As I stand on the same Parkchester number 6 train platform that I have stood on many times as a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager, a young woman in my 20s and my 30s I contemplate happiness. It is said to be a state of being, a stream of positive feelings. It is something we are told is felt from the inside, a glow within. I’ve also heard it described as a reason for living or loving; it is something to be achieved. This all sounds idealistic and idyllic, but what does that really mean?
Is happiness prejudice, or is it accessible to all of us? Where does one find happiness; is it in a smile, behind the eyes? Does it have a certain look? Is it something you can choose, do some people have that option more than others? And what specifically is the criterion; what separates those people who are "happy" from those who think they aren't? What about those of us who battle demons so deep within ourselves or others of us that wear our hurts on the outside? It is something that is often prayed about, but what exactly are we requesting from God?
Happiness is definitely a unique and individual experience. How one expresses their happiness varies from person to person. For me, happiness is deliberate which includes making daily deposits and the quest for it has been far from a linear process. This trip to New York City was reaffirming for me among many other things. For one, it was my furthest and longest solo adventure by far; packing and leaving my family in Central America to come to NYC was completely disarming. What was even more unnerving than the weirdness of not hand holding or kissing someone goodnight was how unprepared I was for the cold and the cool of NYC life.
For the past four months, I’ve been laughing loudly, swaying lightly and gallivanting freely, what a dichotomy to be required to zip back up my loose and tighten up physically and emotionally. I had forgotten that mask of being more stoic, tougher, more impenetrable than I really am but I quickly had to gear up in order to face the hustle of even those few days in the city. Resurgence of those memories drowned me: my daily 4 hour minimum commute, fighting through bureaucracies, injustices, micro and macro aggressions and still throwing down in the classroom, checking in with friends and family in between juggles, and then trying to be a mom. Missing key information about my own son because I’m exhausted and can't sit with him every day in his classroom to witness myself that he will play small if you let him (not unlike his mother). Not really even knowing myself closely, being detached from my body, on autopilot. All this disguised as having it together while my brakes, my patience, and my edges wore thinner and thinner. Frayed, fried, and frazzled. How sustainable would that have been for me and yet I’ve seen centuries of women do these tricks everyday, perform death defying stunts, adjust their crowns, puff up their chests and straighten their capes. Maybe I'm not cut like them, but I knew my wherewithal was wearing me out!
“For me, happiness is deliberate which includes making daily deposits and the quest for it has been far from a linear process. "
I think we all bottom out at some point in our lives, we have to sometimes hit our lowest low to contrast the highs, to compliment them, I suppose. Pushing through to the other side of depression, stagnation, and spiritual suicide, has unmasked a kind of resolve in myself that was previously unbeknownst. Being self reflective and conscientious about your missteps and shortcomings is difficult in and of itself but deciding that your happiness is worth pursuit is even more onerous work! It involves scraping off layers, peeling back, and working from the inside outwards, it’s simultaneous moving in reverse while advancing. The happiness I have found, however, was beneath the resin.
Happiness doesn't make the broken parts disappear, however choosing to be happy does have a magical way of diminishing them, relegating them further and less visible in our emotional rear view mirrors. Happiness also requires it’s own form of gearing up; it is not passive. It’s allowing, accepting, pushing, and sitting your ass still enough to feel it, breathing deeply, and exhaling. Some days, some moments, some times it is easier than others. The darkness still tries to take me down, even in this genuine love, even in this chill dope lifestyle, even with this gorgeous family, even here in paradise. But I’ve learned how to look straight at it, my inner villain. Brave superhuman women are not always invincible and on occasions fear their own power, self-sabotage is nefarious and it can materialize in many forms. Sometimes fear, toxicity, and unwell are so cunning it will convince you to find lies in the truth and doubt even the closest to you, rendering you and them unrecognizable. But I have claimed my happiness and I will fight devils, negative voices, outdated selves, lost files, regression/backsliding, and oppressive tendencies tooth and nail for it. Last night I owned my mess, called it by name, made peace with it as irrational as it was, quantified my numerous blessings and put my happy right back on.
How do you sustain happiness? How do you measure it? Share your stories with us.