Happy as a verb

Happy yoda

We experience joy (n). We are joyous and joyful (adj). We act joyfully and joyously (adv). We enjoy and rejoice (v).

Our lives are marked by sadness (n). We sadly (adv) sadden (v) into sad (adj) feelings.

But to happily (adv) greet our happy (adj) world in the hopes of finding happiness (n), what do we do?

What is the action that instills happiness?

Self-help bookshelves and an internet of blogs and podcasts roll back and forth across the happy landscape, and yet for so many of us, happy is an elusive creature.

It is all well and good to say that the first step to happiness is choosing to be happy, but I have yet to see any evidence that this is the only step in the process. What comes next?

Happy

Even within our political and social doctrine, our language is vague.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

No one can rob you of your life! No one can rob you of your liberty! Good luck with the last one.

Happy is such an elusive concept that our language completely fails us by refusing to give us a verb explaining how to reach this state of Nirvana.

We grieve. We love. We anger. We frustrate.

We elate. We bore. We amuse. We abash.

We envy. We lust. We frighten.

In conferring with colleagues, it seems French and Spanish suffer the same fate.

Are humans so determined to be miserable that we are willing to idealize happiness but never expect it will happen? Talk about your negative feedback loop.

If you have yet to find happiness in your life, perhaps you can take solace in the idea that no one in human history truly expected you would.

For an end-state of such wondrous simplicity, the achievement of happiness seems monumentally difficult, which makes me wonder…

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

—Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

What if the absence of a verb for happy is not a failing of language, but rather is a clue to a failing within ourselves? Perhaps Yoda was right.

What if happiness is not a state to be achieved, but rather is a ground state waiting to be rediscovered like some great monument buried by centuries of sand?

Perhaps happy is who we are, and for whatever reasons, we as individuals and as communities have simply buried our happiness under the detritus of our lives and society’s expectations.

Perhaps the first step to achieving happiness is not deciding to be happy. Rather, it is deciding not to be everything else.

mosaic floor

Excavations at Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire, UK. Property of National Trust, used without permission. (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chedworth-roman-villa)

At the outset, this may seem like an insane challenge, but at the very least, everything else (the non-happiness stuff) is something we understand. It is something tangible in our lives. It is something we can tackle one step at a time to reveal the beautiful mosaic of happiness beneath.

I don’t know about you, but I find greater hope in

“Life, Liberty and the recovery of Happiness.”

Obnoxiously happy

 

happy

Dear World,

My apologies if my happiness has gotten a tad obnoxious of late, but my life is blessed in so many ways that I simply cannot keep the joy inside, nor truthfully do I wish to.

Alongside the wonderful gifts I am given every day, I am routinely presented with insane opportunities to express and explore the passions that light up my soul, whether it is writing or photography or sharing knowledge.

But beyond even that, I sit in complete awe at the wondrous passions of the people around me; people with amazing visions of who they are and how the world can be.

I know painters and actors and writers and musicians; parents and partners and children and pets; athletes and industrialists and service workers and technicians. And every single one of those people bring me insane joy simply by following their own passions, whether within their titles or not, and allowing me to be witness and in some cases, participant.

Even watching perfect strangers experience their worlds, or Nature express itself from day to day, brings a beauty and elegance that I simply did not choose to see in my former life but do now.

So how can my heart not burst forth, my spirit soar and the laughter ring forth?

I am both a newborn child seeing things for the first time and an ageless ancient finally understanding the patterns that have always splayed out before my once dulled eyes.

That is my joy. That is my happiness. That is my love.

And unasked, that is what I share with the world.

Beyond happy

SONY DSC

We spend a lot of time in search of happiness, which I define as a blissful state of satisfaction. Being happy makes everything a little easier—work, family, life—and even where there are hard tasks ahead, happiness seems to make them less daunting, less onerous, less tasking.

When I am happy, I can roll with whatever punches life throws at me, and nicely have found that life throws fewer punches when I am happy.

And although not perfectly so, I find happiness is infectious. When I exude happiness, I am no longer perceived as a threat to those around me and therefore allow others to stay in their own happy place, or in some cases, make it easier for them to experience happiness.

alison_me

Although happiness may initially have an external source or motivation—a job you love, good friends—it is very internal. It is a state you choose to be in. And any external impact it has is purely passive; a choice others make in its presence.

Thus, I believe, there is another level beyond happiness that is more active, more empowering, and if taken wrong, possibly more intimidating.

Joy.

Where happiness is about contentment, satisfaction and peace, joy is the embodiment of love, laughter, engagement and play. Joy takes happiness and dials it up to 11.

me-and-duke-1

Joy is the ultimate expression of freedom, and as such, it cannot be easily contained. It exudes from every pore, every movement, every thought. It is an aura that precedes your entrance into any space and remains a gleeful echo long after you have moved on.

Joy changes how we see the world around us, finding glimmers of light in even the darkest of moments. It is not about self-delusion or selective memory, but rather a complete reframing of the question of the moment.

