Yesterday, someone on my Facebook feed raised an interesting point about the perceptions people have about life. “Why is it ok to only share the good things that go on in our lives but the second we share anything bad its ‘airing our dirty laundry.’ Life is not always rainbows and unicorns.” Did you know there’s such a thing as honest happiness? I don’t know if any of you have read The Giver by Lois Lowry, but a similar concept exists in that book. The Elders decide that in order for the people to stop experiencing pain, they should give up their memories and also give up experiencing anything in life that may lead to pain and discomfort. No relationships, no childbirth, and no true life. Only one person in society is responsible for knowing the history of the their society. As a result, no one really knows happiness. They just trudge about life and when they die, no one really cares. Jonah, the protagonist of the story, learns what life is about and fights that system. The lesson: without pain and unhappiness, you cannot know what happiness really is. Why do we spend so much time lying to people and telling them we’re happy when we’re not? Because it makes them uncomfortable? Because we’re afraid it makes us look bad? Because they’re lying and saying they’re happy all the time? No one is happy all the time. In an article by Andrea F. Polard on The “How” of Happiness in Psychology Today, she explains the unified happiness theory. She states the following:
Taking into account science, direct experience, many schools of thoughts, modern and ancient, western and eastern, I think that honest happiness must entail,
- Occasional bad feelings (“Smiles come best from those who weep”–Rumi)
- Occasional bad thoughts (Don’t trust the alligator)
- Bad events (Death and taxes really do happen; Life happens…)
- The human condition of imperfection (I am, therefore I err)
- De-identification with the perfect “other” (“Be a light onto yourself”–Buddha).
We should allow that dark side of ourselves to be seen and not think that we should be “superhuman” and that happiness exists forever. I like to think that too much of anything isn’t good for you. Those people who are sickeningly happy probably act that way to mask something deeply wrong. Hiding the darkness and trying to pretend it doesn’t exist doesn’t help you. We should learn to live flexibly, seeing both the good and bad, and deal with it. If you cannot handle seeing, reading, or processing even a small among of tragedy, look within yourself.
On the flip side of that, if too much darkness and sadness exists in your life, it’s time to seek some type of help. I’ve dealt with major depression before and it’s not pretty. Just as you have to embrace and live with the bad things that happen in life, you also have to acknowledge and embrace all that’s good in life. How can you survive otherwise? Take the time to take inventory of the beauty in life. Surely there’s something good going on. I’m not puking out rainbows and butterflies either, but I have two beautiful children, I have a job, a house, a car, and the ability to think for myself. Many people don’t have what I have. I can wax poetic about all the crap that’s gone wrong today too. I have bruises on my body from my son, I go crazy daily from breaking up fights between my boys, and our financial situation could be better. But, heck, I sure am glad I could get out of bed this morning.
I don’t have to pretend life is a bed of roses. Or maybe I do. Beautiful flowers that smell beautiful, but, crap, watch out for those thorns! The sooner we stop pretending that everyone is happy all of the time, the better for all of us. Let’s support each other. Life it too dang short to pretend we all need to be happy all the time. It’s time for some honest happiness.