Learning to be happy is the only way I’ve found happiness.
With today’s society teaching us that we have to “have” in order to be happy, that we have to “achieve” in order to be successful, and those achievements are directly proportional to those of others and therefore our success is quantitive, we loose the qualitative and therefore the benchmark to happiness becomes that of the outer shell and not the substance.
There’s sense in the schooling years of streaming kids into classes that reflect their abilities in some ways but also adds the pressure, wrongly, that if you’re not in the top set for everything you are therefore going to be resigned to the doldrums of average or less and so not a success, you therefore may as well give up. At the age of 15 I attained a grade 8 with a distinction for my music grade and therefore my direction was set, I had to achieve being a successful musician, the attainment blinkered my direction in early life at a young age and left me closed to the possibilities of what else could be. In fact, music as a career wasn’t for me then and it isn’t for me now, but letting go of that was difficult. I actually didn’t love it enough in the ways that those who hadn’t achieved the same did, but I was told and told myself I did and so convinced myself I loved it whilst looking over the fence at the things I’d closed my life to.
I wasn’t sporty at a young age and so convinced myself it was something I couldn’t do. You see childhood for the naturally intelligent is not always a childhood, it becomes a series of achievements and goals, an unpaid career and pressure to maintain and attain. I think that so many children go through this, if anything sometimes ignorance can actually be bliss.
So early on depression became a result of the anxiety of not achieving the things I should achieve but didn’t really want to achieve. The pressure, came from me, something ingrained into this overly competitive mind that cannot relax if it’s not the best. It equaled misery, misery in my work, misery in my play, misery in my creativity because I could not accept that I could not always be the best, and I had learned that I could only be happy when I was.
But today I’m free. I somehow managed to let go. Untreated depression for a very long time meant a cycle of ups when something good happened only to be dashed by something better that didn’t happen to me. Anxiety that when something good did happen that the high would be quickly followed by the low. The fear of losing, that animalistic behaviour of the predatory animal that found the food and now guards its prize rather than eating it, for the other predators circle in the hope to steal, and so the hard won prize rots away before it can be eaten and nobody wins.
The introvert displaying as the extrovert because she was taught that she had to be outgoing, had to be loud, friendly, outspoken even though she only really wanted to retreat to go and think and consider and make and create. But you can’t be both. Neglecting the real talent because of the mistaken talent becomes a problem if it becomes a habit or a necessity.
I sit here this morning and wonder about how I got to now. Suicide doesn’t cross my mind anymore, not in the plaguing way it used to only months before. Yet I’ve removed the antidepressants, were they even helping at all? The answer is yes. They provided stabilisers for me to carry on and learn to be myself again, actually learn to be myself full stop, because I wonder if I’d ever been myself, perhaps during my formative years before the schools and pressure I had been. I have picked myself up so many times over the years and carried on when life didn’t match my expectations each time a little bit of hope for happiness dying because I had forgotten to consider the idea that I could just be happy anyway. Thus comes the face palm moment of “Why did you let yourself be so god damned miserable all these years?” … Idiot.
Is happiness even a real thing? I’m not sure, we’re all so obsessed with the things that make the happy that we can’t define it so therefore I’d argue that it isn’t. Like water can be solid, liquid or gas, happiness is just one of the states of mind, so therefore the thoughts in my head are either solid, liquid or gas also. It’s the definition, the label that makes it so hard and so removing that from the equation means we can just choose which state it is because happy is merely a relative feeling.
The biggest challenge I’ve found to being happy is fear. Fear of losing, fear of death, fear of lonely. But when the fear is gone am I helpless or happy or both? If I remove the fear and realise I’m helpless to control the events of the future, if I remove the worry that tomorrow it might all just be over, I can be happy in the now that I’ve got here in front of me. So in understanding my helplessness I lose the hopelessness and the worry disappears and I’m happy.
I have started to be able to laugh at the things that made me feel sad. Why? Because when you look from the outside the irony is strong. We all get taught we need love from others to be happy, but we don’t, if we concentrate on giving and expect nothing back then what we get feels better. Giving is relative to what the person has to give and no two people have the same capacity. Expecting leads to a one-upmanship competition of the one who gives all and the one who gives little and the inequality of the giving and receiving becomes the need to get back what was given when the other simply didn’t have it.
We see it with everything set out by human authority as we write, speak, scream and protest that life isn’t fair… but our rules made it less fair, and yes life is unfair but only if we compare our lives to the physical surroundings of ourselves and others.
Realising I can be happy in the now is what fixed it. Realising I could just be happy regardless of the situation fixed it. When a person dies only the bitter and twisted would want their loved ones to mourn. We will of course mourn a little, but actually the person who is worth the energy of mourning would want their loved ones to be happy with the memory. It’s okay to cry in the moment, and it’s okay to be happy when it’s done. Everything changes, everything dies, there is no permanent state of the world and so embracing that notion that the world changes and we adapt is the way to happiness. Remember history with interest not bitterness. Don’t base your future in your past. When we can look at each day as a new day regardless of the past, the future becomes an exciting bubble of bright possibility that exists only in our imagination as we deal with the now.
Is it mindfulness? Perhaps. Does it even need a label? Just take the label off it, take the label away from everything about yourself and ask if you’re happier just being…
Happy = Now – Past Sadness – Future Worry
That’s not even complex maths!