I have had everything I ever wanted several times in my life. A good husband, children to love, and a safe home. For years I worked to get these things worked out assuming that then, I’d constantly be happy. I’m not sorry I invested in these relationships and necessities. I’m thankful for them. But, I was wrong to assume that happiness, at least surface happiness, could be a constant in my life. I’m a very emotional person. I experience and like to experience all that living has to offer. Of course I would continue to feel the whole spectrum of emotion, and I do.
The “pursuit of happiness” is part of the American dream. We are free to seek and work for what we want, what we think will make us happy. I seem to have no trouble going after what I want and making things happen. For me, the greatest challenge has been figuring out how to get rid of all the things that make me unhappy. How do I fight feelings that are less than happy?
This morning I’m in pain and feel especially crabby. Ever feel like you just want to crawl into bed for two more hours and start the whole day over again? That is how I feel today. A few years ago, I probably would have done just that. There is part of myself that still wonders if that isn’t a super good idea. As part of being authentic, I often act on my feelings. I have listened to them in a way that was sometimes genuine but other times just plain immature. I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep my childlike emotional exuberance without carrying along the silly storms of immaturity.
Unending happiness is, I believe, a dream. It is a dream I have to let die so that I don’t panic or think something is wrong just because I feel unhappy. It is completely human to feel sad and negative feelings. It has to be okay to be human. Sometimes unhappy feelings give messages worth listening to about what we need to address or change. But, sometimes a feeling is just a feeling. Like bad weather, it isn’t a hopeless situation or one we need to fix. Storms pass all on their own.
In order to avoid conflicts, I have resisted commitment. I want to be there for my children in an emergency. There is nothing that feels worse to me than doing something that is less important to me than something else. It is a moral dilemma, a war of values I try hard to avoid.
When I finally was brave enough to commit to teaching a class for a three month trial period, the very first day I had to teach as the official instructor turned out to be the exact same time as the funeral of a family friend! It was as if my worst fear had just materialized to prove what I believed, that I can’t be there for those I love with other commitments.
But, it wasn’t true. I got a sub for the class, and I was there for the funeral. I have since realized how loving, connected people are going to have time conflicts because we love. Moral dilemmas are an identifying problem for good, loving people. We can’t be there for everyone at the same time, and that is okay. It has to be.
Finding Hidden Freedom
In our church we believe in being prepared. Like Noah built the ark before the rains, we try to get ready for emergencies and have necessities on hand in case they should be needed. I had no room in my new house for food storage, but in faith, I ordered it anyway having no idea beforehand what I would do with it.
After it arrived, I put it in the girls’ room (which had three girls in it) and amazingly, they had more space afterwards than before. This is still unexplainable to me, but I share it because it physically demonstrates what I believe is a true principle.
When we make commitments that need to be made, what doesn’t look like it can possibly fit could fit even better. It is counter-intuitive, and sounds crazy, but it’s true. For example, now that I am teaching four days a week, I find it less stressful than when I was teaching one day a week. It has become a normal part of the routine. I am freer with more commitment.
When I observe my children, it is even easier to see this principle in action. When my children are responsible, I trust them, and they have more freedom. Freedom is inextricably tied to responsibility. So, those among us who are the most responsible are both the most and the least free.
We have the greatest freedom of choice and the least available time to make those choices in, because much of our time is already spoken for and people are counting on us. However, with teamwork, we know we can get free when a true emergency arises. That makes us free every moment: free to focus on what we are doing, and free to make changes at any time.
What is your definition of joy?
Joy, to me, is underlying, foundational happiness no matter what the surface emotion. Joy comes from living a meaningful, loving, and free life full of commitments and responsibilities. Joy comes from a perspective that sees the purpose and opportunity in challenge and distress. Joy is impossible without gratitude because joy is finding all there is to appreciate about what is.
It is easy to enjoy a baby, especially if the baby is smiling or sleeping. Our expectations are low, and the experience of observing the miracle of life is easy to appreciate.
I want to keep that same attitude of wonder, awe, and appreciation for things as they are, in all their variety. I have to let myself let go of things as I think they ought to be, even within myself.
The path of joy is full of work, emotion, struggle, and pain.
But, joy is also a constant, underlying satisfaction.
It is knowing life is worth all its costs.
DarEll S. Hoskisson
DarEll S. Hoskisson loves to do hard things, but not too hard. She shares her own challenges, goals and experiences as she guides you into a realistic path of self-reflection and self-improvement. She shares tips on how to find, know and trust yourself so you can decide if other’s suggestions are right for you. DarEll has the world a little upside down—where work is play and play is work. She actually thinks other people’s problems are fun to try to solve and lights up with a personal challenge. She loves people, harmony, and excellence. She also loves useful things like tools and ideas that make work faster, easier and more fun. DarEll married in 1993 and graduated from BYU (1995) with a bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education. Since then she was adopted by 5 children and has worked with many non-profits. She is currently a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor—leading pilates and yoga at her local YMCA. DarEll lives in Florida where she enjoys her family, nature, her work, and encouraging people to live well. She periodically posts her poems, what she is learning, and service opportunities on her personal blogs: https://personalabridgements.wordpress.com and https://darellhoskisson.wordpress.com