Don’t worry, get happy

Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done.
 
The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.
 
There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.
 
The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.
 
~ Tao Te Ching (translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Several months ago, I made a decision. Some of you may remember a post I wrote in which I said that, where most people seemed happy most of the time, I was unhappy about 95% of the time, and that had been the case since I was little. I’d come to think of myself as a rather melancholy sprite with a few (well, 5%) transcendent moments of optimism and joy, and that’s just the way it was. To be honest, I don’t remember one shining moment of determination to change my approach to life and actually choose happiness, but that’s where I’ve ended up over the course of a relatively short amount of time, and the change has been significant and remarkable.

Happy people had always confused and annoyed me. I thought they were fake. And shallow. Even stupid. I took genuine pleasure in phrases like “Sad is the new happy” because they reinforced my own worldview. I didn’t paint my face white and dress in black and pierce all my parts and listen to death metal–I maintained a rather perky facade because I wanted people to like me and also, I understood the concept of happiness to be a worthy one–but I didn’t know how to reach happiness via my own sorrowful path. It was simply out of my realm of possibility, so, as people do, I decided that it was impossible for anybody else to genuinely experience it either.

It wasn’t really with the aim of happiness that I set out to get here, where I’m finally settled. My goal was to stop suffering and that seemed good enough for me. But as I went about finding ways to move through suffering–which included reading loads and loads of spiritual books, trying out various spiritual practices, praying, meditating, using affirmations, creating encouraging aphorisms, hanging onto quotes from mentors for dear life, watching social documentaries and inspirational movies to see how other people handle adversity, taking lots of walks, soaking in the yellow and green and blue hues of nature–I felt my worldview begin to shift, rotate on its axis, and suddenly, hello, I found myself gazing at a whole new set of scenery. You know the story about finding another street to walk down? It’s called Autobiography in Five Chapters and is actually great enough to record in its entirety:

1) I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

3) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
it is my fault.
I get out immediately.

4) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

5) I walk down another street.

So here I am on another street. In this new neighborhood I let things go as much as possible. Things meaning people and circumstances and the past and the future and everything I can’t control, and even things I usually can control, even little things. If I’m unable to get in my daily walk, for example, or eat six fig newtons instead of two or feel overwhelmed and need to hide in my room for awhile or get irritated with someone (or myself) or, you get the idea, I’ve learned to shrug my shoulders and say, “Oh well! Tomorrow’s another day,” and truly mean it. Big losses are more difficult and take longer to process, but the same attitude applies. When old sad stories try to assert themselves, the ones I’ve chewed on until there’s no more nourishment in them, I simply let them drift on by. My new word is “grateful.” I swear, I use it all the time–it makes up the majority of my prayers, and it’s true. I’m grateful for ev-uh-ree-thing, the good, the bad, the ugly, because all of these experiences are designed to help my soul grow. Every evening as I journal, it’s become a pleasure to look back over the events of the day and say, “Wow, what an adventure it’s been.” I mean it when I say: Life is good. Love to you all!

Oh, and check out this girl. She’s awesome and a perfect example of what I’m talking about: The inimitable Christine Long. xo

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