I’ve heard it a million times, and I’ve said it too. I just want to be happy. Happiness: ubiquitous and mysterious. Plus bullshit. Cause we don’t just want to be happy.
Unless it includes being popular. And that new big vehicle with shiny rims. And a body that is 10 pounds skinnier. And a vacation on the sandy beaches of wherever, as long as it’s far away from the cold, grey wintry days of Canada. And a spot that’s first in line. And a full-time ass-kisser following us around. And one more tequila.
And ____________________. You fill in your blank. But don’t say I just want to be happy.
Lest you judge me, I have read every self-help book on happiness. I’ve studied happiness for hours on end during my university psychology career. I have gratitude journals filled with thankful moments in my days. Here’s one of my favs: My nipples got a little hard today; so exciting! Hell, yah! when the surgeon slices off your nipples and then sews them back on, they’re in shock for a year or three. It’s a big deal when they come back to life.
I have 3×5 cards with positive messages scattered around the house. Here’s one that was within an arm’s reach:
I can choose happiness and contentment right now. It is a product of my mind, not a result of what is happening. Right now I will choose happiness.
I didn’t plan on writing about happiness. Believe it or not, that message was already written on that card and was within my reach. Because I JUST WANT TO BE HAPPY. and i’m a little weird.
When we were little and our mothers questioned What do you want to be when you grow up? Who said happy? Besides Goldie Hawn, that is. Apparently that’s what she said. But I read her book. Hmmmm. One of my life goals is not to judge. BUT maybe she’s just naturally happy. I am. So I’m positive there’s such a thing. Besides, I’ve learned about people like me and Goldie Hawn in psychology. Years ago I read a book called The Happiness Project (I swear I’ve read every happy book there is). Anyhow, turns out 50% of our happiness is passed to us through the umbilical cord, 10-20% relies on circumstantial events, and the other 30% is choice. So that 30% proves the beneficial qualities of being thankful for hard nipples. I was born with 49%, and some people were born with maybe 22.3% like my daughter. Still. Who wants to be 50% happy? Not me.
Back to June Cleaver and the happy question. When I was 5, I would answer I want to be a big red dog like Clifford. When I was 8, the answer was easy, I want to be Pippi Longstocking. At 11, Nancy Drew; and 13, Anne of Green Gables. Pretty much the answer remained Anne for the rest of my life except I went through an Oprah phase for about 20 or 30 years. The point is I loved to read, and the characters informed my dreams and my ideas.
So perhaps it’s time to step away from the ubiquitous phrase I just want to be happy and say it like we did when we were just little Beavers. This is what I would say.
I want to be Amelia Earhart.
I want to be Rosa Parks.
I want to be Mother Teresa.
I’m not saying we should all want to be someone else. Rather, look to those you admire like you did when you were a babe and find what truly makes you happy.
I want to be brave. Like Clifford and Pippi and Nancy and Anne and Amelia and Rosa and Teresa.
And this may not include, in my lifetime, getting my pilot’s license, or helping lepers, or starting a civil rights movement.
It could mean fighting cancer. even dying.
It could mean confronting an unfair professor. or swallowing my pride.
It could mean running a marathon. or going for a 10 minute walk.
It could mean admitting to my kids that I was wrong. and they were right.
It could mean calling myself out on my own bullshit. and then forgiving myself.
It could mean saying “I’m sorry.” and “I was wrong.”
It could mean saying yes. or no.
It could mean just fucking getting out of bed and facing today. and tomorrow. and the next.
So, no. I don’t want to be happy. I want to be brave.
And one day, in the middle of my fight, bloody and worn, it will hit me, Shit. I’m happy.
And then turning back to the enemy, I’ll twist the sword.