Get happy-now

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I'm sure you've heard the song, 'Don't worry! Be happy!' right? Well, when that song first came out eons ago, I was not in a good state of mind and didn't appreciate some song telling me that all I had to do was stop worrying and just be happy! My mind kept yelling, 'HOW??!!'

I have said before that I haven't always been the happiest of people. Not many would know that since I was an expert on having a brilliant facade that hid all my unhappiness. I had everything that anyone would need to be happy; I had a husband who was a good provider, I had three strong, brilliant sons who also used that brilliance in many, creative ways to make my life a challenge and I had a warm, loving extended family.

But.

I wasn't happy. Knowing what I had and not being happy was so depressing. I would constantly berate myself into thinking I should be grateful but at the same time found myself thinking that 'if only things were different, I would be happy.' If only my husband spent more time with me and treated me the way I thought I should be treated. If only my sons would stop bickering and get along and appreciate me more. If only we had a bigger house where we could all fit into it. If only my mom would stop being so intrusive. If only we had more money so we could do more things. If only people would be different so I could get along with them better. I could be a better wife, if only. I could be a better mom, if only. I could be a better friend, if only.

Do you see that pattern I was living? I probably would have continued in this state of chronic sadness if my mom hadn't been diagnosed with lung cancer 16 years ago. After caring for her until she finally passed, I started my spiral down. I had never lost anyone before my mom, was not prepared for the grief and had no idea how to get through it. After four years I finally reached a point of complete misery. I was 'done' with being unhappy. I was 'done' with being miserable. I was 'done' with doing self-sabotaging acts that kept my life in chaos and angst. I was just 'DONE.'

This is where my life took a different turn. It was suggested that I find help. I resisted since I've always been so smart and knew what was best for me. And look where that smart thinking got me! Though I resisted (loudly) to going to anyone for help, I went. Grudgingly. Did I mention I was also stubborn? So, I went.  It was gently pointed out to me that grief needed to be addressed head on no matter how much it hurt and that the only person who was responsible for my happiness was me. Just me.

And that was NOT what I wanted to hear. I had been convinced myself that people, places and things were to blame for my feeling the way I did! Not me! I was the victim! But I stayed and listened. I decided that since my best thinking got me where I was that day, it might be a good idea to listen to someone else's ideas on what I should do. I'm not sure what made me finally come to that conclusion, but I can say that I am grateful for it. I promised myself that I would do anything necessary to make myself better. I owed that to the memory of my mom, who was my biggest champion, and I owed it to my husband and sons. And, I owed it to myself.

If anyone else finds themselves in this position, I hope that they decide one day that they, too, are 'done.' How do you know if you're happy or just pretending to be? And if you're not happy, what now? Not everyone can afford therapy, I know that, but I also know that there are resources that can help you. So how can one assess exactly where they are in the Happiness area?

In my pursuit for happiness, which continues to this day (who can say that there's any such thing as TOO much happiness?) I have come across a happiness assessment test. from Oprah's website.

I took this test last month and was very pleased when my score came up in the highest range. Then I thought, 'Wouldn't it be interesting to take it as if it were 13 years ago?' I put myself back in that Dark Place, took the test and was very intrigued to see that I fell in the Self-care category, which was 2nd from the last. And scored in the lowest portion of that category so I was close to the bottom. I was quick to say a Gratitude Blessing that I was able to be where I am today, and not back there where I was so miserable. I encourage you to go to that link and take the test. It's only 10 questions so it's very quick. Try  hard to be rigidly honest in your answers.

So you've taken The Happiness Test, find yourself in an area where you're not thrilled with and think, 'So what do I do now?' I have a couple suggestions. One is go back to Oprah's website and click on the 10 Ways to Increase Your Happiness.

These are guidelines on how you can make changes in different areas of your life. There are other links related to this subject on the same site that may be inspiring and encourage you to do something different. Aren't we all guilty of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Well, this may be the time to decide that doing something different will give you the results you desire.

