This post was inspired while sitting in church this morning (and no, this will not be a Bible pushing, Jesus praising post. I promise, just bear with me). A few verses from Romans were highlighted of which I’ll summarize as: “I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate… For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do.”
And as the Pastor continued the sermon, I dazed off (as I frequently do in my day-to-day life), contemplating those words of conflict. An internal conflict I know all too well. The verse actually reminded me of another quote I stumbled upon on the internet and liked enough to take note, which reads: “I’m a paradox. I want to be happy, but I think of things that make me sad. I’m lazy, yet I’m ambitious. I don’t like myself, but I also love who I am. I say I don’t care, but I really do. I crave attention, but reject it when it comes my way. I’m a conflicted contradiction. If I can’t figure myself out, there’s no way anyone else has.”
Are we all made up of such oxymorons? My wheels continued to turn as the Pastor sputtered on about how sweet baby Jesus is our only hope. But I had no time for Jesus at the moment, I was having an epiphany! (Please God, don’t smite me because of my sarcastic sense of humor. Remember, You made me this way)… We long for love, yet protect our hearts. We wish for others to be happy, but our misery enjoys company. In our society, competitive edge is key with a constant struggle of ends vs. means; at times values appear to move fluidly, coming and going as deemed to fit a profile or fill a role. I began to feel my thoughts snowball. Eventually, I was able to regain control and halt my mind at the ultimate topic of happiness and the question, or level, of it’s fluidity; right in time to stand and praise the Lord whilst singing “Amazing Grace” with my heavenly voice (again, with the sarcasm). I decided it would be best to continue this conversation at a more appropriate time, and oh so intimately with you (as well as world wide web).
So here we are, just you and me… And the NSA I suppose. And the predetermined matter at hand: happiness, and the dilemma I find when it comes to “being happy.”
We’ve all heard or seen the quotes influencing us how to live a happy life: “Happiness is a choice!” “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” and other motivational, poster sayings concerning mind over matter, choosing happiness over sadness, so on and so forth.
At times, I’m inspired and motivated by these words; while other times I scoff at their generalized and empty psychology. Paradox much? After thinking more critically, I do personally believe that in order to be truly and consistently happy, it’s necessary to develop habits. We have to work to train our brains away from the gloom and doom, negativity and short sighted-ness, to try and focus on the blessings and small fortunes that we so easily overlook. However, I do not believe that if I am depressed, or just in a crappy mood, I can tell myself “suck it up Ashley, be happy.” And voila! The magical cloud of unicorns and sunshine raineth down upon me, and my cloud of despair is whisked away to some other schmuck who was too weak to “decide” to be happy today. Because that’s what I feel like our society has come to believe. A more extreme application of the mindset being how we acknowledge that depression, mental and behavioral disorders involve chemical imbalances and accept them as science; yet the symptoms and/or affects of them are looked down upon as weakness or defect.
Now whether you believe that “happiness is a choice” whole-heartedly or not, I don’t really care. I’m obviously not even concrete in my thoughts about the cliche; life is not black and white. And you should never believe anyone who uses absolutes to describe anything, ever. But I do believe it to be a quite productive cliche to live by. I believe it to be something worth while even if just for the sole fact that our actions are truly the only thing we can habitually control. Who cares about if it’s actually “true” or not, it’s working and serves its purpose as long as it’s helping me take steps in the right direction. Outside factors affect us, of course, but why worry about things that we literally can’t control? To distribute who or where we are in life, solely to such circumstances is not only stressful, but a bit cowardly in my opinion. It’s accepting the fact that we aren’t where we want to be, but passing on the accountability of it, of ourselves. On the other hand, to disregard that things outside of ourselves and our control do in fact impact us, would also be silly. People do not choose to be laid off (usually), and I don’t believe anyone wakes up and says, “Today, I want to be miserable.” But if we focus on what’s ultimately important to us, in our control, and stay consistent, we can choose how to react to the things that are indeed out of our hands and align them to create our own “happy life.”
So, my response to the paradox quote cited earlier is this:
“I am me. I am happy, but there are still things that make me sad. I am ambitious, yet at times get distracted. I love who I am, but don’t always like what I do. I care deeply, even though sometimes I will get hurt. I crave love, but shouldn’t depend on anyone else in order to feel it. I’m an oxymoron, but a moron who has direction. There’s nothing to figure out.”
To strip my mindset to it’s most simplest form: Happiness can’t be summarized to a single decision. So happiness is not “a choice.” It’s many choices. And although circumstances and situations do indeed affect our lives, we decide to what extent.
And I leave you with one last quote: “Life is supposed to be a series of peaks and valleys. The secret is to keep the valleys from becoming grand canyons.” – Bern Williams