"Happiness doesn't depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude."
Dale Carnegie

I'm learning how to be happy. I have seen it depicted in so many ways, but all of those never seemed to quite be the right fit for me. People all around me seem happy - seem being the operative word there - but I know happiness can oftentimes be a rarity, or at least a fleeting feeling. Is it supposed to last or be sustained? Is happiness a normal state of being? I don't really know yet. I have found happiness to be a soft smile or a smirk. Happiness for me is a deep breath in that fills my lungs followed by a big exhale. It's being in awe of the world around me for this moment of existential surrealism. It feels like warmth - like wafting aroma of freshly baked bread, the fizz of ginger ale leaping over ice cubes, a gentle breeze billowing through leaves, and the two-tone notes of starting a Netflix binge. Happiness to me is not necessarily excited, joy, or energy - it's tranquility, peace, and solace. Happiness for me is something I stumble upon. I take a second, notice it, and realize it's happening. I'm still getting used to it, and there's ways that I don't quite know if it meant for me, and/or why that's my thought process on it.

Sometimes I hold myself back from happiness, especially as of late. With all that is going on in the world, my communities, and in the lives of those I care about, it seems unfair, inconsiderate, and downright insensitive for me to be happy, even if only for a moment. I know it's irrational, but that's how I feel. Why should I get to experience happiness when other people are suffering, going through tough times, or unable to be happy themselves? What did I do to deserve happiness? How did I get to be happy while others are not? I am problematizing it continually but keep coming back to it. I can rationalize it away, but I stop myself short or shake off happiness when it happens for me. It doesn't feel right for me to be enjoying myself, at least in this seemingly excessive way, when people I care about are enduring challenges. It feels selfish to get this for me. It feels disingenuous for me to have this bright spot when it's raining on others.

Yet still I know it's unfair to me, and it's unfair to them. I cannot blame others for me not getting to be happy. I cannot use them as a scapegoat to justify my own imprisonment. Maybe I'm afraid to be happy. Maybe I don't think I deserve it. Maybe I'm using others a defense mechanism to avoid facing my own discomfort with conceptualizations of happiness. If all the depictions of happiness look inaccessible for me, or I have rarely seen the people around me happy, maybe I am just learning how to create my own "brand" of happiness now. I like that. That feels hopefully and not too daunting. I feel in some ways I'm behind, but while others were experiencing happiness I was refining my sense of emotional literacy with the full gamut of other emotions. It's like I've traded places. Happiness and perspective is a both/and, not an either or. They are not mutually exclusive. I can have both. 

I am coming to understand I get to be happy. Happiness is something that is meant for me. I get to claim happiness as a regular part of my life. I'm figuring out how to be okay with being happy. That seems like an odd thing to write. I am wrestling with this guilt that seems to follow my moments of happiness as of late. I know it's irrational, and yet still it's this flood of "why me" when looking at what is going on around me. It's not a self-deprecating "woe is me" - it's this twinge of questioning, should I be happy when I know others are not? Happiness that is dependent on external factors is happiness that will never be truly my own. I am working to balance being sensitive to the plight of others, knowing when, where, and how much to share, and honoring their emotions - while not suppressing my own. Just like I had to figure out how to be genuinely happy for and with others, I get to have that for me. I get to be happy, and the people around me should be able to rejoice in that happiness with me. I claim it. I own it. It is mine. Nothing, and no one can take it away from me. 

As someone who strives to embrace empathy, I can see the pitfalls of emotional availability. Just because I have the ability and/or capacity to be emotionally present with others does not me I should prioritize their emotions, or processing through it with them over mine. I'm not a therapist. It's not my job to be the emotional support of every person I meet. I don't have to drop everything, set aside my feelings, and focus on others all the time. I can say no. I can triage and pass on. I can help people find others in their lives to support them. Other people's unhappiness does not have to get to bear weight on my happiness. I can understand emotion without having to experience it. I don't have to take on the heaviness of others when I'm feeling light. I can be there, without having to go there. My feelings are mine, and mine alone to feel, and do not have to be impacted by others. I get to be carefree when I am. I get to be free when I am feeling it. I get to be happy, for me. Oh my goodness, I get to be happy for me. This thing I've wanted for so long, is here, and now I get to enjoy it. So I will enjoy it. X


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