I flunked psychology in my first year of university. It was the only course I ever failed. I didn’t go often because I didn’t like the class. (SO BORING – sorry, psych lovers.) When I did go, I found myself nodding off. I said I would read the text (I didn’t) and study at home (I didn’t do that either.) I showed up for the exam and bombed it. Shocking, right?
My first F. I learned a lot from that F. (More than I ever learned in the class, apparently.)
I learned that I really didn’t understand university. I didn’t know you could switch or drop courses. I thought I would be stuck muddling through. Yep, I was clueless.
I also learned that you have to show up. You stay awake. You take notes. You do the work.
If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (Do you?) you may have noticed that earlier this year I took part in the 100 Happy Days challenge. The challenge is whether or not a person can be happy for 100 days. To participate, people take photos of their happy to post on social media using the hashtag #100HappyDays. According to the organizers, most people will not complete the 100 days.
That was all the challenge I needed. ‘I am a happy person; I can be happy for 100 Days,’ I thought. ‘EASY.’
I sailed through the first days. I usually recognized my happy as soon as it happened, often in moments with my boys, with David, car singing and food (no surprise there.) The day our washing machine broke and flooded the laundry room was tricky. But thankfully, I also got my hair cut so I managed to eke out a happy moment. That was the most challenging day in the #100HappyDays challenge for me – until Day 82.
On Day 82, my quest for happy was abandoned; my Dad was admitted to the hospital. Day 100 of my #100HappyDays challenge came and went, and I, like others before me, had flunked out of Happy U.
Maybe I could have been happy for 100 days at another time; maybe I could have gotten an A in happy. If The Doctor whooshed me away in his TARDIS and plunked me down to a time six months prior I might have done it.
I found no happy in the days after my dad’s passing. But I did find kindness and remembrance and thoughtfulness and friendship. There were those who let me know that they were there for me, even when I couldn’t find the words to talk about it. But happiness is not the same as gratitude. If life is a time for seasons, then this was the time for sadness, worry, grief.
When I look back now, #100HappyDays taught me that it‘s alright if I am NOT happy every day.
Life is hard and messy; some days just suck. It doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person if I can’t find a happy moment in a day. Happiness is not a competition. And as much as I try to focus on the positive, the fact is that sometimes there is nothing we can do. Some days, life tosses you about and you wind up in a completely new spot. You wonder how you got here, how this has happened. You discover a new reality that is not so joyful as the one you knew before.
As the pieces of my life settle, I don’t think as much about being happy. I think if we have to look so hard for it, it diminishes it. Happiness can be a sudden realization of exuberance. It can also be little sparkles of light that pin-prick the everyday. It is moments, big and small, that light upon our hearts and lift our spirits.
Maybe there is no such thing as an A in happy. In fact, maybe being happy shouldn’t be my daily goal after all. Maybe, like that fateful psychology course taught me years ago, my goals should be simpler: if it’s not working, change it; show up; keep my eyes open; take notes; do the work; and appreciate those gifts of light that shine moments of contentment and joy into my life.
So, yeah. I flunked happy, but I learned a lot about it in the process.
What have you learned about being happy?