Every now and then you hear someone ask: what was the happiest day of your life? People look back and think about days like “when I got married” or “when my child was born” or “when I graduated” etc. And there’s nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, looking back at the joys you’ve had in your life is usually a good thing. Remembering the good and happy times can be an important resource when life is giving you lemons. It can be the strong undercurrent that helps you make the lemonade.
I can list many of those “happiest days of my life” too. Such as the day I got married – even if the marriage evetually ended in divorce. The days when my daughters were born. The day my current husband told me he loved me. Yet, those are just the highlights. Who remembers the normal nothing-special days as happy?
In recent years, I have been through divorce, brain surgery, my mom’s death, my grandmother’s death and things that I do not want to list here. All of this finally got to me last winter – too much is just too much – when my axiety became so bad I didn’t sleep and I was just screaming at my husband without real reason. I got help, but when the axieties subsided, on came the depression, that probably had been creeping on for some time. I didn’t want to work, not even get out of bed. I didn’t feel joy, life felt like tar I needed to drag myself through. I wasn’t suicidal, but often times thought that everybody would be better off if I didn’t exist.
You know the movie It’s a Wonderful World? We used to watch it every single Christmas with my dad when I was growing up. One Christmas my sister and I hid the movie (a VHS tape) so that we couldn’t watch it. We sat on the sofa with meek faces, watching our dad look for the VHS for a long long time. I even started to feel pity towards him, but my sister pinched me to stay strong. Eventually dad figured out our ploy and I think he was quite hurt. We didn’t watch it ever again with him.
Sometimes in the depths of my depression, I thought about that movie. Just a fleeting thought, but enough to bring me back to reality. Not that I thought that my little actions in this life would have changed the fates of too many people, but there is my family. My husband and our three daughters. Our dogs. All of whom rely on me in some way. So I never neglected my motherly duties, I never shied away from those who love me, whom I love. I tried to be there for them, forgetting my own misery.
Today I woke up – when I finally woke up, waking up is never easy for me – feeling the luckiest person alive. Thinking to myself that this is the best time of my life, the happiest day of my life. There’s nothing special about this day. I snuggled next to my husband for a while before getting up, like I do most mornings. I had my cappucino. I took the dogs out. I started to work. I shed some tears over a video George Takei had shared in Facbook. I missed my mom and my grandma.
I still think this is the happiest day of my life. Ever since yesterday. Yesterday was the happiest day of my life since the day before that. I believe I’m pretty much over my depression. I have always believed in living in the moment. Learn from the past, remember the good times, dream about the future. But don’t dwell on either one. See the good in each day.
Happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life. It’s little things like sunshine and a smile. It’s the big things, the family, friends, dogs, that are. It’s about focusing on the good instead of the bad. It’s about seeing that what is good in things instead of the bad. It’s about saying “I’m so glad we got our other car fixed and running in time to turn that leasing car in” instead of “oh, this is a miserable day, I need to turn my nice leasing car in”. A deeply depressed person is not able to do that, but as for the non-depressed, it’s about the attitude.
Yes, sometimes life feels too hard. But in the end, it’s just life. I prefer to look on the bright side of things. We have a saying – in Finnish like it is in English too – “Nothing so bad, as not to be good for something”. I try to find the good. And when there is none, for I cannot find anything good in e.g. my mom’s or grandma’s deaths, I try to accept them as what they are: a part of the circle of life. That understanding does not mean that I wouldn’t grieve, I do, fiercely! It gives me the ability to let go. The grief can’t suck me down.
[Edit 28.8.2015 – A day after writing this I stumbled upon this article about happiness. I can pretty much vouch for every point made in it. Happiness is mostly a choice :) ]