When I was going through all that therapy, I was given many assignments that helped lead me out of that dark place I had myself in. My first assignment was to make a corner for myself to do my morning devotionals in. I have a chair, side table with a lamp, candles, pictures of my loved ones, books for self-study and a journal. It was suggested that I take time every morning, before I did anything else, to have a cup of tea (or coffee), sit in my chair, play a little music, and reflect and read and write in my journal. Now, at the time, I was working full-time in my husband's office and still had one teenager at home who was very creative in his activities! Who had time to get up every morning and do this? After much complaining, it was gently suggested to me that maybe all my excuses were just that. Excuses. Maybe I was using everything in my life as excuses to avoid having to face the biggest culprit in my unhappiness: Me. Well, now. So, since I HAD promised to listen and do whatever was necessary to put all this to an end, I complied (again, grudgingly) and did it. Some mornings it was for only a few minutes, maybe ten. And on those mornings where I had more time, I took it. And after a few weeks, I started looking forward to it.

I was given a couple of books to help me through the first stage of my journey. One was 'Simple Abundance; A Daybook of Comfort and Joy' by Sarah Ban Breathnach. This book is a quiet, gentle path towards 6 areas we need to aspire to: Gratitude, Simplicity, Order, Harmony, Beauty and Joy. From this book, I got my next big assignment: Every night, before I went to sleep, I needed to write down 5 things I was grateful for from that day. Every night. I did this for over two years. The miracle of it was how much it changed me inside and out. In the first three months, I felt a change come over me. Before I would think about what I needed, wanted, and desired in life. Now, for the first time, I was starting to understand the concept of, 'Be grateful for what you have.' It was not easy for me, but I eventually acquired a state of gratefulness that has become constant to this day. The rest of the areas helped me simplify my life (why need more if I was grateful for what I already had?), give it some order (so much easier when you don't have as much 'stuff'), which led to Harmony, Beauty, and, finally, Joy. This is a daily journey with just one page per day (so it's quick!) that lasts for one year. Since it starts Jan 1, this is the perfect time for you to get this book and start your own journey towards Joy.

Another area of study was one of myself. I had some grief to deal with and residual issues from my childhood I still needed to face and get past and, so again, I was given the assignment of learning what those issues were, why I hung on to them, and what I needed to do to get past them. The book that helped me the most was Dr. Phil's 'Self Matters'. I know! I know! A lot of people think he's some clown on TV yelling at people to 'Get real!' And you're right. He's like that. But one thing I learned from him is that when it comes to human behavior, what we do to make our lives miserable and how we can be more accountable for our own behavior, he is brilliant. This book not only addresses all of that, he gives you 'homework' to help delve into yourself and find out what you can do to get past all that is holding you back from being happy and becoming the authentic you. This was not easy. No one wants to revisit parts of our lives that made us unhappy. But until we can revisit those times, feel the pain of those times all the way through, we can't get better. Avoiding them and putting them on the back burner is just a way of allowing them to come back willy-nilly and haunt us again. Once felt all the way, the pain goes away. It also helps you stop being a victim. I was the Queen of Victims and was convinced that everyone was responsible for the way I felt. I now know that I was not a victim, I was a volunteer to feeling the way I did, and I had to be more diligent in accepting that and moving on. Being accountable for my own actions and words was a hard concept for me to accept. But it was one I needed to accept before I could ever hope to achieve a healed state of being.  I would suggest you try this book and know that since you don't have to hear his voice, you can imagine it's someone else other than Dr. Phil telling you what to do. I know for sure this book helped me tremendously.

These suggestions were just the beginning lessons for me. Since then I have read dozens and dozens of books to help me with my Self Study and the rewards have been limitless. I can put myself back in the Dark Ages anytime I want. And I do that when I find myself obsessing too much on what life is not giving me and not focusing enough on living life on life's terms. This act reminds me that I don't want to be that way ever again, and I need to continue my journey forward, not backwards. The pursuit of happiness is never-ending. To be happy, we have to work on it. Every day. And I'm sure if my mom were with me today, she would be proud.