35 More Inspirational Quotes on Happiness, Following Your Dreams & Generally Kicking Life’s Ass

From time to time, I share a quote on my Twitter or Facebook page I think will help make your day (slash-life) a little better. I’ve built up quite a collection of these quotes, so I like to drop them on you en masse occasionally — consider it my contribution to whatever goal you’re currently fighting for or obstacle you’re currently fighting against.

To make them easier to share with anyone you think could use a jolt of awesome, I’ve also included an easy click-to-tweet after each quote. (You’re welcome.)

 

Happiness

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” ~Margaret Lee Runbeck (Tweet!)

“I have decided to be happy because it’s good for my health.” ~Voltaire (Tweet!)

“If you want to be happy, be so.” ~Kozma Prutkov (Tweet!)

“Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.” ~William Feather (Tweet!)

“Happiness is an inside job.” ~William Arthur Ward (Tweet!)

“Happiness is a choice.” ~Valerie Bertinelli (Tweet!)

“Happiness depends more on how life strikes you than on what happens.” ~Andy Rooney (Tweet!)

 

Blazing Your Own Trail

“I like things to happen, and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.” ~Winston Churchill (Tweet!)

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” ~Walt Disney (Tweet!)

“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” ~George Bernard Shaw (Tweet!)

“I’ve never heard a bird half sing, a hawk half cry. When ready, speak your truth with conviction.” ~Dave Ursillo (Tweet!)

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” ~Max Dupree (Tweet!)

“Be a voice, not an echo.” ~Albert Einstein (Tweet!)

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” ~Richard Branson (Tweet!)

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” ~Jim Rohn (Tweet!)

“When in doubt, yell, ‘CHARGE!’ and then MOVE. YOUR. ASS. AND. MAKE. IT. HAPPEN.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

 

Following Your Dreams

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” ~Zig Ziglar (Tweet!)

“Good things come to those who wait. Greater things come to those who get off their ass and do anything to make it happen.” ~@LifeCheating (Tweet!)

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” ~Thomas Edison (Tweet!)

“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes (Tweet!)

“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.” ~Tony Gaskins (Tweet!)

“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” ~Paul Brandt (Tweet!)

“The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something.” ~Seth Godin (Tweet!)

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~Wayne Gretzky (Tweet!)

 

Overcoming Adversity

“There are two things a person should never be angry at — what they can help, and what they cannot.” ~Plato (Tweet!)

“At the end of the day, no matter how many times the lawn is mowed, it doesn’t take it personally — it just keeps on growing.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get.” ~Ray Bradbury (Tweet!)

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” ~Jim Rohn (Tweet!)

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” ~Charles Swindoll (Tweet!)

“If it isn’t a little scary, it probably isn’t worth your time.” ~Ted Murphy (Tweet!)

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~Nelson Mandela (Tweet!)

“Fear is not a bad thing, it can keep you alive. The trick is to make sure it doesn’t stop you from living.” ~@RevolutionsClub (Tweet!)

“It’s not the person who dodges the most bullets who wins. It’s the person who finds something useful to do with the bullets, after the shots have been fired.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

“The darkest hour has only sixty minutes.” ~Morris Mandel (Tweet!)

“Learn to embrace fear, because it’s often the only thing that’s between you and what you want.” ~Paula Pant (Tweet!)

What are your favorite quotes? Share them with us in the comments!

Image:  Pink Sherbet Photography / Flickr

Embrace Whatever Makes You Happy (Even If It’s Totally Weird)

I wished I loved anything in the world as much as my current foster dog loves this one janky, busted-ass tennis ball.

Mocha has a plethora of toys at his disposal, including several he’s gutted in a spree of delightful destruction that have since been retired to the trash can. But I can’t trash this ball, because for some reason, in spite of its having lost nearly every trait that makes a tennis ball entertaining, it’s still his absolute favorite toy in the world.

At first, its appeal made sense: Mocha wants to play, Mocha gets the tennis ball and brings it to us, we throw the tennis ball into the hall, he retrieves it and the whole thing starts over again. Sometimes we throw it in one direction and it bounces into the bedroom. Sometimes we throw it in another and it caroms into the kitchen. Thrown at full speed, it can lead a dog that’s chasing it across pretty much the entire length of our tiny little house. Whether I’m working or watching TV with the husband, this game is something we can play with Mocha ad nauseam, which is merciful because Mocha has some serious bursts of energy and our two senior dogs are not down with being his roughhousing buddy.

