Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy Never Lets Go of You

Just like this picture, my earliest happy memories bring me back to a place of having energy, enthusiasm, a sense of adventure and happiness. This is what I was feeling at about nine or ten years old. I was just beginning to venture outside of my self-discovery and incorporate, consciously, those things that would impact me for years to come. My previous life experiences had left impressions, but this time in my life felt like it was the beginning of who I was to be. I didn't know it then, but my journey of self - stepping out as a fresh new human being and participating wholly in that process -  that is what being happy means to me.

When I'm feeling the pressures of adulthood, I sometimes recall that time period of my life and reflect on it with a twinge of disappointment; why couldn't time just have stood still for me? Life and the things that get thrown at me in my present, make me wish for that time again when 'taking care of responsibilities' isn't in my vocabulary. All I was really responsible for was enjoying every day as it made itself known to me.

For the most part, those youthful days were filled with learning, friendship, playing, laughing, giggling and tons of new discoveries. The occasional sickness or fight with friends came up, but it was still not a deterrent from enjoying what came my way. It seemed that I slid easily into that role of happy back then.

Feeling happiness didn't change for many years. Inevitably, there would be days that just weren't that amazing, but still, happiness or what I thought it was stayed within the realm of my reach. Looking back, I'd have to say that a definite shift occurred around my mid-twenties, making happiness seem elusive at times and sometimes, non-existent. Sadly, there were even extended periods in my thirties and up through my mid-forties when I didn't think I'd ever be happy again. Don't get me wrong, I had fun during those years, but didn't have a feeling of energy, enthusiasm, a sense of adventure or revel in happiness as I did when I was much younger. It seemed like the uphill loop of feeling good wasn't quite sure how to catch the wave and get higher to reach those moments of joy. It stayed flat and felt like life was as good as it was going to get.

I'm now approaching fifty and have to say that I've had an extended period of experiencing happiness since my mid-forties. There have been and are still continual tests that would try to rid me of experiencing those satisfaction producing moments of my current life. Physically, I think hormones play a great deal in how we feel or react to the good and bad in life. But, it certainly doesn't address everything. From my experiences, the differences between now and past moments is partly due to the internal self-discovery that doesn't really happen on a conscious level when you are younger. Now, I'm fairly settled and in a centered place. Before, when I was younger, I was just reacting, doing, surviving, struggling to make sense of everything.

I think the older I get I discover that the things I just spontaneously enjoyed and took for granted - energy, enthusiasm, a sense of adventure - those are things that we don't lose, we just lose a desire for when faced with responsibilities, hardships and realities that are too much to handle. We quite possibly feel that indulging in them would take us away from those things that need addressing at that moment. Probably, the loudest thing resonating in my head was 'You're a grown-up now, it's not about having fun.'

What I've found, though, is that the happiness I feel now is no different than what I experienced as a child. It came back to me, a sort of awakening to it because my life changed again. Responsibilities are ever present, but my focus now is on my own satisfaction in conjunction with my present life. Happiness didn't elude me then because I was diligently focusing my attention on what I wanted to wrap myself in just for the sake of undertaking it. Knowing what it would feel like, what I would learn and how it would fit to me; that is what brought me happiness. I made choices for me, rather than having life determine what choices needed to be made. When my happiness level was at its lowest, I was in the highest state of reaction rather than action.

The happiness I experience now is a welcomed, old familiar feeling. Living life in a fully conscious state of putting one foot in front of the other in the fashion of my choosing has meant everything to me. It gives me all those things from my youth that I thought were missing, but most importantly, I feel happy most of the time even in the face of events that might cause issues for me. I'm back to feeling something that for many years just felt watered-down.

Interestingly, when I was younger I was also much more physically active. One could say that it contributed to the feelings of happiness, but it's different somehow. When I experience the energy, it is a feeling of strength and determination regardless of the physical state. The enthusiasm displays itself not only for wanting to selfishly experience things, but also, I feel an outward enthusiasm that makes me want to bring everyone on board with me. The sense of adventure that I feel is not only from my eyes being open, as before, but because my heart and my mind are now more open, too. I want to engage everyone to be a part of it, to go with me wherever that adventure may take me. This is the key difference, I think, to the level of conscious happiness that I now experience. Being fully focused on what is my next step and having made sure that all the connections I have in this world be a part of that adventure, ensures that I will experience the rest of my life in a state that can't be described in any other way than being happy.

Isn't being happy all we've ever wanted? We just have to remember that it's always waiting to be rediscovered and accepting the fact that we are really the only ones that are in charge of that.

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