I read a theory once that happiness is actually a genetic trait.
Yes, a happiness gene!!
And when I read that, I remember thinking,
“Wow, I’m glad I got that gene!”
I always (used to?) consider myself a happy person.
And I recognized that being a happy person and being happy at a given moment in time are two very different things.
No one is happy when they are stranded on the side of the road with car trouble or when they lose a loved one or when they don’t get the job they’re sure they aced the interview for. Conversely, (nearly) everyone is happy when they buy a new car or get a pay raise or meet the love of their lives. But whether it’s a negative event or a positive one, that type of happiness is cicumstantial happiness. It’s dependent on, yes, the present moment’s circumstances. But what happens when the pain or the delight of that moment passes? You can be a happy person who is not happy in the moment and you can be a miserable person who is temporarily happy.
I am not a happy person these days.
Truth is, I haven’t been happy for a long time.
My house overwhelmes me.
My marriage depletes me.
My husband hurts me.
And I myself disappoint me.
But am I a happy person who is only temporarily unhappy?
Or have I become a truly unhappy person, destined to know only fleeting moments of happiness?
If there really is a “happiness gene” and if I once recognized myself as a person with that very gene, I still must have it, right?
We don’t change our genes like we change our jeans.
I think when you live in any sort of “chronic” state – be it chronic illness, sustained financial difficulities or the addiction of a family member – happiness isn’t necessarily elusive but it does require effort.
One of (One! Of!) the tragedies of living with an alcoholic is that things that once brought you joy can become a source of irritation. Not because those things have changed but because the alcoholic changes you.
We have two big, loud, exbeurant black labs! (Because who can pick “just one” black lab puppy when there are only TWO left and you have several pairs of great big eyes looking up at you and saying, “We can’t leave one all alone!) Now, I love dogs! I used to walk my dogs and play with my dogs and take delight in their unconditional love (even if it was delivered with unbridled enthusiam) when I walked in the house. And I still love dogs and I love my dogs but I don’t enjoy my dogs anymore. I yell at them to “get away” when they come bounding at me with endless energy; I feed them with all the affection of a guard shoving food at a prisoner and instead of morning and evening walks, they are simply “shown the (back) door” for the necessary potty and poop outings.
So today I am going to walk my dogs.
Today I am going to hug them when they come bounding at me, loving me for simply coming home.
Today I will add a treat to their dinner, pat them on the head and be grateful I have the means to give these two lovely creatures a safe and warm home.
What will you do today to court joy?
What did you once love, take delight in, before the beast of alcoholism took up (uninvited!) residency in your soul?