But the tennis ball is no longer what it once was.

happy

In addition to its service as exercise tool, it’s also played the role of chew toy when we’re not available for fetch games, and as such it’s been slowly and methodically stripped of all of its fuzz in several mysterious grooming sessions. A few especially emphatic chomps split the ball straight down the middle about a week ago, so it now hangs open by one last, tenuous seam like a clam that’s been stepped on. When we throw it now — which Mocha still insists we do — the ball no longer bounces and caroms delightfully down the hall and into various rooms at a speed that invites happy chasing. It just kind of thunk-womp-womp-wobbles to a spot a few feet away and then lies there like a slug.

Mocha still dutifully runs after it, as much as he can in the few feet it’s rolled, then turns tail and brings it back to us so we can toss it again. When he gets tired, he lies down and continues to meticulously destroy it just a teensy bit more.

I totally don’t get it, but I don’t really need to. He gets it, and he clearly thinks it’s awesome, and that’s good enough for me. In this — as in so many things I won’t get into because I am a crazy dog lady and could talk about lessons our dogs teach us for forever — I believe there’s something we can learn from our four-legged friends.

 

In Defense of the Things That Make Us Happy Weirdos

Much like Mocha’s sorry-looking tennis ball, we all have things we love that other people are somewhat mystified by. But unlike Mocha’s unabashed enthusiasm for an object the rest of us see as questionable, we tend to keep our unusual loves a secret only we (and possibly a few close friends who already know what weirdos we really are) know about.

Whether it’s a love for an unconventional hobby, an un-hip band or a cheesy reality TV show, most of us try to keep our stranger passions to ourselves. If we indulge in them, we do it behind closed curtains and behind the facade of the more acceptable, cooler interests we present to the world at large.

But here’s the thing: everyone else in the world at large is secretly a weirdo, too. (Tweet!)

That super-poised colleague who intimidates you at work? She psyches herself up before big meetings by listening to Katy Perry’s “Roar” on her earbuds in a stall in the bathroom.

That hipster friend who sneers at anyone who has anything to do with mainstream culture? He has a secret collection of Walker, Texas Ranger DVDs — and he doesn’t watch them ironically.

That Crossfitting, Paleo-proselytizing sister of yours has had a secret addiction since she was a kid, one she still dips into when she’s had a particularly rough day: Cap’n-Crunch-and-Pixy-Stix sandwiches, smushed together just the way she saw Ally Sheedy do it on The Breakfast Club, where she first picked up the habit.

None of us is a 100% “normal” human being, because “normalcy” is a shadow term that means, at best, “what most people tend to do (as far as you can tell), which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or bad, just that most people tend to do it (as far as you can tell).”

So screw your secret shame over your oddball hobbies, habits, loves and fandoms. Screw feeling embarrassed about the things you think only you “get.” Because as long as you “get” them, then they are awesome, and that is all that really matters.

What weird things make YOU secretly happy?

(I’ll get it started: I love juggling sock balls while folding the laundry, dancing like a fool to any form of old skool hip hop, and sniffing the tops of my dogs’ heads the way normal people sniff babies’ heads (which, let’s be honest, isn’t any more “normal” than sniffing a dog).)

Image:  Pink Sherbet Photography / Flickr

Why We’re Scared of Being Happy (And How to Get Over It)

Recently, I’ve started waking up with a feeling that makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

It’s a strange feeling, a foreign one, and I’m more than a little nervous to be having it.

That feeling is something I suspect might be called contentment.

And apparently, I’m not quite sure what to do with it.

 

One of These Things Just Doesn’t Belong Here

After a year and a half freelancing full-time, several serious breakdowns and a heck of a lot of rebuilding, I’m finally at a place where I can almost dare to trot out the “H” word when it comes to my general mindset on a day-to-day basis.

Things aren’t perfect, mind you. My husband’s a year and a half into waiting for disability benefits that could take 5+ years to come through, we’ve racked up more debt than I care to admit as a result, and there are still days I wonder how long it’ll take the rest of the world to realize I’m a fraud masquerading as a professional writer (hello, Imposter Syndrome).

But on the whole, if I’m looking at it objectively, most days I find myself not really minding the things I’m doing with my time. My clients are awesome, I get paid to write (from home, whensoever I please), I wake up most mornings feeling pretty “alright” with my overall situation, and I go to bed most nights feeling productively satisfied with what I’ve accomplished.

