Every opportunity for wish-making, for as long as I can remember, has been met with one request: To be happy. Cue blowing out of birthday candles, star gazing, seeing 11:11 on a clock, and the like.
Perhaps the reason I kept making this wish is because it seemed impossible for me to achieve on my own. I was waiting for it to magically fall into my lap when all along, it was there for the taking. I merely had to harness it.
It’s not that I was living in a world of continual unhappiness punctuated by fleeting, happy-wishing moments, desperate for a cure. Not at all. There was abundant laughter and utter joy spread throughout my life amidst the wishing.
But I still felt like there was a higher ground where I could stand on a foundation of true happiness. A perfect place where I could feel a steady current of effortless “happy,” all the time. Thus forfeiting the need to nostalgically pinpoint specific moments of joy, which seemingly happened at random.
I believe that my misguided happy-wishing mindset stemmed from a two-pronged problem.
#1. I often placed my happiness in the hands of someone else,
or took on the responsibility of someone else’s happiness.
That tendency created an unhealthy dynamic which relied on impossible expectations, and was a cop-out on both ends. There is a hell of a lot of pressure that manifests when you hand over your happiness to someone else, or try to be the guide and source of someone else’s joy. You become blindly codependent, losing sight of how you can be happy all by yourself.
No amount of wishing could bolster my ability to make someone else happy, nor was there any magical way to embody my own happiness in another person. Those things only stunted the happiness-achieving-abilities of all parties involved. (Have I reached peak use of “happy” words yet?)
Cutting the ties of happiness-codependency brought a sweep of relief, and the realization that by focusing on my own happiness first, I could attract others who had done the same.
#2. Believing in a “final destination” where happiness existed,
seemingly all the time.
As I tried to explain in this post, the sunshine and rainbows vibe that I may exude here does not cover all of my “in between” moments, where normalcy abounds. That normalcy often includes a lack of happiness, and also a lack of sadness. I realized that in those moments I mostly just am. And that’s okay.
It became clear that the only foundational place I was ever going to reach was this one – a space where my mind could settle and exist without being squirmy. Those moments of normalcy, which take up a majority of all of our lives, are where I needed to feel relaxed and in control.
I found solace in those moments where I could stop trying to be something that I’m not. Where I could stop agonizing over how my happiness reigns had been placed in someone else’s volatile, ill-equipped hands. And where I could stop worrying whether what I was doing was going to affect the happiness of someone else, if that task had been bestowed upon me.
And most importantly, I could retire the relentless daydream about happiness as a mystical construct, sweeping in and out of my life, intangibly. Those tides had washed out, the ripples in my mind were settling.
Reclaiming the Reigns
So, I was able to achieve a new kind of wish fulfillment: relaxed and confident contentment.
This place allowed me to reclaim happiness as my personal responsibility, void of others. It eliminated the expectation that I may someday become magically cloaked in constant jubilation. And the pressure of being someone else’s source of happiness was lifted, furthering my relief and freedom.
But, (there is always a but), the compounding effects from both of these former issues resulted in my long lost ability to identify what naturally made me happy.
I was cultivating a new headspace where happiness could easily blossom, but I had not planted any seeds in quite some time.
A while ago I read this post: How to Figure Out What Makes You Happy.
Something clicked, and my mindset began to change.
Turns out, there was a lot of innate happiness in my life that I was failing to evaluate as such. That post opened my eyes to focus in on those moments, however big or tiny, where I truly felt happy.
In doing so, I could pinpoint the situations or feelings where my happiness naturally erupted, thus intensifying the frequency with which I experienced delight. I could also apply those happy blips on my radar to more and more experiences, creating far more return on investment. My happiness was starting to maximize, and I was in control of it.
I was beginning to harness my happy.
That harnessing included owning my joy in the seemingly most insignificant or silliest things. That led to the rekindling of my love for long lost leisures as I reconnected with past versions of myself – ones who explored whatever they liked, with abandon.
I had to ask myself: why did I ever deprive myself of these things and experiences that I truly enjoyed? To “do what makes you happy” may seem obvious, but I think we all lose sight of that sentiment somewhere along the way. We restrain ourselves from partaking in certain things that may be judged, or not widely acknowledged as cool, or worthy of our time.
This mindset shift hits a lot of us during adolescence, when teasing abounds and we start dropping hobbies, friends, and passions because we get pressured or bullied away from them. We seek acceptance in the realm of stereotypical happiness: clothes, placement in the social ladder, taste in music, topics that are deemed acceptable to inquisitively explore, etc.
Or sometimes we just get too damn busy with life, or too wrapped up in relationships, or careers, or addictions, or negative emotions.
The lists go on.
It is easy for our simplest joys to get washed away from our consciousness, and sometimes we don’t even realize that it has happened. Perhaps that’s why I ended up wasting years upon years of birthday candle wishes on misguided hopes for mystical happiness.
But reclaiming the reigns of happiness can feel selfish, or awkward, or uncomfortable. Like you don’t deserve it, or that it’s not a productive use of time, focusing so much on yourself. I don’t believe that’s the case, or that there should be any guilt or discomfort involved. I believe that happiness is contagious, as long as it stems from an authentic place.
The results of harnessing my happy:
- Becoming confidently content in the normalcy of everyday life, no longer swinging between the highest of highs and the lowest of lows
- Achieving a higher rate of happiness by exploring facets of life that innately bring me joy
- Attracting people who are not threatened by my happiness or dependent on it
- Attracting people who exude a confidence in their own happiness
- Freedom to use my wishes for more important things, like clean scans (my next one is 3 weeks from today)
And just because, here’s a sampling of some things that make me unabashedly happy:
- The sounds and smells of bowling alleys, bowling itself
- Music that seems to cause the most eye rolls: Bee Gees, Abba, Wham! and the like
- Flowers, all of them, especially wild ones
- Long drawn-out mornings with warm coffee, heated blankets, and Bravo shows from the night before
- Summer with lots of bare feet in cool grass, long docks over quiet lakes, swimming, and incredible sunsets
- Exploring the woods
- The smell of warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, and allspice
- Christmas trees, and balsam fir candles that smell like them
- Romantic movies from the 80s
- Watching and listening to rain
- Getting just tipsy enough to dance freely
- Bees, butterflies, birds… most things with wings
- Dogs, the best teachers of happiness
- New experiences and new places with established people
- Knowing that around the corner there will always be new things to fall in love with, like PawPaws and role playing board games
- Watching the amazing cycle of seeds growing into plants that produces more seeds
- The relief that the process of writing brings as I transfer my thoughts into something understandable and shareable
- Experiencing other people’s inspiring stories and ideas via museums, documentaries, books, etc.
By identifying natural sources of happiness, and seeking those feelings often, contentment amongst the in-betweens of every day life became attainable.
It is the wish come true I didn’t even know I wanted.