3 Small, But Super-Effective Ways To Be Happy When Life's A B*tch

Three ways to remind yourself that life will, in fact, go on.

happiness tips

Divorce will do your head in. Even if you're in a really bad marriage and you need to escape with just the tattered remnants of your soul intact, there will still be some sadness when word comes down that the divorce is finalized. Even total liberation can throw us for a loop. 

For me, the entire process of my divorce - from the early stages of disbelief and emotional turmoil to eventual graceful acceptance and even zen - has been a wild ride. When you walk away from a marriage, even if the love might be long gone, there's something bittersweet about it all. In my own tale, at least, there have been vast stretches of time when I went down the "If only we'd figured out a way" trail before finally succumbing to gently holding hands with my blues; it just seemed to make more sense than trying to bash in every teardrop's skull with a weapon of mass denial. But amid the sadness, I've also found inspiring bright sides. Not in the sense that I find myself jumping for joy, more like little everyday stuff that suddenly make so much more sense as a guy leaving a marriage and walking away from a dream. 


So without further adieu, here's 3 little ways I found happiness in the midst of divorce. They're nothing super profound - and that's the point. These few incidental things became almost magical during a time in my life when all of my senses were heightened by heartache. When you're divorcing and confused and upset and uncertain, small reminders that life goes on can make one hell of a difference. Trust me on that one.

1. Take Some Time To Be Alone

Most married people have to really work at carving out some alone time; my ex and I sure did. Between work and kids we rarely had much time to hang out together, let alone our own solitude. Now that I'm divorced, despite being overcome with a lot of unsettled grief, I've been almost overwhelmed by the opportunity to have a little 'me time' for the first time in ages. Standing alone in my home with no one else around (and no one showing up) was harrowing at first. I have to imagine it's not uncommon for new divorcees to gravitate towards seeing that isolation as something very sad or frightening.


But it doesn't have to be. Even if you're a social animal who thrives on human company, time alone is a gift. I have three young kids who crazy up my home so on the days and nights that they're with their mom, I have to jam in a lot of work and chores. But during each stretch when they're gone and I'm done doing what needs to be done, I've come to revel in the chance to just hang out by myself, to think, to veg out. Initially, I felt guilty for feeling so thrilled at the prospect of having time to myself but I soon decided to hell with that and soon enough, these moments of potential loneliness turned into the chance for me to be me again. With a book, a movie, a frozen pizza and a little wine, the possibilities are endless and the rewards are immeasurable.

2. Feel Empathy For Other People

People often think they have good hearts and understanding minds but you're never really as far along the road to enlightenment as you think you are. That's just human nature; there's always room to improve and be a better human, a greater friend, or a more worthwhile stranger. When my marriage started to crumble, I suddenly had the ability to connect with a much larger percentage of my fellow Earthlings beacuse so many other people hurt too, for a billion different reasons.

People lose loved ones every day. They lose their jobs and they wreck their cars and they get sick or hurt. Real tried and true sadness is everywhere, slamming into decent people every few minutes and those people aren't just living inside CNN. The same kind of melancholy and gut emotion you see people dealing with in war-torn nations lives right down your block, too, and when you're tuned into it I believe you start to be a better person. Divorce has helped me in that way. As weird as it may sound on the surface, acknowledging and feeling connected to my neighbor's struggle - whether I know him or not - makes me feel more alive. And that makes me happy.


3. Listen To Some Great Music

Okay. My best for last. (And who knew? Who could have ever guessed that something as common as divorce could take a man by the hand and lead him back to something as common as music?) Not me, I'll tell you that much. But that's exactly what happened.

Like a lot of people, I dig my music: always have, always will. However, I think it's common to move away from music at times in your life, especially during a marriage. You're working, you're wrangling kids, and you want a little peace and quiet. Even in the car on the way to your job or listening to tunes while you make dinner, we often slip away from that wildly serious relationship we had with bands and records and songs when we were young and free, when the music we listened to felt like it was written for us and about us.

That's what happened to me; I lost so much of my passion as a music listener. My ears shut it down and everything became background noise. But then, out of nowhere, I found myself divorced and out of nowhere, music came raging back into my world. I believe that the true power of music, the soul of it, lies dormant while you're running around living your regular life but then throw a tragedy into the mix and BOOM! That certain nameless magic buried down deep in the music that you used to know wakes up hard and fast. It leaps up out of a long coma to grab you by the throat and force your sad face down into that long-lost steaming pile of thrills and reflections and connections that you haven't felt for a long, long time.


Let me sum it up. I'll be 43 years old in a couple weeks and I'm not exactly thrilled that I've had to experience the lows of a divorce. Yet on most evenings when I find myself without my kids, I end up riding down mountain roads where I live, my cigarette smoke curling up out the cracked window. If you were watching, you'd see a grown man witnessing the sun sink down below the hills. You'd see a grown man all up in his head, thinking about love and living and losing and learning. You'd see a grown man running a Honda down the valley at dusk to the blaring beauty of something I had never known before my broken heart. You'd see a single dad, pushing middle age, staring at the horizon and listening to The Cure's Disintegration album loud as hell, knowing that every single song on this record I discovered almost 25 years after it first came out was written about a certain guy at a certain time in his up-and-down life.

And that guy is me. And you know what? That makes me really happy, even at a time like this.