A Day Away from Happy

After basic physical and emotional needs, there’s one need that drives people: the need for self-fulfillment, for meaningful achievement. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs refers to this as self-actualization.

I feel that, Mr. Maslow. I do. There’s so much I want in this life, so many goals I want to achieve. That same drive and ambition is reflected in people around me. We’re always pushing ahead, striving for an ideal situation. And we’ll be truly happy when we get there.

Right?

I see so many people saying they’ll be happy when. When they lose a few more pounds. When they make a bit more money. I find myself sliding into that thinking sometimes too. It’s a seductive mindset, the idea that one day we’ll reach a better state and find true contentment there. And we’re almost there, just one more step forward, one more achievement.

But if we’re not happy here, in the striving, will we really be happy there, in the when?

The truth is, the dynamic nature of life means we’ll always be pushing forward, always reaching. What if, every day, we’re just a day away from happy? We’ll arrive at the end of our lives still reaching for that ever-elusive happy.

Over the last few years of life curveballs and jarring redirections, I’ve come to embrace an illuminating truth: contentment isn’t a destination.

It happens here. In the “not quite where I want to be yet.” In the “I’m still working on things.”

Happiness isn’t waiting for me on the other side of an exciting achievement. It’s already here. And it’s here because I choose it. I choose to celebrate all that is good in my life. I choose contentment by shifting my focus away from the mountain of things I want to the mountain of things I have.

I’m not saying I’m going to sit back and accept my life as it is. Contentment does not require surrender. Ain’t no give-up happening here, let me assure you.

I’m still striving. But I choose to find contentment in the striving, joy in the incredible opportunity to chase after achievements.

There was a time when I was a day away from happy. (Yesterday. It was yesterday.) Today, happy is here because I choose it. I’m wrapping my arms around it and digging my nails right in because I’m not letting go, whatever happens. Happy is riding this life roller coaster right along with me.

Where’s your happy?

 

one wish

It happened when I was walking out of work the other day, a gentle breeze blowing, my heels clicking against the parking deck. I thought, I’m so glad my childhood self can’t see me now.

No, it’s not what you think. It’s not because I was ashamed or frustrated with myself.

It was because I was happy. Because I have a job I enjoy and I’m pursuing a big dream with the support of a fantastic husband.

When I was a kid, I had one major wish for myself: to grow up. To be an adult. So I could make my own decisions and create a life for myself. While other kids would use their hypothetical wishes to get treasure or take a trip to the moon, I wanted adulthood.

So sometimes, when I’ve had a great day, I think about what my childhood self would think. I think about how elated she would’ve been if she’d been able to glimpse the me I am now. Elated and incredibly impatient. It would’ve made it impossible to be content.

If I could go back in time, I’d reassure her. I’d tell her that childhood will eventually end. I’d show her that I’ve become the kind of person she’d always hoped and that I’m still fighting for bigger dreams. I’d tell her one day she’ll have the love of a man who makes her feel like the most important person in the world, that she will be loved unconditionally and wholeheartedly.

I don’t think that would’ve made the waiting any easier. But it gives me such a sense of appreciation when I look at my life now. Of course there are things I would change if I could. It’s not perfect, by any standard, but I can honestly say my life now is good. And that is no small thing.