“Mommy, are you happy?”
My daughter casually asked me this the other week after I broke down crying on the kitchen floor. Naturally, a series of complex thoughts and feelings flooded my mind soon after.
I still don’t quite understand it. It’s weird that a question like that can trigger a philosophical inquiry, and the key component that generates the investigation is the word “happy.”
When you ask people if they are sad or mad, it’s easy for them to reply with conviction. They don’t linger in thought about it and look to the stars, because they know that these are temporary feelings and emotions—they come and go just as easily as the wind.
So why has happiness turned into something larger? Why is there this common and often heavy expectation that we should be experiencing this feeling more often than not? And when we don’t have enough of it, why is there this notion that we should be concerned?
I think that happiness actually sits in the exact same boat as the other emotions. It is limited and transient, and I feel like when we don’t view it that way, we are actually doing ourselves a disservice.
Experiencing and working through all of our emotions—the good, the bad, and the ugly—is key. Holding things in and not being truthful with ourselves can just make things more messy and confusing.
The truth is, I have gone through many different types of ups and downs in my life. Some of them have been incredibly bright, lifting me right off my feet, and some have lowered me down into the depths and have been darker and colder than I could have ever imagined.
Alongside all the other emotions, anger, sadness, and happiness have all taken turns in the driver’s seat. At times, weeks can go by, sometimes months or even years, before something shifts or changes, but this doesn’t mean I wasn’t okay.
I think we need to stop worrying about being happy all the time because it’s just not realistic. If we are always growing and changing—which I hope I always am—then we need the hard, we need the struggle, and we most definitely need the experiences.
A better question we need to ask ourselves is: Are we okay? Are we managing the load we currently have? Are we keeping our head above water? Are we finding our path through the struggle? And are we learning along the way?
It’s not like happiness doesn’t come to visit me. It most certainly does, some days more than others. It can drop in unexpectedly and leave just as quickly, but it can also linger and wallow.
So yes, I am happy from time to time, but I’m also mad, sad, fearful, excited, anxious, and content. And through it all? I am definitely okay. For the most part, I’m okay. And that is something that deserves to be celebrated.