I’m almost — if this is what the word means, because I never really got clear on it — kind of happy.

And that scares me shitless.

I don’t know what to do with this new feeling. I’m used to struggling and fighting and enduring and scrambling, and somehow the lack of all that tension makes me feel as though I’m getting away with something I shouldn’t be — I’m not challenging myself enough, I don’t deserve it, it can’t last, something horrible must be waiting just around the corner to pay me back for this brief moment of calm… and so on and so forth. You may know the drill.

Happiness, for any extended period of time, makes me want to knock on a wooden surface, then verify that it is in fact a wooden surface because a decent amount of our furniture is prefab, faux-wood stuff and this isn’t the sort of thing I want to take chances on.

 

I Know I’m Not Alone

Ask anyone you come across throughout your day how they’re doing, and their answer is likely to range from “Fine” to “Hanging in there.”

Very rarely does anyone answer, “Amazing!” or “Best I’ve been all year!” because that’s just not how people are supposed to answer that question. Unless we’ve recently gotten engaged, received a clear bill of health after a long bout with illness, or experienced some other life-altering event, we tend to downplay our answer to the “How are you?” question because… Well, why do we do it?

Because we don’t want to sound like we’re bragging?

Because we think upbeat people are annoying?

Because we don’t think whatever happiness we’re currently enjoying is big enough to be worth celebrating?

Any and all of the above. We’re not, as a neurotic and overly stimulated society, used to the concept of being OK with where we are and freely admitting that.

And that’s just plain sad.

 

Why We’re Scared of Being Happy

As a culture, we’re obsessed with the idea of the pursuit of happiness. It’s why life coaches and self-help sections and Oprah exist and rake in millions. It’s why you decided to read this post. It’s important enough the Founding Fathers saw fit to include it as one of our inalienable rights when they drew up the Constitution.

But for most of us, while we pay lip service to the pursuit of happiness, we have no fucking clue what to do with happiness if it actually comes our way.

If we find ourselves suspecting we’ve fallen into a state of being happy, we activate all sorts of avoidance techniques and superstitious invocations to hedge our bets and protect ourselves. We doubt our happiness, second-guess our happiness and try not to think too much about how happy we might be in case the Powers That Be are waiting for some silly chump to enjoy himself too thoroughly and need to be taken down a peg.

For something we’re seemingly so obsessed with obtaining, we’re awfully bad at actually possessing it. I suspect there are several reasons why this is:

 

1. We Don’t Think We Deserve It

Many of us are our own worst critics. (Raising my own hand here.)

We think we’re challenging ourselves, humbling ourselves or trying to better ourselves by being so tough on ourselves, but in reality, we’re just treating ourselves like big, bad bullies.

We would never speak to a friend or loved one — or even a random stranger on the street — the way we talk to ourselves: Why the hell did I just do that? I’m such an idiot. No wonder he dumped me. I screw everything up. Nothing I ever do is good enough.

Too many of us have a nasty, self-defeating dialogue like this running through our heads at all times, reminding us why we’re not pretty enough, brilliant enough, smart enough or successful enough compared to everyone else in the world. And it’s really hard to allow yourself to be happy, over anything, when you’re only used to seeing yourself in such a critical light.

You get an awesome new boyfriend or girlfriend, and you immediately start sabotaging the relationship because they seem way too good for you.

You get that big account at work, and you spend so much time second-guessing your ability to handle it, you eventually screw it up just like you suspected you would.

You lose 20 pounds, but while all your friends are complimenting how great you look, all you can see is those extra five pounds you still haven’t lost yet.

But beating yourself up won’t solve anything — whether you really do have something to address or you’re just being hard on yourself. We need to start learning to love ourselves the way we love the people who matter in our lives — by being patient, caring, empathetic, and forgiving. By celebrating the wins and being supportive during the losses. By being gentle. By chilling the fuck out.

 

2. We Feel Guilty for Having It

This can be a direct result of the above, or a separate factor in itself. We fall into this trap every time we answer “How are you?” with a humble little shrug.

We feel bad about advertising our own happiness because there’s this collective notion that it’s rude to be happy when others are not.

But happiness is not a zero-sum game. It’s not like there’s only a certain amount of it in the world, and if you take too much, someone else will get none. Anyone who views your happiness as a direct affront to theirs is someone who is not willing to be in control of obtaining their own happiness.

