People say happiness is a choice. I beg to disagree.
For me, I’d like to think it is a process and not just something you chose to do. It is something that is worked at, very hard, continuously and with conscious effort. It’s something you don’t take for granted or assume, just because you choose it. More than choosing happiness, I think it is about creating your own happiness, and part and parcel of that creation is acknowledging and honoring the sadness that may come along, recognizing its inherent value in the building of your soul. Sure, making a decision comes with the package, but it doesn’t end with just choosing to be happy. It comes with creating what makes you happy and reframing the way things happen around you.
Take this, for example.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I hate the rain. For me, the rain brings back bits and pieces of bad memories from really traumatic events that have greatly impacted my life. For me, the rain represents so many negative emotions like fear, dread, impending doom. At times, even death. The slightest hint of rain, from gray skies to the rumbling of thunder, always manages to tap into that. And while it may perhaps be a psychosomatic response to the rainy weather, whenever dark skies come and raindrops fall almost endlessly, I always seem to find myself physically debilitated and no amount of antibiotics or any medication would completely make me better. It is as if my physically body is commiserating with my soul, which slowly withers to the point of being at the brink of ‘death’.
In many ways, the rain is such an apt metaphor for my emotions. When I am sad and down, I feel like there is a torrential rain falling, slowly inundating all sense of familiarity and safety in the world I know. The only cure I could find was from the sun.
Like the weather, however, there will always be times when no matter how hard I try, there is no way I can stop the rain from coming. No matter how much I try to WILL it to be a sunny day, I cannot do anything about it. Even if I CHOOSE it to be a sunny day, that will be futile.
What I can control, however, is how I respond to these moments of rain and darkness that may come every now and then. Yes, technically there is a choice involved, but the point here is that you don’t just look at a shelf and select happiness, you make it happen along the way. I mean, if choosing to be happy were only that simple, then wouldn’t the whole world simply just be bursting at the seams with happiness?
So while the rain still brings back those bitter memories and stir up intense feelings of sadness and loneliness in me, I have learned to create my own sunshine, despite the presence of the rain. A few days ago after a particularly challenging day, I called this creation my “pseudo sunshine”. However, today, I decided that Quasi Sunshine was a better way of describing it. The former kind of gives me the feeling that it is all pretend and fake, while the latter gives me the sense of my sunshine having some semblance of the real thing because it possesses the same attributes. I am not faking my sunshine, I am creating it.
This realization comes at a very special day in my life. I call it my Soulday. Why? Today, three years ago, I found myself at a new beginning after a long and arduous battle with a dark night of my soul. In the midst of that battle, I had decided to take a road trip by myself, a weekend where I could just be. Armed with only a map to a place I had never been to, I just closed my eyes, muttered a prayer, and set off to, as would be expected given my love for the bright sunshine, the beach where I knew I would be safe and warm.
Of course fate would not have it that way. During the trip, I found myself stuck in a hut as rains fell from the sky that was, surprisingly, bright and sunny. Yes, both the sun and the rain came together that day.
So on this day three years ago came the end of that self-retreat which allowed me to close the chapter of one of the most difficult and painful times in my life. Back then I thought I had understood what it meant to be happy and that by simply choosing that over the sadness that comes my way, I would be okay.
Well…that didn’t work.
In the weeks and months that followed I found myself time and again slipping into moments of darkness and fighting like mad for it to go away, no matter how hard I chose to hang on to my construct of happiness.
In many ways, I have come full circle since that moment three years ago. Today, however, I have come to the point where I can finally realize that both happiness and sadness are of equal importance to one’s life, for one makes you stronger and the other allows you to grow and appreciate yourself and things around you.
And so since I am working at creating my own sunshine, my Quasi Sunshine as I call it, I have learned to:
validate and acknowledge, and more importantly, honor my feelings, both good and bad. This includes saying yes, I am sad or yes, I was hurt by that….these were the feelings I used to immediately dismiss and cover up with a painted on smile. And yes, I have learned to say no, I don’t like that (or you for that matter).
go with what works for me and freeing myself from preconceived notions and patterns that others have set for me
be grateful NO MATTER WHAT
pray in a way that is meaningful to me, and not necessarily how I have been taught to be
make active choices that are attainable and reasonable
in the same manner admit defeat and ask for help if I need it
take chances, no matter how uncomfortable or unfamiliar it may be.
trust in the process
acknowledge old hurts, give them a place in my heart, but make space for so much more.
And yes, while I still hate the rain, I have come to be at peace with knowing that rain is important every now and then.
At the end of that trip I had taken those years ago, as I drove home I was greeted with a most beautiful sight: a rainbow that stretched across the highway. As I drove towards it I knew that both the rain and the sun had something to do with that creation, and that in the end, no matter what happens, things will always, always be okay.
photo credit: Myk Cruz, who I love pirating quotes and photos from Thanks much Myk!