Are you happy?
Have you asked yourself this question lately? I mean, have you stopped everything you’re doing, looked deep into your soul and asked yourself ‘Am I happy?’
No? Try it.
Yes? What did you find? What was the answer?
6 months ago
I asked myself this question earlier this year, maybe 6 months ago or more. I don’t remember why I did it, but I remember thinking that a lot of people around me seemed to be a lot happier than I was, and I wanted to know why.
Surely I wasn’t UNhappy?! I have a great life! I have the best husband (really, he’s amazing!), an easy job which I like, I live in an incredibly exotic and interesting city, I travel almost whenever and wherever I want, I have enough money to pay the rent and buy food, my health is good, my family’s health is good, etc. I thought I was happy – more or less.
So, one day I stopped everything I was doing, stopped thinking about stuff, and looked deep inside myself to find my happiness. And I found that deep down I wasn’t happy. Really.
I don’t mean that I found depression, or discontent with my life. I just didn’t find happiness. I don’t really know what I expected to find, but it was a kind of void, an emptiness. A hole where there should have been happiness.
So, after a little freak out, I put this information aside and continued on with my life. Because, really, my life was ok, wasn’t it? I was managing things well. My marriage wasn’t suffering, I didn’t have any problems, and I didn’t see that there was anything I could do about it anyway.
A student’s story
Fast forward to about a month ago. One of my students is a very sensitive soul. She’s a little overweight, not young, not married, and kind of lonely, I think. She’s very warm towards me and whenever we find ourselves without the other students from the group, she confides in me about things that are negatively affecting her. So, I thought she was kind of a pessimistic, negative person (a lot like me, actually).
Then, about 2 weeks ago she told me that she’d been reading some self-help books, and she had decided to follow something that she had read. That was, every morning, put on your best smile to start the day. Even if you don’t feel like it. Even when you’re greeting colleagues in the morning who are the bane of your working life (one of her biggest problems at the moment). Just start the day, at least, with a smile, and get on with what you have to do.
She said it’s hard. Yes, I know it’s hard. I’ve tried it before. My sister (yes, my favourite one) told me once about this – she called it ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. So, if you put on this fake smile, every day, it will eventually become a real one.
My student is still working on it, and it seems that she is having some success, even if it’s moderate success.
Fake it ’til you make it
But, with this exchange, I started to think again about myself. And, although I’m not too good with the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ idea, I decided to give it a try – in my own way.
I didn’t do the ‘smile in the morning’ thing. I hate mornings, I just can’t smile in the morning. (Yes, I know, that’s the whole point of ‘fake it ’til you make it’ but I’m not ready to like mornings yet). So I just decided to change myself a little bit. Because it starts and ends with ourselves, right?
So, what did I do? I started to be happier at home. I’m not sure if my husband’s noticed a difference, but for some weeks now I’ve been less moody. Nicer (I hope – with some ‘relapses’ of course). It took a little bit of effort to break away from bad habits but I’m trying. And, surprisingly, it’s making ME much happier (I’ll ask him about this, I hope he’s much happier too!).
I’m also trying to be kinder in my thoughts. Trying not to dwell on things that might get me down.
Then, something strange/amazing/just-completely-crazy happened to me this week.
The first sign
One day, I arrived at a lesson and one of the students greeted me with, “You look…(a one second pause)…happy!” Wow! Does that mean that I don’t usually look happy? Was that the result of having that empty void deep inside me? And now, has something changed? Is the void being slowly filled with happiness and does this show itself to others?
I’ve never been told before that I looked happy. Tired, angry, upset, sad, well – but never happy.
The second sign
Then, the next day, with a different student, coincidentally we were reading a text called “The Price of Happiness”. After discussing the text, we turned to more general conversation on the topic, and I asked him, “Who’s the happiest person you know?”
His answer without any time for reflection was “You”.
Well, I almost fell off my chair! I was completely shocked!
Our lessons are early in the morning, and as I mentioned earlier, I’m not a morning person so I’m not at my best when we meet. I’m sure I’m friendly and polite, and he’s an interesting student and I enjoy my lessons with him. But I wouldn’t have thought I would emit ‘happiness’ during our lessons.
But, apparently I do.
So, that was the second time in 2 days that someone commented on my happiness.
The third sign
Then, later that same day, I was walking to another lesson, along a street I walk down 3 or 4 times every week, and saw the following graffiti on the steps of an abandoned shop. (You know how I feel about graffiti, right?)
What’s strange is that it was fresh graffiti, just written that day or maybe the day before. And even stranger was that it was in English (as I live in Russia, there’s not a lot of English graffiti around). I felt it was some kind of message to me – only to me.
Along with the 2 students, this graffiti was speaking to me and telling me to choose happiness. I’ve lived quite long enough without it. I’ve lived quite long enough with this emptiness, this void deep inside me.
I’m choosing happiness. What’s your choice?