Of course, if your coworker is going through a rough divorce, you probably shouldn’t spend all lunch break raving about your awesome new s.o. If you’re up for a promotion against someone else and you wind up getting it, you don’t want to crow over the person who lost out. There are times when you need to be sensitive to other people’s feelings, especially when the thing that makes you happy is something that will pointedly make the other person unhappy.

But that doesn’t mean you should feel bad about that thing making you happy. And it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy that thing to the fullest without rubbing it in another person’s face. You have a right to be happy. You’re not hurting anyone unless they’re looking for ways to be hurt, and if they are, that’s not your fault.

 

3. We Think Struggling Is More Admirable

Entrepreneurs and hustlers will nod along with this one with particular vigor, but really, anyone who lives in modern Western society should relate.

In our up-by-the-bootstraps, Get Things Done society, we tend to glorify the dignity and discipline of the struggle. We admire fighters, workaholics, people who overcome insurmountable odds. We respect those who give it all in the shittiest of circumstances. We worship the cult of busy. We think success equals always striving for the next bigger, better thing.

The idea of being generally at peace with our world and our circumstances feels wrong to us — like we’re being shallow, lazy or unrealistic about the unfairness and turmoil in the world. Like we’re taking the easy way out. Like we don’t have a fire under our ass.

But there’s a lot more to being a successful human being than being stressed out and exhausted all the time, humble-bragging about how stressed out and exhausted we are as if that somehow means we’re doing this whole “life” thing better than everyone else.

Work/life balance is such a popular buzz topic because we’ve begun to realize that all work and no play makes us miserable little Something-Somethings. More people are getting back to the earth, back to the home, back to family because they realize all this busy-ness and chasing after things isn’t making us any happier. We’re starting to suspect life can be easier than we’re used to making it.

 

4. We’re Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

I’m especially good at falling into this crappy mindset.

I make an awesome new friend, and I wonder how long it will take before the shine wears off and we’re both bored with each other.

The husband and I get through the month with a little cash left over, and I wonder how long it will be before something big breaks and needs pricey repairs.

I secure a new project I’m excited about, and I remember all the times past projects have fizzled or clients have turned out to be nightmares.

I am always in a state of bracing for the next big disaster, especially when something good has just happened. I tell myself it’s because life will throw me for a loop if I’m not prepared for the worst. I tell myself happiness is temporary. I most likely also suspect I don’t really deserve any good thing that’s come my way, and sooner or later life will realize its mistake and over-correct for it.

But life doesn’t have to be hard-knock. Does it naturally have ups and downs? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you need to chase an “up” with an immediate welcoming party for a “down.” Why not celebrate the good while you’ve got it, knowing it’s made all the more precious by the fact that sometimes things are not so good?

 

How to Get Over It

So, the ultimate question at the end of all this becomes: How do we stop being scared of being happy? How do we learn to get comfortable with happiness — to welcome it, even — instead of squirming and looking over our shoulder like we’ve just put on a wool sweater with a big, scratchy collar tag?

Here are some good places to start:

 

1. Redefine What “Happiness” Means to You

Many of us have in image of “happiness” in our minds that’s akin to a commercial for a new miracle drug (or yogurt, which is inexplicably advertised as creating the same sort of euphoria as a miracle drug): people romping through fields, holding hands in bathtubs on the beach, smiling like morons as they ride double-bicycles in matching cardigans.

But this isn’t what real happiness looks like in action.

Real happiness is a quiet, subtle thing. It’s not an abundance of excitement or elation; that’s joy, and it’s a fleeting high that don’t come all the time (think: weddings, athletic triumphs, etc.). Joy is vibrant and noisy and impossible to ignore. Happiness is softer. If you don’t look carefully, you might not even notice it.

Happiness is waking up in the morning ready to face the day and going to bed that night happy with what you’ve done with it.

It’s the absence of sorrow, anger, frustration and resentment.

It’s the feeling you get curled up on the couch with your significant other watching some silly TV show in your PJs — not the kind of thing that would qualify as “spectacular,” but you know in your bones there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing in the whole wide world right now.

Real happiness is easy to overlook or take for granted if you’re not prepared to see it. So learn to start watching for it, then cherish the heck out of it when you notice it.

