My brother Seth left the following comment on my previous blog post about happiness:
"Help me out here Rachel and please tell me... What does it mean to YOU to be happy? I mean, if you don't mind, I'm curious to know what you think happiness is. Your definition of happiness. What does it look like, feel like, etc.? What would your life look like if you were to achieve this elusive state of happiness?"
I sat down and wrote him a long email about my definition of happiness...then, when it was finished, decided that I would share it here on my blog.
So, in response to Seth's prodding, this is how I would describe a happier version of my life:
- I wouldn't be tired ALL the damn time. (And while I know that some of my fatigue comes from occasionally waking up at night with kids, I think a good portion of it is a result of some of my psychological choices. Generally speaking, I get a decent amount of sleep at night, and I exercise regularly and eat decently, but I ALWAYS wake up tired and often want nothing but to sleep after my kids have gone to bed. I nap pretty much every Saturday and Sunday. I think I use sleep as a numbing mechanism, a sweet escape into unconsciousness.)
- I wouldn't be held captive by my fears-- the number one being fear of insufficiency, the second being the fear of disapproval/criticism/rejection. I live in absolute terror of being disliked and/or disapproved of. Looking back over the past decade I can see that this attitude alone has robbed me of a lot of opportunities for joy in my life.
- I would truly believe that I am my gift to the world, that the best thing I have to offer the world is my genuine self-- strengths, limits, and everything in between. I would possess an innate sense of my worth instead of the belief that my worth is contingent on other peoples' approval.
- I would believe that it is okay for me to feel peace and contentment, even if I haven't achieved perfection or done everything/been everything I'd hoped to do/be that day. The Buddha, in a conversation with a king about their respective levels of happiness, asked the king if he could sit still for an hour and be happy the entire time. The king replied he thought he could. The Buddha then asked if the king could sit still for an entire day and still be content. The king didn't think he could. (I know I certainly couldn't!) The Buddha told the king that he (the Buddha) could sit still for an entire week and still be perfectly at peace. I would like to be at that place...a place where I could feel peace even if I hadn't done anything to "earn" it. If I were content with myself and my inherent worth, I believe I would be able to always (rather than sometimes) do good things out of a place of genuine love, rather than a frantic desire to make myself worthy of love/approval/happiness. And I think that means believing that I am already okay. Just as I am.
Of course, there are barriers to becoming happy. For one, adopting an attitude like this takes a tremendous leap of faith-- faith in my own goodness, faith that if I let go of my fear of inadequacy that I will still be adequate. And there is also the question of practical application. How do I come to a place like this in my heart? How do I develop a belief in my own goodness? How do I release my fears of disapproval and replace them with love and compassion for myself and others?
P.S. Yes, there is a lifestyle I would prefer-- which I described in detail in my "Miracle" post-- but I know that happiness comes from within, not having ideal circumstances occur without.