My Year of Living Joyfully: 365 Days of Reflection on What it Means to “Get Happy”

Let’s face it: the world kinda sucks right now.

The economy, war, terrorism, the division within our own country, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. The general lack of stability about not knowing whether tomorrow is the day you or a loved one will be fired. Will China take all our jobs? Will there even be a world for our children to grow up in?

And then there’s the personal level of suckiness. For members of the Adoption/Loss/Infertility community, loss is an often ever fixed mark, and personally, it feels that I will never be able to minimize my own feeling of loss from my own two miscarriages. But even people who are “lucky” will eventually have loss happen to them, too. Eventually, our parents will die. Friends will be lost in terrible accidents, to disease, eventually to old age. I may succumb to an early grave, leaving my husband to marry some hot, mean woman who will send my children to ye olde thyme workhouse so she can have his Mr. Darcy-ness all to herself. (It’s a recurring nightmare. My husband is attractively haughty and rude, so my parents refer to him as Mr. Darcy.) Loss is, unfortunately, a part of the human condition.

I know that loved ones and friends are tired of me being down. They want me to “get happy!”  The common prescriptions for getting happy? Exercise! Change your diet! Relax! Organize! Stop stressing! Take a trip! Lose weight! Buy expensive shoes! Eat chocolate! Drink wine!

I have tried all of these things and none of them have worked, at least not on a long-term basis. In fact, I wonder if by building up these remedies in our brains as the solutions to unhappiness, we actually do more harm than good.

My dad once spoke to the author of the book “The City of Joy”, Dominique Lapierre. Lapierre told him a story (apologies if it is in the book, I read it a long time ago), that my father often retells to me. He interviewed a young girl whose family chore was to chase a train in Calcutta for pieces of coal, which her family would then use for cooking meager quantities of rice, which was their daily diet. You would think that this girl would not enjoy chasing the train, catching burning hot pieces of coal. But every day she would leave for her “job” with a smile. Why? Because often flowers grew on the train tracks and she would have the opportunity to pick them.

I may be accused at this point of being a spoiled Westerner, putting a smile on the face of horrible poverty and suffering, and I’m sorry if that’s what it seems. Maybe the girl in the story was internally miserable and sad. But there appears to be a nugget of truth in there about how we all could process the world.

I think a real way to “get happy” is to capture the little joys. (Which I plan to do weekly with Lori’s Perfect Moments, which is just a wonderful place.) But I’d also like to meditate each day on what joy and happiness is, over history, in different cultures. And not in a superficial woman’s magazine kind of way.

Ground Rules:

I will try not to discuss “shopping”, “dieting”, or “exercising”.  There will be no mention of “Eat, Pray, Love” or Oprah. Or shoes. Or boots. I’d also like to try to avoid being sappy if at all possible.

So (gulp!) every day in 2011 I will write about Joy. I think by writing about it, I can maybe feel it. And my greatest hope is maybe others may read this and also come away feeling some joy. And I hope maybe others will also share their own ideas of how to “get happy”.

Endnote: I know the song “Get Happy” refers to Judgement Day, which is not really very joyful, but I like the phrase 🙂



Filed under Discovering joy, Fear, Infertility, Miscarriage, Perfect Moment

3 responses to “My Year of Living Joyfully: 365 Days of Reflection on What it Means to “Get Happy”

  1. Pingback: Top Post Countdown, Number 3: My Year of Living Joyfully | Too Many Fish to Fry

  2. Here from the future via your Top Post Countdown during July 2012’s NaBloPoMo. I really appreciate reading where you were at in your life when you wrote this post.

    There is an expression in 12 step programs that you may heard, “happiness is an inside job.” It may sound cheesy but it’s true. Though things like exercising can help with emotional well being, at least for me, I realize that a lot of our happiness does come from how we choose to look at and think about our lives. Easier said than done, right?!

    I love that you set out to do PMM regularly at the beginning of 2011, as though it wasn’t one of my goals last year, after connecting with Lori via the Life From Scratch book tour she hosted, I ended up joining in many, if not most of her PMM in 2011 and pretty all of them since.

    I really do think that happiness begets happiness, as writing begets writing and the more we focus on what we are grateful for in life, the happier we can be. Though I get bad stuff still happens. Being able to look for silver linings after and durin storms helps to gain and keep perspective.

    • P.S. I meant to say when I was talking about PMM in my comment above, that I am glad that it brought you and me togther, as I think that is how we *met*. 🙂

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