 

2. Stop Feeling Bad About Being Happy

David Cain (whose blog you must read if you’re interested in living a mindful life) dropped a wonderful line a while back that’s stuck with me ever since. He was talking about the way we feel guilty for wanting to find a job we love when so many people would be happy just to have a job at all (can you relate?).

I don’t remember the exact wording of his response to this feeling, but it was something like, “That makes about as much sense as neglecting your health because there are people in the world who don’t have access to healthcare.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There’s nothing “take one for the team” about being miserable just because other people are miserable.

Should you do everything realistically in your power to help the less fortunate? Absolutely.

Should you be mad-crazy grateful for the blessings you have in your own life? Damn skippy you should.

But should you ever restrict your own happiness out of “respect” for those who are, unfortunately, unhappy right now? Hell to the no. That would just be stupid.

Limiting your own happiness does nothing to help those less fortunate than you. If anything, holding yourself back from a life you love prevents you from giving your best to the world — including those who are struggling or in need. You owe it to the world (not to mention yourself) to live the best life you possibly can. Your playing small helps no one.

 

3. Accept That You Do Deserve Happiness (No Matter What You Think)

No one is perfect. We all have flaws. We’ve all made mistakes, some of them whoppers. We’ve all had moments in which we haven’t been the best human being we could have been.

But no mistake you’ve made or weakness you have is unspeakable enough to warrant a life sentence without happiness. In fact — and here’s where the mind-bending part comes in — embracing the happiness in life can actually make you a better person in a way doing lifelong penance never could.

Happiness opens your heart. It makes you generous. It breeds empathy, charity and a host of other awesome things that lead to positive repercussions in the world around us. And whether or not you think you deserve happiness (which you do), doesn’t the world deserve the best you can give it?

 

4. Realize Doomsdaying Doesn’t Accomplish Anything

My crazy doctor has a great line he delivers whenever I start spinning out on “What if” scenarios about a situation: What does this do to help you?

I can kid myself into believing that bracing for the other shoe to drop will somehow prepare me better in the event of said shoe-dropping — but in reality, all it does is steal the joy from the present moment on behalf of worst-case scenarios that might not ever happen.

Worrying over a grim future that may or may not come is not being proactive; it’s being stingy with the present you have for certain right here in front of you. It’s a waste of energy and heart. It’s the least productive way to spend your time.

 

5. Know That Choosing Happiness Is a Bold, Brave Decision

In a world where our most common form of self-expression is complaining, where “meh” is the dominant attitude and the stories that make headlines are the depressing, fear-mongering ones, making the deliberate decision to choose happiness is a wildly brazen act. (Tweet!)

It takes courage to believe in a better situation. It takes strength to embrace the positives in spite of the negatives. It takes determination to continue to pursue the things that will lift you up when it’s so much easier to just fall victim to the things that drag you down.

It also pays off way better than the alternative, which is living a stunted, closed-off life full of monsters in the closest and enemies at the door.

Optimists have power.

Positivity is a muscle.

Happiness is one of the fiercest things you can strive for, because it takes a lot of guts to both go after it and to live gracefully with it when you have it.

I’m trying to work on my own ability to let happiness live in my life. It’s not easy; I have years of second-guessing it to overcome, but I think it’s time I start reprogramming myself.

Because waking up without dread each morning? It’s kind of a nice feeling, and I’d like it to stick around for a while.

How are you when it comes to accepting happiness in your life? Have you struggled with any of these mindsets? (And, more importantly, what can you do to get over them?)

Image:  kelsey hannah. / Flickr

 

Your Happiness Depends on You

We all want to be happy, yes?

We all want to make changes in our lives to that lead to more happiness than we currently have?

(If not, then you may be on the wrong blog. Might I suggest this instead?)

But, no matter how much we all want to be happier, how many of us are allowing our happiness to be dictated by things that are completely arbitrary, unimportant or out of our control?

I’ll make it easier for you—I am currently raising my hand. I have been an expert at letting my happiness fall to the whims of all sorts of external factors that have no right having anything to do with how much joy or satisfaction I get out of life.

It’s extremely easy to do. It’s also extremely easy to fail to realize you’re doing it. So, in the confessionalistic spirit of this blog, let me show you how many stupid mistakes I make in the hopes that it helps you see how not to make them yourself.

