I'd like to give a special shout-out to Hannah Marcotti and her amaaazing program The Joy Up which was the inspiration for this post. If she offers The Joy Up again......y'all should get in on it.
It came as huge news to me a few years ago when I learned that it isn't actually possible to be happy all the time.
I was stunned. And confused.
Don't people always wish me, "a lifetime of happiness"? Aren't I supposed to live "happily ever after"? Don't I actually have a RIGHT to the "pursuit of happiness"?
For years, with those messages in my head, I had been constantly scrutinizing my happiness. In an effort to 'stay happy', I would cling to every happy feeling I had. I would try to wring out my happiness and make it last as long as possible - even faking it, long after it had died.
Because I was supposed to be 'happy'. Wasn't 'happiness' the goal?
And yet there I was a few years ago, listening to one of my favorite yoga teachers tell me that constant happiness was a foolish pursuit.
I was flabbergasted. It was just like when I learned that my Barbie doll's measurements were not physically possible. I felt lied to. And ticked off!
I had been making myself crazy all these years trying to stay 'happy' (and have smaller feet) and it wasn't even attainable.
When I got over my shock, I have to admit that this discovery about happiness was a big, fat relief. Because I had NOT been happy all the time (nor do I have a teeny-weeny waist and colossal boobs and itty-bitty Barbie feet) - but the 'ideal' that had been foisted upon me was making me feel like I was doing something WRONG.
I had been feeling so BAD whenever my happiness would dissipate, or whenever I would find myself feeling disappointed or blue. I would ask myself, "Why is it so hard for me to STAY happy? What am I doing wrong? How come it always goes away?".
The answer is: Because happiness is not meant to last.
Now, before you go drown your sorrows, hear me out!
Happiness is a feeling.
Happiness is simply a response.
Happiness comes and goes, based on what life has put in front of you. If something good happens, you will feel happy. If, in the next moment, something craptastic happens....you will feel something else.
Feelings are fluid - they ebb and flow - and happiness is a feeling.
Sadness is also a feeling - as is surprise, disappointment, anger - and nausea.
You cannot hold on to nausea any more than you can hold on to happiness. You just...can't.
Go ahead. Try to stay nauseous.
How's it going?
So, if you cannot hold on to happiness, what might you do instead?
Well, first of all, you must accept that your feelings are fluid and will change - sometimes rapidly. This is how it's meant to be.
If this idea trips you up, think of what it's like to console a teenager on her first break-up with a boy. You have the perspective and the wisdom that she does not, when you assure her that her feelings will change and she WILL get over feeling sad. You know this, because it's true.