We all want to be happy. There’s no doubt about it. Just eavesdrop on any conversation (it’s not nice but I just want to prove my point 🙂 ) and you’ll hear people talking about that car that so and so bought; that trophy wife that your new neighbour has; or that recent promotion that came with numerous bonuses and benefits.
And there’s that clamour for people to want to match what their friends or rivals have achieved (in truth, it’s more about exceeding their successes). He bought a new Mercedes; I’ll buy a new BMW. She gets her hair done every week; I’ll be going to the salon every 3 days. People just want to keep up with the Joneses.
People want to be successful because they equate success with happiness. You can even argue that people who steal are not really greedy and selfish, just that they want to be happy. Stealing is VERY WRONG but people will take extraordinary steps to ensure their happiness. No evil is evil enough and no deed is unethical or immoral if it will help them reach their goal. You read stories that corruption is rampant in Europe. When you dig deeper you discover that people who engage in corruption have one goal in mind: To be happy. They may be trying to live a life that is beyond their means but they believe having money will make them happy. You see it happening all the time even amongst your friends or loved ones. Someone will do something that will make you wonder whether they are the same person you knew. Where is the integrity, sense of responsibility, fidelity to the law, accountability to the community? We all want to be happy and how people achieve their happiness will differ widely.
But then, life doesn’t work the way we want it to. Things fall apart unexpectedly. One day you feel like a king/queen, and the next, you are nothing but a pauper. One day you feel like you are full of life, even your friends tell you that you have a youthful look about you, and the next thing, your doctor is saying you are actually very ill and have a few weeks to live. You’ve heard the statement, “The rich also cry”. Apparently no one can escape the vicissitude of life.
The truth is we will all go through seasons of happiness and seasons of suffering at some points in our lives. A lady from season 5 episode 8 of the series Royal Pains, put it aptly as she spoke to one of the main characters, Divya Katdare (played by Reshma Shetty). She said: “Life…ebbs and flows, like the perennials in my garden. Sometimes they’re in bloom, sometimes they’re not. But they’re always alive. Things change…unexpected things happen.”
But the real message that has been popping up recently is this: happiness is not something to pursue, it is a state of being. You can actually CHOOSE to be happy. It doesn’t have to be that something is making you happy. You find that place inside of you where you are grateful for your existence. You discover that you can change your mood instantly by just changing your attitude and thoughts.
Unfortunately, this ‘choice’ does not apply to all people. There are those with mental health issues that are silently suffering in our midst. While depressed people can find a way out of their state of perpetual suffering to a point of happiness, the same cannot be said of those who are mentally ill. That is a problem they will face personally and with people who love them. There will be moments of happiness, and there will be greater struggles that will cause a lot of suffering. It is the nature of our world.
I do believe we can give of ourselves to others. There is a Tibetan proverb I once encountered that said, “As I helped him up the mountain, lo, I found myself at the top”. I think we can all enhance our chances of being happy by helping the collective get to a point where they are happy to be alive.
I heard another man say, “Our greatest wealth is our health”. I know many people will agree with this. If we could all be healthy, I think it would be a great step toward being happy. Mental health issues affect not only those suffering from it, but their families and friends. You feel helpless. What can you do to alleviate their pain? Why does life make us suffer?
There will be seasons of happiness and seasons of suffering. The human spirit is resilient. Every time I recite the words of Invictus, I know I have faced and will face any challenge head on. Not everyone is like this. Even as we marked World Suicide Day, there were many people we had lost. People we cared about took their own lives. Random people across the globe committed suicide. Everybody is suffering; some just know how to reach their point of happiness, while others are beset by mental health weaknesses that overwhelm them.
There is a quote from Wendy Maas that says, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. Try to make other people happy. Happiness is contagious. You always seek out those people who make you laugh. Those people who are the life of the party always draw crowds to themselves. It’s all about being happy. But it is more important that your happiness comes from within you. If you view the world from a point of happiness, from a point of gratitude, you will gain strength even in times of suffering.
Be strong. It is part of everyone’s journey.
Be available. It is part of your calling to help others.
I don’t know where you are or what you are going through. But I want you to be happy. I hope that your seasons of happiness stay in bloom longer than your seasons of suffering.