 

The Dumb Things I’ve Let Control My Happiness

Here are some of the things I’ve allowed my happiness (or lack thereof) to hinge on over the last few years (annotated list, as full list is redonk):

  • The weather.
  • The amount of sleep I’ve gotten.
  • My dogs getting sick/scared of thunder in the middle of the night and disrupting said sleep.
  • My husband’s social plans.
  • Other people’s social plans, and whether or not they include me (sometimes being invited is an annoyance, sometimes not being invited is an affront. Depends on my hormones and level of current craziness.)
  • How many comments my various blog posts are or are not getting.
  • How many emails I’ve received. (Sometimes too much is bad, sometimes too little is bad. Depends on my mood and the size of my to-do list.)
  • How much I’ve eaten/had to drink recently.
  • What I’ve eaten/had to drink recently. (Both bullet points, incidentally, being totally within my control.)
  • The amount of money I’ve billed clients for.
  • The amount they’ve actually paid me.
  • The amount of bills due at the current moment.
  • The size of my to-do list.
  • How quickly doggie fur balls take over my house.
  • The songs Pandora is currently choosing to play me.
  • How many @mentions I’ve gotten on Twitter.
  • The general tone of the Facebook posts my friends are posting today.
  • Whether my stomach pudge seems to be trending upward or downward.
  • What has come in the mail that day.

None of these things are important enough to have a say in how happy I am at any given moment. But it’s so easy to let them have control, because being reactive is easier than being proactive. Rising and falling with the waves in a dead float is easier than paddling doggedly in one direction, despite the tides and the choppiness.

But who wants a roller coaster of moods that rise and fall randomly based on which way the wind is blowing? You’ll never really be “happy” that way—at least not for very long. But if you take control of the reigns and resolve to choose your own happiness, then… well, then we’re talking.

Because happiness isn’t a mood; it’s a choice. (Tweet!) And it’s one you have to get to make every single minute of every single day. You can always reset. You can always right the ship.

 

The Way to Play It

Your happiness, like so many things in your life, is completely and totally up to you. No, you don’t have all-encompassing power over everything in your life, but you have power over how you choose to react to things.

External circumstances will influence your mood. We’re human. It happens. If you get sick and feel like poo, of course that’s going to bring you down. If some jerk on the road smashes into your car because they weren’t paying attention, you’re gonna be pissed. It’s only natural.

But, regardless of whatever shit is circling around your general vicinity, you have the power to frame your outlook. You have the power to say, “Damn, this sucks, but there’s no point being miserable over it” or to crumple into a ball in the corner and decide the rest of your day (slash-week, slash-life) is going to be crap.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: For me, one of these choices comes out the clear winner. It may not be easy to look at a shit storm and say “Fuck it, I’m going to be happy anyway,” but if the alternative is being miserable, then guess what?

 

I’ma Choose Me Some Happiness

So maybe we’re in the red this week because I no longer get steady biweekly paychecks. But you know what? I also don’t fall into a deep, day-long depression around noon every Sunday because I’m dreading the week ahead down to my marrow. That’s worth being happy about.

Maybe I’ve got too many to-dos and not enough time to to-do them in. But that means business is growing, and this whole cockamamie scheme to work for myself really is proving itself viable. That’s worth being happy about.

Maybe my husband’s Fibro is flaring up, but at least he’s got the chance now to rest whenever he needs to rest, to not have to push himself to the breaking point. If he needs several days in a row, it won’t destroy us because he doesn’t have a job to lose anymore. And—ups and down and all—we’ve found a way to keep the bills paid in spite of that. That’s worth being happy about.

There will always be shit storms. There will also always be those constant little gnats of annoyance and disruption that can make a day fluctuate wildly up and down on the “Am I happy now?” scale.

But when you see happiness more as an attitude you choose the face the day with, a deliberate reaction to your circumstances instead of an elusive “mood” that depends on them, then it becomes less elusive. Then you’re onto something.

Who are you depending on for your happiness?

 

Image:  Flickr

Acceptance Does Not Mean Acquiescence

There’s a thing about the Zen mentality that makes it a bit tough to embrace for a thug-for-life revolutionary:

Being Zen seems to imply being “o.k.” with things that are, inherently, shitty.  A lost job, a bad diagnosis, a broken relationship…while feel-good happiness blogs will tell you that “accepting” these things will make them easier for you, will help you “come to peace” with them, will let you get on with your life, it can feel like they’re telling you to push the truth under the carpet.

And the truth is, these things do suck. If you have any get-up-and-go at all, you’re inclined to be pissed off about them.