Like happiness, joy is a choice we make as individuals. But it is a more difficult choice to maintain because it ultimately demands an expanded consciousness to what is around us and an eternal openness to the possibilities in life.

agah-me

As such, joy demands more faith than happiness, which is more easily rationalized.

Happiness, when you choose it, makes sense. Joy doesn’t have to make sense. And perhaps, the less sense joy makes, the more joyful it is.

To embrace the irrational is to truly be open to the possible.

Because it is difficult or impossible to suppress joy—not sure I know why you would want to—joy can be seen as obnoxious or intrusive to those who have yet to find their happiness or joy. That is unfortunate for those individuals.

For those in joy, however, this is another opportunity to explore, understand and exchange. In this way, joy begets joy, even if not always from person to person.

All this to say that while I continue to explore happiness in my life, I have chosen to embrace joy and hope to share it with as many people as I can.

It is my gift to myself and to others.

vic

Dropping out…of everything

Its-Not-Goodbye-Its-See-You-Later

I’m dropping out in a few days.

Out of social media. Out of much of my social life. Out of a lot of responsibilities.

As some of you know, I have been on a journey the last couple of years, and recently, I have come to feel that I have hit a wall.

I have a ton of wonderful friends and acquaintances, both in person and online; people who nurture and support me in everything I do, and I am grateful to each and every one of you.

I am also working on some amazing projects. In fact, I have more projects than I have hours in which to work on them.

But as I say, I have recently felt like I’ve hit a wall. That I have replaced personal development with personal engagement. That I have sacrificed productivity for volume.

So, I am letting go and dropping out for a while.

No more Facebook or LinkedIn. No more Twitter or Stage32.

And no more blogging.

If you need to talk to me, it’s back to emails.

And the disconnection will not just be electronic. I’ll also be disengaging from a lot of projects, and only hope my partners will understand.

I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, but I wanted to let you how much I appreciate your indulgence and remind you how awesome you are.

Stop denying compliments

You’re a really nice person for coming to read my blog, and I really appreciate it.

I just wanted you to know that. You deserve to hear nice things about yourself.

feel good

It’s been a really good week or so for me on the compliment front as two previously unknown people have taken a moment to offer nice comments about my magazine writing.

In reference to a past commentary, Diane wanted me to know:

You’re a superb writer—love the line “One need only look at any war-torn region of the world today to realize that in the middle of a conflict, bullets take precedence over bandages.”

Similarly, Martina offered me her thoughts on a recent interview I conducted:

This was a great interview and a pleasure to listen to it. I don’t hear too many interviews with writers and editors so well prepared.

I tell you this not to say that you should love my work too, but rather to note that it wasn’t that long ago when I would have completely dismissed these lovely comments. Not because I am a dick, but because I am not worthy of such praise.

Throughout my life, I have had a lot of self-worth and self-image problems…still do, to be completely honest. I couldn’t believe that anyone would like me or my work because I and it had no value. Anything nice they had to say was just an effort to…I dunno…I have no idea why they said it.

But it wasn’t true. If it wasn’t a lie, it was a mistake.

As I’ve gotten better with myself over the last several years, I’ve noticed a lot of other people share this problem. They can’t, or perhaps more accurately won’t take a compliment.

dont deny

Please stop! Let people offer you their compliments. And then, say “Thank you.”

Simply say “Thank you” when someone gives you a compliment…no eye roll, no looking away or down, no self-deprecation. Just take it and acknowledge it! It sounds trite, but it isn’t.

A big part of being able to move past self-worth and self-image issues and slowly diminish their impact in my life has been the idea of accepting compliments from other people as more than politeness.

If it works for you as it did for me, at first you just go through the motions…but then slowly, as you take the compliments in and hear them more often–really, really hear them–you begin to think they may be based on something…they may be true. I’m sure they are.

I gave a dear friend of mine similar advice yesterday when she blogged about her vulnerability.

I then proceeded to give her about half-a-dozen compliments in short order to demonstrate my love and appreciation for her, to let her know she was worthy of praise.

COMPLIMENT1

Without knowing which of you is reading when, it is a little difficult for me to do the same right now, other than to let you know that you too are worthy of praise.

So let people praise you…and then, just say “Thank you”.

thank-you-note

(These beautiful images are the property of their owners and are used here without permission, but deepest appreciation.)

 

Words

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Words.

They flow so easily from your lips.

Momentary sounds of normalcy

That hold no meaning.

They change nothing,

They hide the sepsis

That slowly builds,

Pressing ever harder

Into our every morning.

I’m no better.

Eyes wrinkle in amusement,

Thoughts emerge, wrapped in softness,

Trying to hide the harshness

That lies beneath, barely hidden.

Cold feelings disguised in warm notes.

And all I can think

As I stare across the table;

The only true feeling inside

Is a solitary echo:

I can’t do this anymore.

(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission.)