“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.”
March 20 is the International Day of Happiness. Imagine that!? The day was conceptualized and founded by philanthropist, activist, statesman, and prominent United Nations special advisor Jayme Illien to inspire, mobilize, and advance the global happiness movement. Since 2013, the United Nations has celebrated the International Day of Happiness as a way to recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.
When working on my content calendar for 2019 I knew I had to create awareness of this day, and I took the fact that it falls on Wednesday as a sign. What I did not know at the time is just how happy I would be three months into 2019.
I have never identified as a happy person. I am turning 32 in August and until this year never in my life had anyone asked how I am doing and I replied that I am happy. Now it is my usual response.
I have spent most of my life pursuing happiness. My second tattoo, which I got in 2011, is Kanji symbols for strength and happiness. Strength because I am the second strongest person I know (second to my mum) and happiness because one of my life goals has always been to be happy. Of course I have known happiness, my life has not been all gloom and doom. I have just never had happy as part of the repertoire of emotions that make me who I am. That might sound hyperbolic given I have one of the loudest laughs ever, but there is a difference between experiencing fleeting moments of happiness versus being holistically happy.
Three weeks ago I learnt from Grey’s Anatomy (next week’s post btw!) that bipolar disorder in the early 19th century was referred to as melancholy. See here where I described myself as melancholic in my first Lyrics That Relate post. As I am drawn to pensive sadness, this tends to be me when I am feeling down:
I can get really really really woe is me and wallow in the many ways life is unfair. But this year, when people ask me how I am I tell them I am happy.
What is the secret? I accepted the fact that only you can create your happiness. You have to choose happiness every single day and be unwavering and unapologetic about it.
I spent most of 2014 and 2015 angry and in tears over my mum’s debilitating health. The universe cut me some slack in 2016 so that was an okay year. I came into 2017 knowing my mum might die that year. She died on December 13th at 1:10 a.m. I believe it goes without saying that 2018 was the hardest year of my life.
In those very trying years I hated being told to look on the bright side. To choose happiness. My mum was the absolute love of my life. What bright side was there in the years she was dying/died? There are fewer things as life changing as the loss of a mother, so it felt impossible for me to choose happiness while I was dealing with anticipatory grief and then actual grief later on.
Enter 2019 and I made the decision to start living life again. I do not know if I decided so much as it happened organically. All I know is that January 1, 2019 I took off my wedding ring. This is not to say I am no longer grieving. I still think about and miss my mum every day. The only difference is that now my grief does not define every minute of every day. Sometimes I miss my mum so badly I can tell you how many days it has been since she died, other days my grief resides at the back of my head, never forgotten, but not smothering me either.
Not all sadness is as life changing as bereavement though. Sometimes your sadness is due to “simpler” stuff like being passed up for a promotion, a friend’s betrayal, getting dumped etc. I am not saying that these problems are simple. That would be dismissive and I try as best as I can not to invalidate people’s feelings just because I do not understand them. What I am saying is that they do not compare with the permanence of death. You can always move jobs, get new friends, enjoy the single life/get a new significant other etc., but you cannot bring someone back from the dead.
So how do you choose happiness with all the shit that life throws your way. By accepting that shit happens. That is just how life works. Sometimes bad things happen for a reason and sometimes shit just happens. It is not what you go through, but how you choose to respond to what you go through. If you assign blame to everyone and everything around you, you step into a victim mentality that takes away all the power from you. Which is why I say how you choose to respond as the word choice implies that there are options are within your control, meaning you have all the power.
“Just when we think we’ve figured things out, the universe throws us a curveball. So we have to improvise. We find happiness in unexpected places. We find our way back to the things that matter the most. The universe is funny that way; sometimes it just has a way of making sure we wind up exactly where we belong.”
This new way of thinking did not come easy though. I am drawn to pensive sadness after all. How it happened was towards the end of last year I started exploring the phrase “find your happy”. I do not remember where exactly the phrase came from but it embedded itself in my brain and never left. I realised that I was sad 99% of the time and one day I decided to identify the things in my life that were a source of happiness. I made a list of these things and returned to them whenever I felt overwhelmed by sadness.
- Supernatural. That show is my happy place. Sam & Dean Winchester and Castiel bring me so much joy.
- Grey’s Anatomy. As mentioned earlier this is the title of next week’s post. My love for the show is strong enough to garner it an entire blog post.
- Nora Roberts books. Quite simply, they fill me with glee.
- Rick Dees. Waking up just in time to catch Rick Dees from the “sure shot” is usually the start of a great Saturday. Some days I read as I listen to Rick, most days I write and once in a while I wake and bake.
- A night out with friends. Lawd girls night outs – or as a friend of mine used to call them, pussy night outs – are just the best. The laughter and fun times that ensue are so healing.
- Watching YouTube videos as I light up. Ellen and James Corden videos are easily my go-to. (5 Second Rule, Burning Questions, Carpool Karaoke, Drop the Mic [this is sooo good it was made into a TV show], Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts are some of my favourite segments.)
It took a while but I can finally say I am happy. My happiness is in the way I slay every day. I mentioned it briefly in How Lwile Got Her Groove Back but damn I have been serving lewks this year!! If I do say so myself.
I just feel so damn good on the inside for the first time ever that I cannot help but express it on the outside. Which must be such a surprise for the people I interacted with last year as this was 2018’s vibe:My happiness is in the fun, outgoing people I am kicking it with this year. It is in the way I no longer have those dreams about my mum that haunted me all of last year. It is in the positive, progressive plans I am making for 2019. Hell it is even in the way my smile is beaming and my skin is gleaming *Ariana Grande voice*.
Life is for living. We only get one shot at it so you just have to take a running dive at life. Or (as my cousin reminded me) chumb in, as Cess Mutungi puts it.
Tomorrow I am off to South Africa for the first time in my life and next Wednesday I will get to experience Ed Sheeran in concert. How is that for finding your happy!?