Now, I don't want to get off on the wrong foot here, nor do I want to put down what brings happiness to people. However, happiness, at least in my experience, is superficial. All too often it is a veil behind which hides some form of self-indulgence. (That's a strong word, I realize. Just hear me out.)
When people say, "I'm not happy," usually it means that they are not getting what they want. Everyone experiences this. That denied desire can be material, relational, or whatever. They don't have what they want and, in the words of my 5-year-old, they think "It's not fair."
And they're probably right. So much in this world isn't fair. The world is ugly. It's broken. It's harassed and helpless and in desperate need of some genuine compassion.
So hear me when I say this: It's not wrong to want to be happy.
Interestingly enough, what I'm finding in my own life is that, despite whatever unhappiness I may be experiencing at a given moment, happiness is not what I'm actually after. When I feel unhappy its because I'm feeling a whole lot of deeper things that matter more than happiness. A few of these deeper things I've been able to identify are:
I feel unseen.
I feel unheard.
I feel unneeded.
I feel unloved.
When those deeper "Un" things surface, my tendency is to find a way to assuage the "un". And unfortunately that's when I go after what I think will make me happy. A better relationship. A better wardrobe. A better job. A better social set. A better environment. A better self. But none of that can bring a lasting solution to what I'm feeling. The actual solution is a paradox.
To be seen is to see.
To be heard is to hear.
To be needed is to need.
To be loved is to love.
None of these solutions make sense to my limited, human mind. How in the world can I feel heard if all I do is listen? I honestly don't know exactly how it works--just as I don't know exactly how my novel is being written. The story becomes bigger than me. It takes on a life of its own and I am merely the conduit for it. So it is in life, oftentimes.
When I have stopped trying to be heard and listen to those around me, I hear in others the same words that echo in myself. A shared experience, A shared idea. A shared struggle. A shared hope. When a person feels heard, she is more apt to listen. Unfortunately, someone has to take that position of "First Listener" to begin this process. The same goes for seeing and needing and loving. And it is a HUGE risk to be the one to take the "First" role.
I'll admit that placing myself in that vulnerable position makes me sick to my stomach sometimes, knowing the potential for being wounded (or re-wounded, as it might be). To acknowledge that I need is a risk. To make the choice to love is a risk. Every. Single. Time. Yet I'm realizing that everything that matters in life is a risk. Everything. Therefore, our choice lies in what we are willing to risk ourselves on.
So I've decided not to try to make myself happy. Instead, I keep trying to unearth the "un"s in my life and bring them into the light. I'm trying to embrace the paradox. I'm trying to take risks. If I do these things, I could potentially get hurt. Or I could find contentment and connection and discover a wilder and deeper happiness--what I prefer to call JOY--than I've ever experienced. For me, that's worth the risk.
PS: If you wondering what in the world a "Clarified Butter Moment" is, read this.