Thursday, November 02, 2006

Happiness, pt. 2

I’m posting early because I’m off to give an all day workshop this weekend.

There are two other facets to happiness that I’d like to talk about. 1) Laughter and 2) being our authentic selves.

Laughter. Sometimes it feels as if we shouldn’t laugh because bad things happened—to us and/or to others we know. We feel as if we have no right to be happy if others are having a hard time. I love Wayne Dyer’s answer to this. He says that we cannot be sick enough to make anyone else well, poor enough to make anyone else rich, and depressed enough to make anyone else happy.

My own belief is that when we find ways to laugh and smile we are building our resilience, strengthening ourselves so that when we do need to face challenges or help others, we have the internal resources to do so. It’s good to laugh and allow ourselves the right to feel happy! It’s also good to have friends who help us laugh.

I have one friend I often email if I’m having a tough time. And he almost always responds with jokes. My initial response is irritation—doesn’t he realize how upset I am? Doesn’t he get how tough whatever it is I’m facing? But deep down I know that I’m blessed to have someone who does make jokes and reminds me to laugh instead of encouraging me to wallow—because that’s wasted energy.

Don’t get me wrong—I NEED/WANT to know that he gets what I’m dealing with. But I also need/want friends who encourage me to pick myself up and get on with whatever needs to be done. And who remind me that it’s okay to laugh even if there are also challenges in my life.

Authentic Self. I believe that pretty much everyone is afraid to let people see the true them, right down to the core. Abused or not, most people are afraid, deep down, that maybe they aren’t good enough and try only to show the world what they think is acceptable. If we were raised being told, over and over that we were not good enough, then we will be truly afraid to let anyone see us as we are. We’re afraid they won’t like us, will reject us if we take that risk. The irony is that my experience has told me the opposite is true.

I used to guard my authentic self, sure that people would run the other way if I let them truly see me. And I didn’t have very many friends. I was always the outsider. Then one day I decided: What the heck. This isn’t working. How much worse could it be if I let everyone really see me?

What I discovered was that once people saw the “real me”, they wanted to know me. They didn’t see me the way my parents or other kids had when I was growing up. I discovered they valued who I am and what I have to offer. People WANT to be my friend. There was a time in my life when I would not have believed that was possible.

And it isn’t just me. When my friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, I worried about her. She is often perceived as “difficult” and has alienated a great many people. And yet, the night before her surgery, so many people rallied around. It was a powerful lesson for me in how we do not have to be perfect. We can be our imperfect selves and still find ourselves in a circle of people who genuinely care about us. But it begins with being genuine.

So often we try to play it safe. What I am finding is that the safest way to live, the way that is most likely for us to be able to be happy, is to stop trying to stay safe. We give ourselves the best chance to be happy when we reach out and let people see us as we are. When we take risks and do things that terrify us but which we know will help us achieve our goals, THEN we have a real chance at happiness. When we let ourselves laugh and be happy, even in the middle of very real challenges in our lives, we are more likely to find solutions to those challenges.

So please, this week, find ways to laugh, every day. And every day practice letting people close enough to see who you really are.

One caveat—If your gut instincts tell you someone is abusive and will use any of this against you, don’t let them in. Maybe you need other people, different people, non-abusive people in your life. So that may be part of practicing letting people close. If they don’t all love you, so what? There’s a world of people out there and plenty who will.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),
April_optimist

5 comments:

wishing above all said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jumpinginpuddles said...

now theres nothing like a good barbie a glass of wine and some great laughs is there

Holly Desimone said...

Very interesting perspectives, great post! I enjoy laughter, I also found I have a dark humor at times. Thanks you for the post.
God Bless
Sincerely Holly Desimone
Hope you enjoy doing the workshop!

Marj aka Thriver said...

Hope the workshop went well. Just wanted to stop by with a hug and a thanks for checking in on me while I'm "feeling the feelings." I liked your comment. Regardless of my current post--it's a doosey--I am starting to pull myself up out of the mire. The support of blog friends like you really helps. Thanks :) ((((April))))

April_optimist said...

Jumpinpuddles, Holly, and Marj,

Glad you liked the post. Yes, laughter does make a huge difference. The workshop went well. (See today's post for more on that.) I learned some things as well as teaching some things and that's the best experience of all.