Life offers plenty of threats to our happiness. It’s unpredictable. Being a good person does not guarantee good fortune. Struggle doesn’t discriminate. Pessimism is realism. Immediate gratification is sneaky. Self-sabotage is a widespread addiction. Naysayers surround. Threats abound. Nothing feels easy. Nothing feels secure.
Many of us decide to deal with all of this by not allowing ourselves to be too happy.
We stay in this in between place where we’re not miserable but we’re not exactly drunk on life either. By staying in this place, we’re withholding from ourselves what we don’t want life to take from us. We’re basically saying, I’m going to quit you before you quit me.
By expecting the worst, we get a warped satisfaction when things go wrong. Told ya! Life sucks and then you die. We’d rather condemn happiness, than welcome the vulnerability that it brings. We think that if we are too content, something terrible will happen to bring us back down.
Recently, I talked about life and its many layers of awesome things and scary things. Instead of becoming numb and expecting everything to go wrong, what has helped me to cope is realizing that the scary, unexpected aspects of life can’t steal my joy. They might temporarily steal my happiness, but never my joy.
So, what’s the difference? That’s the key to what I want to share with you today.
We have this idea that we’re supposed to feel happy all the time. But occasionally happiness needs to go away so we can experience the full range of our emotions. So we can grow and become more self-aware.
Happiness is elusive. It comes when our attitude and circumstances align themselves in such a way that we are not focused on our problems. It comes from simple pleasures and appreciation. But, happiness leaves when shit gets real. This is why we have to cultivate joy.
Since I’ve stopped clinging to the idea of being happy all the time, I’ve actually found myself to be a happier person. Why? Because happiness is simply what you feel when you stop focusing on your sources of unhappiness. Think about it for a minute. Stress. Envy. Doubt. Grief. Anger.
What makes it all go away for you?
Is it your faith? Is it the deeper meaning you apply to rationalize those things? Is it the creativity that comes out of you when you’re at your lowest? Whatever it is for you, it all comes down to joy. Joy is what allows you to still have hope when happiness leaves you.
Joy is the foundation we need in order to have peace of mind and appreciate life no matter what is going on. Joy comes from spirituality. It’s the understanding that there’s more to life than meets the eye. It doesn’t need a specific outcome to justify it. It is steadfast and reliable. It understands what it can’t necessarily touch or see or quantify. Joy is an old soul.
This is why happiness is not my focus anymore. It’s a distant lover. I enjoy it when it comes to me — I embrace it and kiss it and wiggle all over it. We have fun together. But without joy as my constant, I’d find myself avoiding happiness in the manner I mentioned above. The highs and lows become too much to bear without a cushion. What about you? Are you chasing happiness instead of connecting to the joy within?