I am really, really happy this morning. And it’s not just because I am currently on vacation, listening to Mac Demarco’s album which I recently discovered, while relaxing in a hotel in Los Angeles before I see him in concert later. Although that is certainly part of it.
I have many things to be happy about – a new job, a new guy, the trip I am on right now, and another trip coming up in October… That is also what scares me. Am I just happy because of these external factors? If they go away, will I cede back into depression?
I am trying to prevent that. I need to build a base of happiness that will withstand when things inevitably stop going my way. In some ways they are. I couldn’t sleep last night because of stress about a project I need to complete. I am nervous about starting this job. I have many other current insecurities that only my therapist is aware of. And yet, I feel happy. I do feel like there is a base I sit on. My therapist is helping. So is reading Umair Haque.
In Three Rules for Genuine Happiness, Mr Haque writes that happiness is not an emotional position opposite from sadness. Happiness is on a separate plane altogether. It’s a state of being where you let different emotions flow through you (joy, sadness, anger, stress) but still have a baseline of happiness. I love this view. It takes away the stress of thinking that I must be not sad to be happy. It’s a model that allows for happiness even when things aren’t great.
On further reflection, a base of happiness feels too solid. This view on happiness takes a lot of emotional work. I need to constantly remind myself that it’s OK to feel happy when things aren’t perfect. If that sounds fragile that’s because it is. Right now, at least. It’s a mental muscle that has not had much flexing. I am excited to see how it grows stronger. That itself is something else to look forward to.
Maybe then, growth in my mental capabilities can count as one of those external factors (like my new job) that I can lean on for happiness. It’s perfect, actually, because during trying times, I cam remind myself that I am undergoing a mental workout.