answer. It doesn’t exist the way I think it does – if that were the case, then it would only be a matter of finding the right motivational post on Facebook. Friends have shared hundreds of “feel good” sayings, but none of them have changed my life. Or theirs either. In between all those great pictures are hundreds of posts about problems, sickness, drama, and all manner of inane facts and observations.
I had a dream the other night where my brother-in-law came back from S. Korea and was busy setting out Christmas presents for everyone. The dream me came to the realization that I don’t like the Christmas season because I don’t do the shopping, so therefore I don’t anticipate the reception of the gift. That if I just bought things for people, it would make it a season of hopeful anticipation instead of just one morning of getting together.
Turns out, my epiphany didn’t hold up in the light of day. The truth of it is that I let my husband do the shopping because trying to figure out what people want stresses me the heck out. I’m not happy just getting someone something. I want my gifts to be memorable, the one people open and their mouths gape and they squeal… It’s too much expectation to live up to, and it immobilizes me until the last moment when I just have to get them whatever. (I’m sensing a pattern here.) I mean, I can’t even figure out what I want, let alone anyone else. And have you noticed that people don’t squeal when you get them exactly what they ask for?
So, if there’s no answer about happiness, does it mean I’ll never find that state of mind? Will I just continue as I have been, frustrated that this edit has consumed my life and is taking years longer than I wanted it to? I don’t know. I just know that constantly questioning it hasn’t made me any better off. I have to conclude that I can only revel in the happy moments I have.
I will continue to feel a fleeting happiness from a gorgeous view out my window, from a well-turned phrase, a completed blog post, my sister’s weekly visits, a satisfying cup of water… and all the other little joys. I will stop and notice them more. That’s all I can do. I’m reminded of the quote from Letters to Juliet: “Life is the messy bits.”
A friend of mine posted the following today:
“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” (Proverbs 4:23 GN)
Long before psychology came around, God said your thoughts determine your feelings and your feelings determine your actions. If you want to change your life, you have to control the way you think.
God wants us to stop putting ourselves down. When you put yourself down, who are you really putting down? When you say, “God, I’m worthless. I’m no good. I can’t do anything,” you’re saying, “God, you blew it with me.” That’s why God says it’s wrong to put yourself down.
How do you eliminate negative self-talk so you can become a more confident person?
The Bible teaches the principle of replacement. “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right … Think about all you can thank God for and be glad about” (Philippians 4:8 LB). —David Taylor
So, I will think on the good moments each day and let the bad ones blow over – as they always do. The night won’t always last. And joy comes in the morning.