Have you ever had a moment of such incredible happiness that you found yourself wondering “what did I do to deserve this?” I have. And that one question my friends, is a clear cut example of what a twisted culture we live in. You see, happiness is not something that you deserve. It is not something that you can earn or that you acquire either by earning enough brownie points with a qualified deity or by collecting the appropriate number of box tops. Happiness is something we are. In fact, it is our default state.
Don’t believe me? Spend some time around small children some time. I’m not talking about school aged kids who are already knee deep in learning how to envy those around them for the things that they don’t have or for getting the ‘good’ seat on the bus. I mean small children; babies and toddlers.
The average toddler has a better grasp on happiness than most adults on this planet. Of course they haven’t yet developed reasoning or social skills and have more energy than the average power plant on a high production day and sometimes still have to wear diapers, but if you spend any length of time around them you will notice that when it comes to happiness, they’ve got it nailed down. Their whole being radiates with happiness because they are entirely focused on whatever it is that they are doing; watching a caterpillar balance on a twig, jumping into mud puddles, watching a kitten play, squeezing all of the toothpaste out of the tube.
We have forgotten how to do this. We have forgotten how to be happy. We have forgotten how to radiate happiness with every particle of our being. We have forgotten the joy of watching all that toothpaste curl out onto the counter.
We go along, day after day, year after year focused on our education, on our work, on providing for our families and on juggling bills. And while that, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, when we begin putting aside our own happiness in order to better focus on these “more important” things we lose the knowledge of what it means to be completely and blissfully happy.
Humans are social animals. They want to fit in. They want to belong. For millennia like-minded individuals have created villages and towns and cities and religions. They have created clubs and teams and organizations so that they could come together and socialize; interact; share their experiences as humans.
In a world that is marked by suburban sprawl and almost wholly bereft of any sort of social or cultural opportunities that you used to find regularly wherever there were large groups of people. This is why the concept of social media is so very addictive; it allows individuals all over the world to “belong” and to interact with other individuals.
While the concepts of “belonging” and “fitting in” are natural and part of the nature of things, it comes at a price. The price can be steep, for many times a group or religion or organization has strict rules and regulations, things that you have to or cannot do in order to belong. And so, in order to be accepted we give up pieces of ourselves; our individuality; pieces of who and what we truly are in order to conform to the acceptable standards of the group or organization. Many times we give up the things that made us happy in order to be accepted by others. We then have to spend years – sometimes entire lifetimes attempting to understand why it is that we are so unhappy and attempting to find happiness again, albeit within the structures of our adopted social group, which of course means that many people have and will continue to die unhappy and unfulfilled.
So how can we be happy again? How can we possibly regain that selfless joy, that innate wonder of the world around us; the supreme happiness of jumping in the mud puddles; the sheer bliss of watching that toothpaste curl out onto the bathroom counter?
The first order of business is to accept that happiness is not an “earned” condition. You are happiness.1
The second order is to remember what it is that makes you happy and do it. Have you always loved the color and texture of paintings? Pick up some small canvases and paints at a craft shop and try your hand at putting images on paper. Playing in the dirt? Try digging up a small square of yard for a garden, or plant flowers or vegetables in a pot if you live in an apartment. Playing in tidal pools? Try setting up a small aquarium. Rainbows? Hang prisms in any window that gets direct sunlight.
Thirdly; don’t apologize for being yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if others laugh at you for going out in the rain without an umbrella, for blowing bubbles on the bridge during rush hour, for dancing madly to your favorite song when it comes on the radio, or laying out on the hillside to see the shapes in the clouds.
And finally, if you find someone with whom you can be completely and totally yourself, who not only enjoys your myriad facets but is aware of their own and who is not afraid to be themselves, cherish them, they are a rare gift, and believe me, the happiness that you will take in seeing each other’s total authenticity will be so incandescent that whenever you are tempted to think “what did I do to deserve this” you will instead find yourself thinking “what on earth took me so long to realize the truth?”