Turning 30, releasing my stranglehold on happiness
As I finish up my third decade of life and begin the fourth, I have become increasingly tense and anxious about all of the things I had planned to have accomplished or experienced by the age of 30 that have not yet happened. I have also been chasing after the elusive goal of "being happy." I've done pretty well at getting a lot of the externals that I associate with happiness in place. However, things don't add up - all of the good things in my life do not satisfy me. I psych myself up to do fun things and tell myself, "I WILL have fun today!" Funny thing is, you can't simply will happiness, no matter how hard you try.
In fact, as I have gradually been realizing, the harder I try to be happy, the more stressed, anxious and unhappy I become. Happiness is not like so many other things in life - it is not simply a matter of how hard you try or how skilled you are. Instead, it is something so sweet and delicate that if you concentrate too hard on it, it disappears. It's kind of like trying to see a dim star in the sky, if you stare directly at it you won't be able to see it, so you have to look off to the side just a little bit.
This became very frustrating for me. Happiness always seemed just around the corner, but not here yet. Then a dear friend of mine gave me a reality check. He told me, "When we over-think, it's a sign of how weak our faith is. Worrying means we don't trust God with our life." This is exactly what I have been doing. I have been over-thinking, trying to figure out the formula for happiness, and following it as best I could. I needed to stop gripping the existing blessings in my life with all of my strength. In holding onto them so tightly, it occupied all of my time and energy and didn't leave any room for anything else, including more blessings.
The image that came to mind was sand in my palms. When you hold sand in the palm of your hand, it stays there as long as your hand is open and relaxed. When you close your hand and hold the sand tightly, it slips through your fingers.
I have recently been refocusing myself on opening my hands, allowing myself to receive God's love. I do not need to worry about tomorrow, or yesterday. Only today. God will provide for me. The more I let go of my images of happiness, the happier I become. I trust that great things will happen in my life.
Now, this isn't a lazy, let whatever happen to me type of letting go. It is an active trust. Some days it includes preparing for future possibilities and setting goals. Some days it does not. It is living life fully, one day at a time. It is not easy, but it is fulfilling. I have begun this process, and I'm sure I will still over-think things, but recognizing over-thinking for what it is helps me to relax and let go. It seems happiness rarely comes as the result of independence, it is instead the result of loving relationships, with others and with God.
Labels: Being real