Practicing Joy

For the last ten years,  I’ve obsessed over being happy, so much, that I made myself miserable.  My biggest goal in life was to be happy. I, like the rest of society, dove into the happiness obsession. Happiness became a personal conquest since I’ve struggled with depression since childhood. I often wondered what happiness felt like. So, I created an alternate life inside of my mind much like the movie character Precious. But, reality looked much different.

I assigned happiness to my goals; it was the juggernaut that pushed me to acquire degrees, buy a house, and earn more money. The greater the feat, the more potential happiness.

The problem is, the goals never stopped. As long as I had something to pursue, happiness would be waiting. So, I chased after goals like a junkie looking for a hit.  Filling my emotional voids  with distraction after distraction.  I needed my goals list more than I needed human interaction.

Until, one day, everything stopped.  The world I created began to crumble around me. Everything I relied on all those years was killing me. I started seeing things for what they were. That’s when all hell broke loose.

There wasn’t anything on earth that could ease the pain of my new reality, which was just reality itself.  I didn’t recognize myself when I looked in the mirror. I was a big blubbery mess on the verge of dying. I justified the weight gain as “being happy.” Truthfully, I was on a downward spiral, masking my pain with food, work, and school.

On the outside, it appeared I had it together but psychologically I was falling apart. Your entire life doesn’t have to be in disarray for you to be unhappy. One circumstance can cause a multitude of problems, or maybe, it’s something you’re not willing to admit. If not kept in perspective, happiness can become a distraction.

In September 2013, I fell to the lowest point of my life and couldn’t figure out how I got there. Or, how I let it happen. I was on an emotional zip-line into deep depression.

I solved problems for a living.  I’ve taken hundreds of clients from homelessness to permanent stability and addressed their many mental and emotional issues. I listened empathetically as they poured out their hearts in the back seat of our van. Still, my limitations far exceeded the one’s of my clients.  They had me, I had no one. Not only was I dealing with physical heaviness, my conscious began to weigh on me.  How could I map out success for my clients, while my life fell apart?

Tired of faking it, I quit.

Like buying a house, you have to work hard and save. Or, riding a bike and practicing to maintain balance. The same it goes with joy.

Why I believe in practicing joy instead of being happy.

For so long,  I was afraid to admit that I was miserable because believers aren’t supposed to be depressed. Am I happy? The most important and pivotal question I ever asked myself.

I finished graduate school; didn’t make me happy. I quit my job; didn’t make me happy but was necessary. I began my weight loss journey; didn’t make me happy, but I look great. I went natural; didn’t make happy, but I saved a ton of money. I went vegan; didn’t make me happy. I stopped going to church; it did make me happy. However, I struggled with rediscovering my relationship with God.

When you’re trying to be happy, you conscientiously factor happiness into your daily life.  Social media is a prime example; it has birthed the biggest deception on earth.

People are searching for fulfillment through other’s lives or staging photos to seem happier than what they are. Guilty. Every action or outing is a potential opportunity to show the world how “happy” and “amazing” their lives are. Little do we know or care that person is insecure, hates their life, can’t make ends meet, has the worst attitude ever, and no one likes them.

One of the main inhibitors of living a joyful life is maintaining a false reality. Drawing energy from external forces to fuel your happiness. It’s usually through control or manipulation. Only one type of person does this: a narcissist. Simply said, a liar. I hate to break it to you, but liars don’t get to be happy.

When you practice joy, you live purposefully…mindfully.   Coming into a place of acceptance. Valuing those things that are irreplaceable. You simply can’t thrive isolating yourself. Self-reliance is a hoax. We are all interconnected. No one stands alone in the grand scheme of things.

Practicing joy takes day-to-day effort. Making changes when necessary. Seizing opportunities.  Acknowledging that the world can’t do without you. Living a life centered on fulfillment and not validation or attention seeking behavior. Stress will happen. Loss will happen. Problems will arise. But, even as we are presented with setbacks, never let go of gratitude.

Live. Bless. Prosper.

 

 

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