Braving Happiness

Happiness can be scarier than hardship.

It takes an incredible amount of bravery to be happy. It isn’t really surprising that we may tend to resist happiness; when we are in a place of hurt, sadness, insecurity, weakness, depression, frailty or hardship, there is really not much else to lose. In my own experience, this place can be almost… well, comfortable. It’s like a case of emotional Stockholm syndrome – our hurt  (or insecurity, or fear, or dissatisfaction) can become something we know so well that living without it feels terrifying; we may even develop the urge protect it.

I wasn’t necessarily aware of this until I pointedly asked myself one day: Are you afraid? Be honest. Is it unsettling to think of letting go of what binds you? The answer was yes.

Internal whispers can paralyze us, can’t they?

If I love, I will be hurt.
If I move on, I will encounter the next tragedy.
If I accept it, it will be taken away.
If I try to do it, they will see me fail.
If I attain it, I will have to maintain it.
If I am confident, I will have to let them like me.
If I let them like me, I will have to like myself.
If I conquer my weakness, I won’t know who to be.
If I lose weight, I won’t be able to hide behind it.
If I dream it, I will be disappointed by it.

I was talking with a good friend last night about how many of us “young” adults are now experiencing a realization of mortality. It is nearly impossible to really live or really love when the fear of losing it all has made a nest in the back of your mind. I am curious if this condition is a result of experiencing some form of loss or if it is a normal stage of development (anyone have any wisdom to share about this?). Either way, I desperately find myself hoping that there is more to maturity than simply being made aware of painful realities.

How does one shed the fear of happiness? I’m not sure. I know that I have slowly moved from paralyzed, to nervous, to wanting freedom – which proves that change is possible. But fear is a giant. My counselor used to say that the most important time to reach out for help is when you feel stuck somewhere – this seems to be my cue. I am a huge advocate of counseling and have done my fair share, but I know as well as the next person how hard it is to pick up the phone when you don’t have the energy; To make yourself seek advice when you don’t really know what you need (I’ll take an intervention please!). But I have promised myself that I will do it, because I know that the results of others’ wisdom in our lives can be powerful, and I am excited by the potential of happy unstuckedness.

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Stand up or get off the train

Thank you Krista for featuring this post on your blog, it’s an honour to be invited into your journey. You can find Krista’s blog here: Words to Heal the Pain.

We were somewhere in the middle of a 17-hour train ride in India. It was more economical than a flight to our next destination, and besides, who doesn’t want to lock themselves in a tube of foreign culture complete with poorly-maintained, sticky-floored squatty potties?

I steadied my feet on the bouncing floor, held on to the door handle and popped my head out to take in the sight of lush green foliage and tiny specks of field workers. India constantly delivered a feeling of paramount beauty sprinkled with a hint of something could really go wrong here. It was perfect. During those minutes I stood gazing out of the train car, the thought ran through my mind, if something really were to go wrong right now, I would be okay. The realization was accompanied by a wave of peace that settled over my bones – I felt the most alive I have maybe ever experienced feeling.

What allowed for the peace and aliveness in that moment was the absence of fear. I have rarely before or after felt so okay with life being out of my control. Instead I have felt like I’m standing on a train car grasping the handle with two hands, and maybe wrapping a leg around for good measure. I’m too busy planning for all the things that may happen before the next stop to lift my head and catch the reflections of a beautiful world.

What I’m saying is, I’m scared.

Fear has grown slowly and steadily over the past few years. I’m realizing that I have darting, nervous eyes when I walk alone to my car; in the back of my mind I think that I’m bound to get sick; I count on facing a sudden giant roadblock in life; I am scared of encountering another traumatic situation or being required to have enough energy to handle something else big and painful.

This is no way to live. Even if these things may happen, the fear will suck dry every moment of good had before or after.

The only time I will know whether or not something bad will happen in the future is when my life is over. There is no possible way to live if I want to know what happens next before I’m there. It is imperative that I choose to fight fear.

It hit me this week, as I got caught up in all the good things ahead for Adam and I, that though I have lived for two and a half years subtly guided by a sense that something bad is going to happen, only surprising, couldn’t-be-planned-by-me, unexpectedly brilliant things have happened.

I can’t help but feel like I’ve missed the full impact of those things in the moment because of fear – however, I refuse to let the f-word keep me in fetal position any longer. I am lifting one finger at a time from the handrail. I am standing up tall and steadying my feet for a better view. I am holding on for the ride, whatever it brings – hopefully this time not a case of heavy food poisoning and a bomb scare, but then again, those are the things that make a 17-hour Indian train ride more epic than other train rides.

I’m going for epic.

The daily reminder on our headboard!