A couple of months ago I was turning down a negative path in my life about a lot of things, my job and my health in particular. This colored the rest of my interactions and emotions in a negative way. My thoughts, the comments I spouted, and my overall demeanor leaned toward the negative end of the spectrum. It was almost impossible to give a positive comment about something; there was always a critique underlying anything I was saying, because everything needed improvement, and to be “happy” about any of it would be equal to settling for less than I should.
One morning I woke up and reflected on my interactions with my children the night before. I realized I had a choice at that very moment. My choice was to continue with the self-defeating negativity, or choose to be the person I want my children to be. I want them to look at things in a positive light, be kind, take responsibility for mistakes, but also forgive themselves quickly and move on. I want them to take challenges and risks to go in the direction in life that they will feel most fulfilled. I want them to see the good, the “happy” moments in everything they do.
I try not to use the word “happy” as something to be achieved when describing what I want for my child, because I think sometimes it is a misunderstood word. Too many people end up seeing therapists, taking drugs, and worse, to find ‘happiness’ because they are un”happy”. Happy connotes a state of giddiness, laughter and everything “coming up roses”; it is a mistakenly labeled as a singular state of happiness, you either are or you are not happy. If you can’t reach that state you have to believe you are not happy or at least that is what the media and society leads us to believe.
It has taken many, many years to realize this pinnacle of movie-inspired happiness is not the only level of happy. Happiness lives on a spectrum and, for the average human being, is not a continuous state. Happiness can be at all levels from the mundane to the extraordinary. It can be there for a moment in time, or last for days.
Of course I want my children to be happy more than anything in the world. But I want them to understand what “happy” is. My wish is that my children do not waste their lifetime chasing some limited version of “happy” becoming unhappy in the process. I want to give them the eyes I did not have until late in life, that can see through the clouds of the mundane, the sad, the failures and see all the good – all the levels of “happy” that underlie it all.