The other day I was straightening up the living room when it hit me. I wasn’t even thinking. It just snuck up on me, like so many things seem to do these days.
I felt truly, genuinely, deeply happy. I spent a few minutes really feeling it and I felt like for those moments, I was really getting this whole “life” stuff. I thought about writing a little post on it. And then I got scared. And then this post was born.
It took me back to years ago laying on my yoga mat during shavasana, listening to my yoga teacher talk about happiness. It was the same stuff he said every time we went, but for some reason that night, I got it. I remember laying on my back with hot tears slipping from the corners of my closed eyes, falling into my ears. I remember feeling something shift in my soul.
His message is not unique or new. He was telling us how important it is to be happy RIGHT NOW. Not when you finally get that thing you want. Not when everything is finally perfect. Not when you achieve that goal, but NOW.
Sometimes you need to hear something a thousand times before you really hear it. And then you forget it for a few years and have to re-learn it again. Even though I had heard those words a thousand times, I really felt it that night. At that time in my life I was so happy, but I ‘knew’ would be happier when I was finally engaged to Will. I didn’t want to wait another day without beginning the process of becoming his wife. I wanted his name, I wanted the big, sparkling diamond on my finger, and I wanted it NOW. I spent most of my energy on this subject trying to convince myself I didn’t care when it happened and the other half of my energy trying to MAKE IT HAPPEN. Silently, of course, and acting like it didn’t really matter.
The truth was, though, that I was madly in love with Will, regardless of if we were engaged or not. I knew and had told him that a proposal was definitely not a requirement in this relationship. I would never leave him over a ring. I was too happy to just be with him than to demand an ultimatum or a time-frame from our relationship.
That night at yoga, I knew I had to let go. Let go of the idea that the ring was the end-all, be-all of our relationship. I knew I had to be happy NOW, not happy if ____ or when _____. I let it all go (for real) that night on my yoga mat.
And you know what happened? The next morning I woke up to a gorgeous pink sunrise and with a huge weight off my chest. And before the sun came up the next morning, I had that big, sparkling diamond on my finger. Will had no idea I had had this life-changing epiphany at yoga. He had bought the ring weeks before that night and it was hiding within feet of where I slept every night.
I have this fear. Maybe I am the only one, but I don’t think I am. I am afraid sometimes if I say out loud, or proclaim to the world how happy I am, how wonderful things are, that somehow that dooms my happiness. Like it will all slip away as soon as the words leave my lips. I have horrible visions of car wrecks and arguments and losing jobs and cancer and terrible things like that.
I have a friend who tried for a long time to get pregnant. When she finally did, there was always something she was waiting for before she could be truly happy, before she could enjoy. She would be happy when her blood tests came back from the doctor to reassure her she wasn’t miscarrying. She would be happy after the first trimester was over. She would be happy after the anatomy scan came back clear. She would be happy after labor was over and the baby was safe. She would be happy after she knew the baby didn’t have some sort of disorder that they missed in utero. She would be happy when the baby made it through the first year of life without dying of SIDS.
Oh man, that feeling. The sister of “I will be happy when ____” is the feeling of, it’s not “safe” to be happy yet. But the problem with this thinking, is when does it end? When is it finally “safe” to be happy?
I’ve thought about it. And I have come to the conclusion that it is never safe. Something could happen at any moment to make your whole life crash down around you. Every single second there is the chance of bad news. Of a natural disaster. Of death. Of life as you know it never being the same.
I watched a YouTube video of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh last week, where he was answering the question of a woman who had lost her young husband, and was now a single mother overcome with grief. She wanted to know how to survive. During his response, Thich Nhat Hanh said that situations such as these are why it is so important to meditate about death. Huh??
He said it is important to meditate on death so that we are able to appreciate the beauty of the things with us right now. So I guess we aren’t supposed to ignore death and push it to the back corner of our minds and pretend it doesn’t exist until we are absolutely forced to deal with it? Because that is pretty much how I would like to do it.
Here is the thing. I get what Thich Nhat Hanh is saying. Its another one of those things I have to hear a thousand times before I listen. The fact is, there is death and scary, unfair things happening all the time. And not in spite of that, but because of that, is why we have to appreciate those perfect moments, those moments that are so imperfect that they become perfect, those moments where I am rinsing out a dish and look outside and see Will holding Gia’s hand as she walks through our yard and think – this is it. This is the life I have always wanted. I am living it. Right NOW. We have to hold those moments and be proud of those moments and not be afraid that sharing them or loving them will end our happiness. We have to enjoy these moments precisely because of the times these moments are not here.
Instead of spending our lives afraid that something bad might happen, and thus never really enjoying anything, we need to spend our lives enjoying the good that IS happening, RIGHT NOW.
Here is the choice:
1. Spend my days afraid and on-edge because something bad might happen.
a. Then, something bad does happen, and I spent all the “good” time afraid anyway.
b. Or, nothing bad happens, and I spent all the “good” time afraid.
2. Or I can spend your days enjoying and shouting from the mountaintops or quietly thankful (whichever is more your style) of every amazing and ordinary thing in my life.
a. Then, something bad does happen, but I spent all the “good” days enjoying what you had.
b. Or, nothing bad happens, and I spent all the “good” time happy.
You know those moments you feel like your heart might literally break open with happiness? When it feels like this amount of beauty can’t even exist for long, and the knowledge that it is temporary makes it that much more bittersweet? Life is so freaking “brutiful” (brutal/beautiful – a term from my favorite, Glennon Melton @ Momastery).
It would be safer to live at a constant medium. Never getting too excited or too happy about anything, because you would remind yourself about all the bad and heartbreaking stuff that happens all the time. The stuff that could happen to you.
But what if you felt the beauty and the appreciated it BECAUSE you knew there was bad and heartbreaking stuff happing all the time. Stuff that could happen to you. But in this moment, that stuff isn’t happening. And that is beautiful. And if/when that stuff arrives, maybe you will hold on to these moments that you pile in your memory that remind you how beautiful, how brutiful life is, and then life is a little more bearable. A little more liveable.