Sunny Saturday: I Will Be Happy When...

Every Saturday, I am going to write on the theme of happiness. What is it? How do you get it? What does it look like? Happiness for many is a foreign concept, some far off feeling that is for everyone else but themselves. I was there, and I get it. But I am also on the other side now knowing that it is possible to obtain. Today’s topic is on finding happiness.

“I will be happy when…..” I cannot tell you how many times I uttered this phrase. Each time, the happiness never truly came. I thought it would be the key, but I was almost always wrong. I kept waiting for some monumental event to happen in my life to bring true happiness. I thought that I would have found it after undergoing life changing moments; graduating high school, moving to North Carolina, losing weight, getting a new job, going to college, moving to Florida. I thought that maybe once I fall in love or get my license or have a different body it would come. All the happiness in the world will come to me when I am in a relationship. I will be full of glee when Christmas comes or I take a trip. All these things had the potential to bring happiness, but they failed to in the long term. It brought fleeting moments of joy. It went as quickly as it came. I went to bed on a cloud and woke up in a hole. Nothing was permanently creating happiness within me. I began to feel I was destined for a life of unhappiness. I was going to settle for just the spurts of random joy and let those be enough to give me a life I could ‘love’. Recently, there was one thing in particular I was convinced would bring me permanent happiness, and I banked on that. I was relying on it to “cure” me and move me out of my place of complacency in my recovery. I was hoping it would be the answer to all my problems and finally free me of the need to put myself through pain, to break me free from the chains. However, it did not work out that way. Once again, the happiness came and went. 

All those events I listed and the many more I hinged my happiness on had one thing in common: they involved me. I changed locations but not myself. I left my family, but I was still with me. I changed my body, but on the inside I was the same person. I entered into a relationship, but that involved the presence of me. One event or place or person had the power to make me permanently at peace. I was looking to the external world to solve an internal problem. Until you take care of the internal, nothing is going to bring the happiness you are searching for. Initially, all those things brought short lived enthusiasm and joy, but it was never genuine happiness. I lived in fear it wouldn’t last. I doubted that I deserved it. I found I talked it out of existence. It was not a matter of not loving those things or enjoying their presence, but it came down to me loving myself enough to realize I was worthy of them. It felt extremely uncomfortable for me to feel such a strong positive emotion. Over time, I grew used to the feelings of defeat and sadness and hopelessness. They were my normal. They were what I felt I had coming to me after all I put people through, all my mistakes, all that I did wrong, the direction I put my life in. they felt safe to me, making it hard to let in the good feelings. My internal struggles made it difficult to hold onto happiness and truly feel it with all its glory. I was so displeased, disgusted, ashamed, and angry with who I was that I believed I did not warrant the happiness. How could something so beautiful be placed into this life? I looked in the mirror and saw someone who did not deserve to know joy that was not fleeting. The anorexia did not help matters. Every second it told me of my nonexistent worth, what a disgrace I was, how hideous I was, what a failure I was. Hearing those thoughts and criticisms on repeat did nothing to encourage joy or open the door to let happiness in. What they did was add another ten locks to it and hide all the keys. It was so easy to believe that I deserved to live in struggle with the presence of the anorexia, taunting me and belittling me and filling my mind with thoughts to support living a life of unhappiness. 

What I needed to do was redefine happiness. Happiness is not an event or living the perfect life. Happiness comes from within. It comes from living in accord with your heart, living in peace and serenity despite the negativity and sadness that may surround you. It comes from finding contentment in who you are within. You will find it when you get quiet and listen to your inner self. You can chose to be happy at any time regardless of the driver who cut you off or the bill you got in the mail or the rude bank teller. It is all in your power and completely possible as long as you can maintain your inner connectedness. Happiness is a byproduct of living the right kind of life in harmony with our internal selves. It isn’t something you earn based on how perfectly you live or how flawless you look or my actions in the past. Making a mistake does not mean I don’t deserve happiness. All does not have to be perfect in life for it to come. Happiness is about looking beyond the imperfections.

With finding happiness comes realizing that I truly do deserve it. Life keeps introducing me to happiness to which I greet, become acquainted with it, and then part ways with after feeling that I am, unworthy of all the joy it would bring or feel that it is too good for me. I never let happiness and I become close friends.  Anorexia and happiness cannot both be friends. I have to choose one. I know anorexia longer and in a deeper way than happiness so it always seems to win out. The relationship is more familiar. I feel like I would be betraying it if I leave to be with happiness. Also, anorexia convinces me in our relationship that I do not deserve a friend like happiness, that I will only be accepted by it so it makes for an easier decision. I need to not let my happiness be dependent on the anorexia, the one thing that will do everything in its power to destroy me and rob me of a better life. I am giving it all the power and letting it control the outcome of my life. I need to stop putting my happiness in its hands. If I keep doing so, there is no doubt I will never genuinely have it in my life. By choosing recovery and finding the true definition of happiness, my hope is that I will be able to summon the strength and courage to make it my new friend and say good bye to anorexia.

The thing many people fail to realize about happiness is that it can be found in every minute of the day in some form beyond within us. Being at peace with yourself means the ability to notice the joy that often goes overlooked. I personally spend so much time searching desperately for the happiness in the grand moments of life that I am missing the simple joys surrounding me every day. I am ignoring all the imperfections in life that can make me smile but go unnoticed all too easily. I am waiting for the dove when a pigeon can bring just as much enjoyment. And the best part is that pigeons are EVERYWHERE! I can't actually say I have ever seen a dove in person, but I have come across more pigeons than I can count. They may not be the prettiest or most exciting creatures, but when I am with one, they are perfectly fine at the moment to give me a good laugh or put a smile on my face. Life is full of these pigeons. Take the time to stop searching and hoping for the dove. When it is ready, it will come. For now, embrace the pigeons and see them as signs of more birds to come and let them be enough. Let them guide you to the dove. See them as practice so you know how to handle and care tenderly for the dove when it flies into your life. I have complete faith that one day you will know what it means to feel permanent happiness and not question why you are. I will be here to support you so that you can let it freely come to you and embrace it with open arms. Let it beautify your life as it has done mine.

Love, light, and bravery, J.L.