A few years back, I went to a hypnotist in hopes of helping me with my memory. What was I saying?
While he was trying to put me under, he told me to go to my happy place. My what?
I sat there struggling to think of what my happy place was. Then I broke out in a cold sweat with the realization that I didn’t have one. How can you not have a happy place?!
I didn’t; at least not in my recent memory. Snap! Talk about experiencing an Oprah-like ah-ha moment.
A 40+ year old woman who lived (what I thought was) a full life couldn’t find one memory to concentrate on that made her happy. I left his office after nearly an hour of trying to subdue my panic.
My memory got instantly better on my drive home as I went over the last dozen or so years of my life (which I affectionately call my teeth grinding, potato chip and dip eating years).
Isn’t it eerily funny (in a peculiar way not a ha-ha way) how you can spend so many years unhappy and yet be able to convince yourself that you are just fine? Not a good trait to have.
I was raised not knowing that happiness is something you just may need to work on. It isn’t automatic; it doesn’t just appear and stay with you. Life was not like the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ sitcom (yes, I know, I’m old) portrayed it to be.
Life was hard. Money was always in short supply, we lived above our means, love was generally one sided and we had a daughter to raise, tuition to pay for, shoes to buy, cars to fuel and careers to build. I’m exhausted thinking about it even now.
Not long after my visit to the hypnotherapist, I remember being at a New Year’s party and a friend asked me what I was looking forward to. I didn’t have an answer. My life seemed to be filled with ‘have to’ rather than ‘I’d love to’. That’s when it hit me in the face like a sledgehammer; I needed to change things.
Happiness takes work. Life doesn’t. Life just happens whether you are involved or not. Like a car that is driving uncontrollably, it careens down its path with little regard of its passengers.
Happiness? Well, that is something else all together. Wishing and hoping for happiness only guarantees its elusiveness. Happiness requires work, planning and a steadfast resolve. This is something they should teach in schools.
If you assume that you are entitled to be happy, you also assume it will come your way with little effort from you. Don’t look now, my friends, you’re in for a long wait.
I made up my mind that my life was going to change for the better. I was going to add myself into the equation of priorities. Something I was foolish enough to overlook for way too many years.
My life did change. My 27 year marriage dissolved. My daughter became a victim of parents unable to work through their problems. Things got harder. A lot harder. But I got happier. Go figure.
That’s when I realized for the first time that ‘easy’ didn’t mean happy. That marriage didn’t guarantee love and that taking a stand for myself was my greatest gift to my daughter.
The moral of the story is this. Assume nothing in life is coming your way. Assume that you are in charge of your happiness because you are. Assume that it is your responsibility to live it and live it big. Easy to say, hard to do.
I have a few friends that have come to me in the past months telling me how very miserable their lives are. How they feel it escaped them. My heart aches for them. There but for the grace of God, go I.
If you believe in God and in the moment when you will meet your maker, then I’m betting it would be a good thing to be able to look Him in the eye and tell him without a doubt that you used everything he gave you.
I’m hoping I don’t run into that situation anytime soon. Happiness finds me easier these days, and a lot more often. I love with passion and wild abandon and I’m loved back by a wonderful man. I achieve and work to achieve more, I travel, write, speak, spend good time with friends, read awesome books, enjoy lazy walks with my dog and I am blessed to be able to spend time with my now grown 27 year old daughter and the best son-in-law a mom could have. Life is good and gets better each day.
I find that I now have a lot of happy places in my memory. So many, in fact, it would be hard to choose which one I would need to visit should I ever want to be hypnotized again. Ironically, still top on my list are the ones I have of playing with model clay, board games, treasure hunts and silly string with my little girl. It’s pretty hard to trump the kid.
People say they don’t know how I can be so forthcoming. I answer that I don’t know how to be anything else. It’s a blessing and a curse.
I’m hoping that at some point, some time, somewhere, it will help someone find themselves. Life waits for no one.
Adam D. Oglesby - Good for you, Tammy. You’ve got me feeling all warm and fuzzy and uplifted.
Unfortunately, that short period of bliss doesn’t last long for me. About the time I close this post I’ll probably be back to my grumpy, grouchy, pessimistic self.
Enjoyed the read.
Joan Cooper - Well Tammy – I promised myself never to clutter up your otherwise happy blog again, but here I am.
First of all, most of us, most of the time, live by the myths we were brought up with. Get rid of the myths and realize life for what it is. Marriage itself needs a complete overhaul – times change. Too much is expected of it. No one – no one can be the same person at 55 that they were at 25. Life is a river – flow with it. I do not recommend ignoring responsibility – I myself lived a life of responsibility – I just didn’t know it would take a lifetime.
