I'm Happy And I Know It...Now What?
|This is basically me. By Davies up North on Flickr|
Maybe that sounds strange to you - happiness is a glorious thing, after all! Why feel guilty about it? Well, to me, joyousness feels like a kind of "impossible good news," as Chesterton says, and an inherent part of experiencing it is that I want to open that experience to everyone around me. It throws open the doors of the soul, blows a bright wind through my being, and makes me want to invite everyone in! Except, of course, I didn't have the least clue how to do it, and meanwhile I was watching all these people suffering and the best I felt I could offer was something stupid along the lines of "Don't worry! Be happy!" - which is probably one of the single most frustrating and obnoxious things you can possibly be told if you're feeling bad.
|This is basically my deal. You are more than welcome to|
disagree with any part of this. Via Dammit Janet!
But I wasn't about to try and make anybody happy. (By 21 I'd seen enough friends and loved ones suffer from depression to know that that just doesn't work.) I just didn't know what to do, and in the meantime, my secret feeling that I was clearly supposed to be using this power made me feel like a smarmy, self-righteous, obnoxiously cheerful, namby-pamby jerk. Like, "Aw, I'm so happy and everyone else is so sad! It must be my job to tell everyone else how great happiness is!"The fact that this seemed to be my most crushing spiritual problem made me feel even more guilty. Man, people out there have real problems, and you're worrying that the universe might take your good feelings away if you don't hand them out like damn Happy Candy? Really, Jericha? That's your problem? Could you get any more trivial?
And then, a few months ago, when I was just starting out on my blog and looking for inspiration, I stumbled across a lovely post on Scoutie Girl by the thoughtful & talented Gwyn Michael called Learning to see again. the beauty in the breakdown. Some of her first words in the post hit me right in the gut. "I have been blessed with an uncanny capacity for optimism," she wrote, and in my brain something went zing! because, you see, I'd never once heard anyone else say that but me. Her post (which you should read, because it is wonderfully inspiring and beautifully written) was basically about the fact that she sees it as her prerogative to spread joy because, well, the world is a pretty dark place a lot of the time and we all forget how to see the beauty in it sometimes and dammit, we need help. But the real reason her post meant so much to me was that her experience came out of suffering. She writes,
"The year I was thirteen I lost my father to suicide, my bedroom and all my belongings to a house fire, and whatever hope was left in my mother. It was a sad, sad year and shaped me in many ways. I remember coming into the house after the fire and looking into the shell of my room. Most everything was gone, but on the wall were the melted remains of a yellow princess phone dripping down onto the charred carpet. It was somehow beautiful in my eyes and I became fascinated by the beauty in the unexpected."
|Here is a beautiful image from her post.|
What is mine to do in the world is to awaken people to other ways
of seeing. To inspire hope where there is doubt, love where there is pain.
|This is also totally me! Except with|
CHAMPAGNE. Via Sunset Magazine
|Just doing my best to look meaningful in the snow, here.|
Is this awesome or pretentious? Via Favim.
In all of this, what came to the surface in me was the desire to build a museum that celebrates the human experience of joy. We have a lot of spaces dedicated to general history, and a lot of spaces dedicated to the memory and experience of suffering and death. We don't have many places that honor and memorialize the millions of ancient, ongoing, cross-cultural experiences of gladness, wonder, and delight. I know perfectly well the world is full of pain and fear and anger. I don't think joyfulness is better than that, or more right, or more true. My wariness to share and express joy came from my fear of being seen as someone who was trying to overwrite or deny the ugly things about existence, a happy person casually dismissing others' experiences of unhappiness or telling them that they were wrong or foolish or not trying hard enough if they weren't just being happy, like meeeee! But I think Gwyn Michael is absolutely right when she speaks in her post of her belief that "in helping people to see in a more positive way, we give them hope and that gives them power. When we feel powerful we are motivated to work and to change."
It's so easy to forget that no matter what happens, what suffering overwhelms us, the universe is still full of wonder too. That's maybe the very strangest thing about existence: that somehow, the darkness and the brightness don't cancel each other out. They're just both there, both part of us. One is not more true than the other, and we need to remember and honor and work to understand both. I think there's plenty of people already working on suffering; I think the world could use a few more on the side of joy. What do you think?
Have you ever had the experience of feeling like you've been given something you desperately want to share, create, pass on, or work with, but felt like you couldn't or shouldn't act on that deep desire? What was it? What did you do?