“To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you into everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.” E.E. Cummings
I have to ask, why do we keep choosing to fight this battle?
Breathe in. And out. And smile.
It’s Monday. I’m not watching The Walking Dead today…probably never again. I’m just…*sigh* I’m tired of the violence. I’m just tired.
Let me instead tell you something about me previous readers know nothing about. I adore Time magazine. I need to clarify this first by saying I detest magazines. I feel like I’m buying a book of ads. On occasion I find a 500 word article smashed in the corner of all the ads. Every month however, I don’t hesitate to drop $14.00 on Time: Special Edition. This August, I bought their edition of “The Science of Happiness.” It was interesting to say the least, and, looking back, it was the prelude to their next edition: “Mindfulness: The New Science of Health and Happiness.”
Many of you know my past. I don’t wish to discuss it again. In short, I’ve seen 30 years of severe prolonged trauma and have experienced well over seven different extreme types. My therapist was astounded that I hadn’t turned to heroine or meth. Most people who have seen a fraction of what I have seen would have…most people. Most people see only one or two of what I’ve experienced. 18 months of critical therapy has truly landed me in an unusual place in my life. I call myself “retired.” I’m 36…and I’m “retired.” Not in the classic sense with no work and social security. In a mental sense. I am retired from stress. I am retired from violence. I am retired from shock factor and fear. I am retired from desensitization.
Most people raise an eyebrow at this, uncertain what exactly it all means. It is foreign to most. Certainly.
In the Mindfulness issue of Time, I read about a couple apps that truly hit me. Some of the words they said…After living the life I’ve lived, a lot of what they were saying hit close to home. They were “selling” a concept. The very concept I was craving, needing, wanting, in search of: Calm. The writers of Time recommended an app. “Calm.” It was September, and I down loaded this program. Overnight, it changed me. The things the narrator said…the concepts she explained…I nearly ran to this program every night. I started listening to it in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening. I took what I learned and embedded it into my daily life. In just two weeks, it had become a part of my life that I look forward to.
The app comes with programs, “Seven days of calm,” where it introduces you and teaches you how to meditate. Beyond “Seven days of calm,” this app comes with an optional $12.00 monthly subscription that I don’t hesitate to pay every month. It is worth it. The monthly subscription opens the app to a Daily Calm, Mediation for children, 21 days of Calm, and calm programs focused on calming anxiety, managing stress, increasing focus, increasing happiness, gratitude, self-esteem, forgiveness (of yourself), deep sleep (my favorite), deep sleep relax, deep concentration, emergency calm, meditation to listen to while commuting, and unguided meditation. Astounding app.
Today’s subject, was “removing the masks we wear.” Fitting for Halloween. I have lived, my whole life, with a smile on my face while the voices in my head screamed, unheard by everyone but me. Those screams alone was enough to throw me into insanity. So this is me…I guess…pulling off my mask and breathing deep and easy just a little bit more than I did yesterday. I love looking back. I love seeing just how far I’ve come when progress has been made. And progress has indeed been made.
I am reminded of a Frasier episode I saw once…Okay, so it was the ONLY Frasier episode I saw. And the one everyone should see.
“Are you happy?”
This question is asked to Frasier in a coffee shop, and the whole episode is spent with Frasier sending back a mocha or latte until the waitress “gets it right.” His father persists, “Are you happy?” No matter how often he is asked this question, Frasier won’t answer. They are interrupted, or Frasier evades. He explores the question unsure of the answer himself. At last, his father stands and leaves the coffee shop without an answer to his question. The waitress returns with Frasier’s mocha/latte finally made just the way he likes it. “There,” she says. “Are you happy?”
“Yes. Yes I am.”
Happiness. I am reminded of the Pursuit of Happiness. “How did Thomas Jefferson know that we can only ever pursue happiness? That we may never actually obtain it. How did he know this? That happiness is something many can only desire and attempt to achieve? The thought that we could actually die never knowing happiness.”
Happiness. Looking back on my traumas…I’ve earned my happiness. Now…if only I knew how to get it. I am writing today to announce to you, to the world…but mostly to myself…I am there. I have found it. I have achieved it. I am happy. It was easier to get than I thought…once I knew the answers. The answers aren’t obvious until you know the answers. The problem is many don’t know the answer.
My journey didn’t begin in September when I downloaded the “Calm” app. It didn’t start in August when I bought Time magazine, “The Science of Happiness.” Perhaps it started April 2015 when I looked at my husband and said, “I need a doctor” moments before he drove me to the emergency room. No. My journey began with Broken. When my husband asked a single question, “Is this what you want?” I couldn’t answer without really asking, “What do I want?” and knowing the answer.
What do you want? Do you know? I didn’t either. What I wanted, I believed I couldn’t have. What I wanted, I was certain was fictitious. What I wanted was simple: I wanted to be happy. I wanted happiness. Not just a little bit. I wanted it every waking day of my life.
“Do you even know what happiness looks like?” This was asked by my therapist and a dear friend of mine. In short, I didn’t. I knew it was something I had heard of. I knew the rare occasion when I did smile and laugh. Looking back I know now, that isn’t happiness. Happiness is when that smile and laugh extends deep down to your core. And when you open and laugh, when you smile, you feel no grief, hate, or remorse in that core. It is virtually stress free. There is no worry or anxiety. There is only pure, clean happiness. This, dear reader, this is peace. Unhappiness is very much like the sea during a storm. Stress is that storm. The clouds may clear, the sun may shine, but the winds will still blow cold and harsh, and the sea will still toss and turn despite the occasional warmth of the sun. Happiness is a still sea. When you can look out upon the horizon and see only clear skies and a gentle sea. Being in a state of happiness does not mean stress and anxiety won’t happen. It does mean that it will feel more like a gentle wave on the ocean instead of a roller coaster or being dropped down an elevator shaft. Stress will come and go, and you’ll ride those waves in strides without worry, care or concern for the future because you know, you truly know, that you will be okay in the end. That you are okay now. And you are.
So how did I get here? Well…First, I stopped lying to myself. The first and most important change was committing to being wholly, totally and completely honest with myself no matter what. I accepted that I was wrong. I accepted that I was vulnerable. I accepted that I was strong. My transformation started here. Don’t get me wrong. Not one bit of this is easy. Every bit of this was hard. And I will be honest, of everything I did, this was the hardest part: accepting that I was wrong, vulnerable, and strong. This is where happiness begins.