I believe happiness comes from inside yourself. No one outside gives it to you, although they can provide love, fun, companionship etc etc.
Mel Glenn - Nice column – you show clearly that elusive happiness is work, and a realization that you have to go out and get it. It takes bravery, too.
Good for you. I wish you a GPS of happy places.
Kellie - Great post and excellent observation. My happy place is always when I am relaxing at yoga. So when I need to go to my “happy place” I place myself meditating on a beach with warmth hitting my face. It works for me everytime … especially in the dreaded MRI machines!!! YIKES
Ande - Tammy!
What I love BEST about your writing is your ability to be so transparent and share thoughts many of us have but do not know how to express so eloquently with written words.
Thank you for reminding us happiness is a state of mind, a choice, and often something we choose to create in our life… it doesn’t just happen.
You know how much I love Happy Ever After endings… so thrilled to read about yours – CONGRATS!
Tammy - Dear Grumpy, grouchy, pessimistic Adam, happy you enjoyed the read. Uplifting? Hmm, probably not. Truthful? Completely. Happy endings come even to old farts like me. The truth is I am hopefully far from my end and therefore have plenty of time to screw things up or make them even better. It’s a coin toss. But I will lean heavily towards the ‘better’ part of the equation. Thanks for stopping in and posting!
Tammy - Hi Mel, always so happy to hear from you. I learned (the hard way) that you will never get where you are going if you don’t know where it is you want and need to be. Duh! So GPS is a good thing to have! Happiness is something I always expected to just ‘be there’ if I did everything that was expected of me. False! Being true to yourself is the petro that drives the machine that gets to the destination. Gee, that sounded deep. So happy you are here. Really!
Tammy - Kellie, I imagine that a ‘happy place’ is needed in the dreaded MRI machine. Wonderful for you that you have your Yoga. My happy places (notice that it’s a plural?) are memories of happy times with loving people. A kind of portal, if you will, that transplants me to a calm and joyous moment. Thanks for sharing, it’s what we do best, isn’t it?
Tammy - Hi Ande, in all the movies and fairy tales, the happily ever after comes to everyone who is good hearted and worthy. In real life, the opposite may possibly be true. As you well know, happiness isn’t guaranteed, nor is it a ‘given’. It turns out we have to plan and work for it. Just like in a marriage; it’s not enough to be with the right person, we must always work to grow and continue a loving journey. Fortunately, I found that happiness was waiting like an impatient child to re-enter my life. And we have been bound together ever since. It’s all in the knowing. Thanks for the compliment (blush). you know I call ’em as I see ’em. Wonderful hearing from you! Thanks for the read and the post.
Tammy - Hi Joan, I’ve always jokingly said that marriage should have a lease option. After 10 years you could opt out or renew the lease. Haa! Of course, it is a whimsical thought. I know a few couples in their 80’2 that have been married for over 50 years. They are as happy as happy can be. The idea of it all is that we are to grow together, sharing life’s ups and downs. Of course the reality for many is that they grow apart. We agree that true bliss comes from within. Finding it in ourselves is a journey of its own. Thanks for the read and for the post. Good to have you here!
Ande - Hi Tammy,
Yup, happiness is a choice… in fact, the only thing we really have control over in our lives is our thoughts.
Listening to Byron Katie really helped me learn how to Love What Is… her four questions are so powerful, especially ‘who would you be without that thought?’
Of course, a delicious glass of wine can also produce a level of happiness that I truly enjoy. 🙂
With gratitude and appreciation for your thoughtful posts,
Tammy - Ande, interesting! I often quiet the thoughts in my head. They generally tell me that I can’t or shouldn’t do or try something I deep down inside know I can do. I believe it to be fear disguised as my voice. I think we listen to ourselves more than we hear anyone else. Not always a good thing. My gratitude goes to you, dear Ande, for being such an honest and faithful reader. Kudos, my friend, it is wonderful having you here.
Nancy Wurtzel - Wow, thanks for the great post, Tammy. You have reminded me of priorities that sometimes get lost in the day-to-day of life. Thanks for the wake-up call — I tweeted your post as well! All the best, Nancy
Tammy - Hi Nanacy, thanks for the RT and the kind review! Wake up calls are not something I generally pay attention to. I’m not sure why I was so vulnerable when I got this one, but man, it shook my cage and changed the course of my life. Go figure. I so appreciate your post and knowing you are on the other side of my weekly rants. Thanks for that!