Just because I smile on social media doesn’t mean I’m happy all the time…but I’ll get to that in a minute.
In the last year staying sane (‘balanced’ would be more appropriate) has been a massive challenge as we walk a fine line trying to find stability through the treacherous climate of this pandemic. Covid-19 aside, winter is traditionally considered the most depressing time of the year and for decades society has been telling us that if we aren’t happy all the time then there’s something seriously flawed within us. Just go to Chapters and walk down the self-help section. ‘Read this book to find the secret to happiness’ or ‘listen to that audio and be happy forever.’ It’s all the same rhetoric and although the bookstore is one of my favourite pass times, seeing rows of books telling you how to be happy ALL THE TIME blows my mind! I just don’t believe it’s human to be happy all the time and forcing that state of emotion as a constant is UNREALISTIC.
One of most important Buddhist teachings is realizing that unhappiness is equally as important as happiness. One cannot exist without the other – light can only appear amidst a realm of darkness.
Think about it. In order to be in a constant state of happiness you’d have to be doing something that brings you joy CONTINUOUSLY – but then you’d be bored because in time that action will no longer stimulate you. Or perhaps avoid all human interaction and painful emotions that could come from divorce or death of a loved one, for example – but then you’d live a lonely life.
Happiness and unhappiness will always coexist.
Experiencing emotional pain is part of the human experience and necessary for the evolution of the soul. Our teacher and compass guiding us on our life journey, unhappiness can help us gauge WHAT and HOW much we can tolerate from people or situations within our day-to-day lives. The key (and greatest challenge) is not to remain in your state of unhappiness. All roads lead to Rome with unhappiness being the root of anger, loneliness, jealousy, greed, guilt, superiority, inferiority and hatred…just to name a few.
In order to deal with my own unhappiness I analyze my painful situation with brutal honesty. I feel it- that nasty raw emotion-without grabbing for a vice such as food, alcohol etc…(the hardest thing to do!!!). I own it and make a conscious commitment not to dwell in my house of pain too long.
Whichever way your unhappiness manifests let it ebb and flow like an emotional tide coming in and out of your life when necessary… because it’s during these dark moments that we learn how strong we really are. It’s not easy and it’s taken me years to learn how to handle pain. However, if you are committed to facing pain instead of masking it then you can learn how to use it to your advantage.
People have asked me how I’ve been able to sustain my happiness and positivity during this time and are stunned when I tell them I experience pain EVERY SINGLE DAY of my life. “How? You always look like you’re having so much fun (especially on social media lol).” Yes…and the lesson here is not to take what’s online as someone’s total and complete reality.
Almost every day I cry for my mother. Although, I know I’ll miss her for the rest of my life, I don’t stay ‘down there’. My tears for her are the catalyst which makes me pick up the phone and call someone close… because I realize in that moment that anything can happen at any time. How terrible it would be to never have the chance to speak and laugh with that person again! This painful thought process comes from losing so many loved ones over the last few years and yet, it helps create so many new happy moments. I try to make maximum four phone calls a day to family and friends (not work related). Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen but none-the-less it’s my daily goal. It helps maintain my healthy happy/unhappy balance. In my mother’s death, and those of others, there is this silver lining.
Bad moments are normal. Just don’t give them power over your day. However, if you dwell too long in your house of pain please seek an unbiased professional who can help you work through your emotions. I’m not saying I have the answers but all this and my faith in God have been my anchor.