Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Art of Happiness

Where do I begin?  I am happy. I have been for most of my life, but recently in the last 3-4 years have I really understood what it means. Some people will search their entire lives looking for happiness, others are just afraid of what being happy will actually mean to them.  Yet, what I can tell you is that it is the most beautiful development of my current life. Yet, perhaps this week i have been asking myself how we deal with the disappointments of this world. How do we pick ourselves up again?

I was the sort of child who had decided their profession by age 7. I also had planned most of my major life goals up until the age of 30. I was going to go to Notre Dame for college, become a pediatrician, be married by 28, and have 3 children, Scott, Stephen, and Stewart.   I was motivated, focused, and driven. I knew all the things I wanted and would have done anything to get them. Yet, the one thing I did not cope with well was when these things didn't go according to my plan.

People who have known me my whole life will tell you I am quite a different person now than I was 10 years ago, heck 4 years ago. I will say that my 18 year old perfectionist, uptight, intense self has morphed into a free- spirited, laugh till hit hurt sort of girl. I truly believe that most of this dramatic transformation is a result of life not going as planned, disappointment, and tragedy.

People may say that this is depressing, but I disagree. The only thing it is-- liberating. The truth of my story is that as hard as I worked in high school and college, valedictorian, class president, captain of sports teams, it didn't get me into Notre Dame. Nor did it get me into medical school. These failures have been some of the hardest things, I have ever swallowed. The sheer embarrassment and hopelessness I felt are still haunting.  Yet, what I didn't mention is that these also might have been some of the greatest blessings and some of the most transforming and amazing years of my life.

Yet, perhaps the last year of my life has been the most unexpected years of my life. It has been wonderful, tumultuous, and deeply humbling. I never expected to watch my father deteriorate before my eyes so quickly. To see a man who at one time was invincible to me, a man who could make any bump better, become a man who I would spoon feed tangerine ice cream in the last days of his life. My maturity has been tested, and my life ever changed. Yet, only to be  foiled by the fact that I am utterly and passionately in love with my new city, friends, and my profession.

What I have learned is that some of the darkest moments of my life have only allowed me to truly appreciate the beauty and gorgeousness that surrounds me. It has made me so aware of my surroundings. I value my friends as if they were family. I attack life with ferocity.  I love people who will never love me. I cry often and much. I laugh and I cackle. I find joy in the simplest of things- big hats, the elderly, and sunshine. I live to bring joy to others, yet I ask where does that leave me.

Growing up is hard. I have heard from friends in the last week who have told me stories of personal loss and pain. I received an email this week for inspiration and hope for a friend suffering from cancer. It leaves me at a place of desperation, dark, and lonely, because I have no answers to why bad things happen to good people. Why some of the most beautiful people I know still struggle with finding a good man who appreciates them and doesn't tear them down. Why some of my friends refuse to recognize the happiness that surrounds them.  I don't know these answers nor will I ever.

What I do know is that happiness is real. It is palpable, just like you know the wind is there when you stick your hand out the car window, because it is hitting you in the face. This is what happiness feels like. You question if it is there if it is possible, and bam it is hitting you in  the face.  Life is unpredictable, short, and sweet. My greatest advice to you and even myself is to quit being disappointed when things don't go your way. Perhaps it is part of a greater plan, where your greatest disappointments will morph into your greatest blessings. Look around you. Embrace your friends. Love your life. Happiness waits for us all, the question is would you recognize it if it hit you in the face? I sure hope so.