Truth - Each and ever person experiences life differently. No two people's lives are the same. What we want out of life also varies and yet - it doesn't. We all define happiness in different ways but the commonality what we strive for can be broken down. Life is about passions, talents, gifts, love, laughter, hope, and growth. We want to live a life that has meaning. We want to change the world and to be remembered for it. We want to matter to others. Life is an existential crisis of epic proportions. Somehow we figure it out, and then again ... we really don't. We're whole and fractured. We're surviving and dying. We progress and we're lost. We are broken but not shattered.

"Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain... To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices - today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it." Kevyn Aucoin

Recently, I've been hearing people use this dismissive rhetoric of "happy and whole." It's this unrealistic expectation that people should just choose to be upbeat, energetic, and carefree. It's a shutting down of the very real things that people deal with. It's a disregard for the things we go through, the situations we're placed in, and the traumatic stuff that happens to us. Happy and whole only applies to those without many of the hardships that life offers the vast majority of the world's population, and even that of our society - even then, I still don't believe that state exists. I want to say that I am broken and simultaneously whole. I want to say that I am happy and melancholy. I want to say that I am living and restrained. There is duality and multiplicity to all of us. I don't believe that the things that have broken us, left scars, and created bruises steal from us our wholeness. I don't think people need to be fixed, to be made whole again, or to be put back together. It's not a role for anyone to take or a task for anyone to complete than the person centered in it all.  I think that when we experience things that change us we can no longer be the same. There are times where we are forced to be different, and that is what we must do. Life changes us but what we do with change makes all the difference.

In some ways I don't understand why people have difficulty being around or interacting with people who are "unhappy." I think even then, that is a feeling for them to disclose not for us to diagnose. Overall, emotion is uncomfortable for people when it's anything other than rainbows, bubble gum, and confetti. The spectrum of human emotion ranges so much and in avoiding discomfort we miss out learning about other people, who they really are, and how they persist. I think we cheat ourselves of witness immense strength when people are able to continue on or even more so when they ask for help. We deprive ourselves the opportunity to watch the human spirit, to see someone else's soul, and revel in awe of their actuality. The relationships we forge that are rooted deeper than surface level pleasantries and obligatory positivity are the ones that challenge us for the better. If someone exposes themselves, raw, naked, and unpolished that is a sign of trust, and one that we should do our best to respect. We have to let our guard down, deconstruct the everyday walls we live behind, and drop the act every once in a while. We cannot let fear dictate when we choose to be vulnerable. Doing so as often as possible does nothing more than allow us to get better and better at it. It's a skill that we all need especially when are left to our own devices to contemplate the big questions of happiness, fulfillment, love, and wholeness.
It doesn't sit well with me that happiness should be in comparison. I don't think I'm should be grateful because I have to see others who have less or are in more precarious situations than the one I find myself in. I don't think I have to romanticize poverty, famine, drought, war, etc. to know that I should take to heart the life I have been granted. That to me reeks of scapegoating and objectifying. I should be able to relish in who I am and the life I've been afforded implicitly. My happiness should not be at the expense of others or a impoverished strand of voyeurism. The rhetoric of "you could have it much worse" or "think of the homeless" or "kids in other countries" does nothing more than reaffirm us in our privilege, ignorance, and elitism. It is reifying of the othering process that we participate in, consciously and unconsciously.

 I believe we should practice gratitude by being present, paying attention, and living our lives not juxtaposing ours with that of others. It's dehumanizing, degrading, and downright dark, especially if that admonishment of these mythical peoples creates a uniform story that erases nuance and perspective while providing no commitment or action to do anything about it. Again, who are we to determine someone's happiness because of who we assume to be or how we assume them to live lest we are invested in tangibly making a sustainable difference. 80% of the world lives on less than $10 a day, and 3/4 of the world's wealth is owned by the top 20%. Income inequality and limited purchasing power are global issues that impact us all.
I think recognizing that happiness and wholeness look different for everyone is part of what diversity and difference mean. I think more people would be happier if they worried about their own self and issues rather than being concerned about other people's earthly salvation. We can want and strive for our dreams and goals. We should not minimize what makes someone happy or what they hope for in life because it is not what we want. Wanting the same thing would defeat the purpose of all us being unique and independent persons. We should be happy for others when they are happy.

What is the point or purpose of critiquing the joy, peace, and benevolence of others? Why can't we be happy for others? Is that not just our own sadness, bitterness, and feelings of inadequacy manifesting themselves? The lives others lead more often than not do not directly impact ours, we have to let go and stop projecting our own ideas of what life should be onto them. And with that all said, what happens when we realize that happiness is not always a choice? For so many, it is not that simple. Positivity has its time and place but reality can often be substituted if effervescence has to be feigned. Smiling through it all doesn't change what people might be dealing with. Demeaning the hardship and plight of others is a problematical and dismissive behavior. Let people live, and live how they are able. When people are able to be happy, they will be. X


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