Are you happy?
What makes you truly happy?
It’s a question I ask myself a lot these days. We’re looking forward to Easter and wishing a Happy Easter to everyone. Every year we’re wished a Happy Birthday, Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year. But I’m not entirely sure what happiness is any more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy. Some of the time. But living with chronic illness and pain day in day out tends to dull the sparkle from you.
There was a time in my mid-twenties when I was so happy I thought I would burst. Someone I once worked with said I like a breath of fresh air. I wonder if they'd think the same if they could see me now. Being the kind of glass half full type, I try to remain cheery despite spending much of the time being frustrated because my body won't always do what I want it to do. And being a perfectionist doesn’t help. I read an interview with John Cleese a while back. In it he mentioned how being a perfectionist meant he was never completely happy and I understood what he meant by that. When I decided 'H' was for Happiness in the challenge, I asked myself what makes me happy. Not surprisingly, it raised rather a lot of questions;
- Can you ever be truly happy when you live with chronic illness and pain?
- We tend to be happy when we’re in love. But does that mean another person can make you happy, or do you have to do that all by yourself?
- Are we happier when we’re children? And if so, does that mean old folks aren’t happy?
- I look at people worse off than myself and ask what have I got to moan about? I have two wonderful boys, a loving husband, beautiful home, brilliant friends… and much more. Some people are never happy or fulfilled and I don’t intend to turn into one of those.
It’s only human to want to be happy but over the years I’ve learn to accept that on occasions unhappiness is a part of life. What I refuse to do is let it move in forever. Living with chronic illness, it’s unrealistic to expect to be happy every day and here's how I've coped:
- I tell myself pain is there for a reason, like a warning. Nature is very clever when she’s not being a pig. Nature defines we’re not supposed to be happy during physical pain but we can have the strength of endurance and look forward to feeling better. So when I’m in the midst of a flare up, I’m kind to myself and tell myself it won’t last forever. And when I’m feeling better I’ll do such and such.
- I’ve learnt to ‘use’ the good days – along the lines of ‘make hay while the sun shines.’
- Perhaps most significant, I’ve discovered how to embrace my pain and condition – this ‘lodger’ of mine – a kind of making my peace with it. It has taken a long time to reach this point.
- I find happiness in the simple things - listening to the rain, watching the boys bounce on the trampoline, eating Bailey’s ice cream - a bit like those endorphins I mentioned in my ‘E’ is for Exercise Blog, the feel good hormones kick in when we’re working our bodies and endorphins play a big part in feeling good and being happy.
When I went to the Easter service at my son’s school on Thursday, I can’t tell you how happy I felt during and after watching their little beaming faces as they told us the Easter story and singing the Spring Chicken song. It was pure joy.
- After spending time looking inwards, I have found in spite of my health problems there are some things I can do that make me happy. I was devastated when I had to retire aged only 32 but after I left the bank, I tried running a little craft business to fill the gap. Then when my health got the better of that too, I started writing. You have to keep going to find the thing you like (and are able) to do. For me, I found writing is a significant thing besides my family and friends that makes me happy and feel fulfilled.
So if you are struggling to find happiness, perhaps ask yourself sometime; what is the one thing you would really like to do? Often it’s something you have thought about for a long time, perhaps even since you were a child but never thought you could/should do it.
You might find that gives you the fulfilment, joy and happiness you have been looking for.
Happiness, like thoughts, our incentive and creativity are born within, and can only come from somewhere deeply imbedded within each of us. And happiness isn’t a gift we receive from someone else, it’s a present we give ourselves.
I will leave you with this thought; something my Nan was forever telling me when I was a little girl. ‘Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.’ The full version is at the end of the post.
And if all else fails, watch this It can't fail to make you happy!
So until another day
Bye for now
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it's mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox