Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Happiness from the Inside

Some people have accused me of always being happy like I’m some kind of Pollyanna (and if you don’t get that reference, you definitely are not in my age demographic!), who’s perpetually happy and always looking at the bright side of things. That’s not exactly true, to which my family will attest, but I am exceptionally good at hiding my inner darkness from the general public, and I am learning to find the light and the good when I feel like all is gloom and doom. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case. Let me tell you a bit about my history and how I became the person I am today.

I couldn’t tell you when I first heard the phrase, “Happiness comes from within,” but I always thought it was a big crock of…B.S. Even when I was a small child, I knew that happiness doesn’t just happen, and I really couldn’t find a whole lot to be “happy” about. I grew up poor. dirt poor. Some of my extended family would probably be surprised when I say there was a time in my childhood when my mother gave us popcorn and tomatoes for a meal because that was all we had. I was young, so I don’t know if it was just one day, or a week, or what, but I remember it distinctly. I remember our utilities being cut off – several times. And on at least one occasion, I’m pretty sure we were suddenly evicted from a rent house. It was nighttime, and we had just started a move from one house to another, but at the new house, we learned that the landlord wouldn’t let us move in, so we had to find somewhere else to move very quickly. I once counted, and we had moved 12 times before I made it to the age of 13.

Some of the houses we lived in were dumps, like the one-bedroom, shotgun shack on the edge of town where the front room served as both the living room and bedroom for my parents. My sister and I shared a double bed in the pass-through bedroom, and I’m pretty sure my brother slept on a cot or the couch in the front room. One house was an old farmhouse out in the country with big holes in the sheetrock between the rooms upstairs. There were rats everywhere, and the front entry was so full of junk that we couldn’t even use the front door. After that we moved into a tiny two-bedroom mobile home that was so small that my parent’s king-sized bed fit wall-to-wall, trapping their bedroom door in the open position, and blocking the use of the built-in drawers under the tiny closets. My brother, sister, and I slept on a mattress on the floor of what had once been the second bedroom, but the wall had been removed to make more space. It was crowded with dressers, extra beds, and furniture we’d brought with us from larger homes. Those all got sold off when we moved to the next trailer house, even the double bed that had been passed down to me by my grandmother.

That next trailer was ours. My parents bought it from a cousin. It was only two bedrooms, and the rooms were small, but we owned it. When they first bought the 3-high, army-surplus bunk beds, they cut them down to remove the bunk in the middle, and then used some kind of pipe to spread them out and give the lower bunk more headroom.  The idea was that all three kids would “hot bunk”, meaning we would rotate who slept in which bed every night, with one person sleeping on a mat that slid under the lower bunk. That didn’t last long. The bed had no ladder, and my little brother, who was only 8 at the time, couldn’t get to the top bunk by himself, so he started sleeping on the living room couch again. My sister was less than enthusiastic about the claustrophobic conditions of the upper bunk, so she took the lower bed, and I, with my limber agility and lack of fear, wound up on the top bunk until I graduated high school and moved out.

I could write epic tomes about my life in these various places, but the real point is that I didn’t think real happiness was even possible for me. I blamed my unhappiness on my upbringing and poo-pooed the ideas and ideology of people raised in more fortunate conditions than I. What did they know about being happy in the face of poverty? They didn’t have to worry about where their next meal was coming from. They didn’t have to wear hand-me-down clothes from their “little sister” or fight for privacy in a home with no doors. How could anyone be happy in those conditions? Likewise, I never understood people who had it all and threw it away, whined and complained, or became depressed when they obviously had it way better than me. What I didn’t realize back then, is that I would not have been happy even if my parents were rich and I was spoiled beyond belief because happiness stems from gratitude, and gratitude starts on the inside. It starts with attitude. 

Changing your attitude to one of gratitude is often a very subtle shift that can have profound ramifications. Many years ago, a sweet friend of mine shared a crafty idea of decorating (and using) a gratitude jar. The concept is simple and flows along the lines of “count your blessings.” Whenever something good, something happy, or something positive happens in your life, document it; no matter how big or small, write it on a little slip of paper and put it in your jar. At the end of a week, a month, or a year (you decide), go back and read those happy thoughts to remind yourself of how much you have to be grateful for. I was going through a little bout of depression at the time, so I thought it would be a good idea.

I’ve detailed the process of creating my little gratitude jar on my Crafty Neighbor blog. I kept small pieces of paper handy so that any time something good or positive happened, I could jot it down and put it in the jar. I documented everything... “I found the bracelet I thought I had lost,” “Christen got a raise and promotion at work,” and I “won $5 in the Albertson’s Monopoly game.” At the end of the year, I took all those little slips of paper covered with happy thoughts and created the scrapbook page you can see here.

Seeing all those blessings in one place was a powerful reminder that life is not always negative, that even in spite of the storms, there is often a rainbow, and that life works in cycles of ups and downs. When we stop focusing on the negative things, the positive things are able to shine through. It’s important that we stop throwing a wet blanket over our pretty little candle of hope and happiness and let that light shine, because when you do, you will find that there’s a lot to be grateful for, even in the darkest moments, and as long as there is even one thing to be grateful for, we can learn to find peace and happiness in that. Happiness really does come from the inside…we just have to stop blocking the light. 

I hope you can find a way to focus on the little blessings and feel the light and joy within yourself. If you’ve ever kept a journal or blessings jar, I’d love for you to share your experience with us either here, in the comments, or over on the MMC Chat Facebook group. Helping others find that light is just one more thing to be happy about!

No comments:

Post a Comment

5 Ways to Manifest Your Best Life

Hi there, and welcome back! Since we have been heavily focusing on goals and planning, I thought we should discuss manifesting. I love this ...