Which is only reasonable.  No one in their right mind would say, “I’ve got cancer!  That’s awesome!  I’m looking forward to this!”  Yet amazing people every day manage to get through the shittiest of shit like that with a gracious spirit and a joyful attitude that puts the rest of our daily gripes to absolute shame.

Does that mean these are people weak, because they’ve accepted the fact that sometimes life sucks, hard?  Or does that mean they’re actually strong as hell, because it’s only the strong as hell that can take the things that would cripple most people and continue to focus on being as happy as they can in the moment?

 

My Tat, Almost a Beatles Song, and a Standard Happiness Trope

shoulder tattooI’ve been toying with the idea of a new tattoo for a while now, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted.  (We don’t have it in the budget anymore, but it was earmarked for my birthday gift before our own shit hit the fan.)  I started a board on Pinterest to gather some ideas, and they were nearing the mark, but they weren’t quite there.

I wanted something that wouldn’t be super-obvious to everyone who saw it.  Something classy, but also a little rockabilly.  And since I wanted it to be on my shoulder—my first visible “that’s right, I’m a tattoo person” tattoo after getting 4 others in easily hideable places—I wanted it to have a freakload of personal meaning.

I just didn’t know what that meaning was until recently.

If you’re an editing nerd like myself (and I know some of you out there are), then you’ll know what the word means.  “Stet” is a mark used by proofreaders and editors to signify that a change they’d previously marked (crossing out a word, adding punctuation, etc.) should be disregarded.  In Latin, it means “let it stand.”  To me, in this tattoo, it means “things are as they should be.”  There is a reason life unfolds the way it does.

Regardless of the changes I want to make—regardless even of the changes I’m trying desperately hard to make—things are as they are for a reason.  I can fight them—I can hate them, even—but I accept that the life I’m living right now is the only life I have, and that there is no sense in not trying to find as much happiness and freedom (i.e., the bluebird) as I possibly can in the midst of current circumstances.

Because “acceptance” does not have to equal “liking the way things are.”  In fact, it usually doesn’t.  If you find yourself needing to accept something, chances are it’s not something all that great.  (“Oh fine, I guess I’ll accept this $100 bill I found lying on the ground…”)

You can hate the everloving shit out of something and still accept it.  That’s not a contradiction.  It’s when you acquiesce to something you don’t like that you’re in trouble.

 

Accepting vs. Acquiescing (Hint: One Is For Zen; One Is For Punkasses)

Of the many definitions of acceptance (and yes, some are “to acknowledge something as favorable”), the one the happiness gurus are talking about is “a disposition to tolerate or accept people or situations.”

Note the word “tolerate.”  Not “love.”  Not “trick yourself into thinking it’s awesome when secretly you hate it.”  Just “tolerate.”

Tolerating implies that whatever it is you’re accepting is something you’re not thrilled about, but you’re taking the higher road.  For whatever reason—harmony in your relationships, your own peace of mind, the ability to get through the day—you’re learning to live with something that is less than ideal.  You’re learning to be happy in spite of the fact that it’s there, rather than boo-hooing your crappy luck and fixating on how unfair things are.

That’s not to say you can’t be trying to fix it in the meantime; you should be.  You just learn to not let it bring you down while you’re doing so.

Acquiescence, in contrast, means “passive assent or agreement without protest.”

I hope I don’t need to elaborate on why this is not a philosophy CCIQ would ever in a million years endorse.

Protest your little fucking hearts out, readers dear.  But don’t let it make you miserable.  Don’t give it that power.

 

In Practice…

The application of this dichotomy in my own life would read as follows:

I accept the fact that there’s been a bend in my road.

I accept the financial uncertainty this throws us into, the delay it  puts on my Quits dream, the fact that I will be tired and overextended and (yes, I’ll be real) disgruntled with certain things for a while longer now.

Because by doing that, by saying “stet” quietly over and over to myself as I work my way through the days, I find the patience and determination I need to keep on keepin’ on.  I find myself able to still smile at sunsets and laugh at the jokes on the sitcoms I watch with my husband.

It keeps me on the positive side of the line I’m walking.  Because who wants to walk the negative side?  Seriously—it’s your choice.  Why would you choose miserable?

But, will I acquiesce to this bend?  Will I let it convince me that my dreams are pipe dreams, persuade me to go back to The Way Things Are, grind me down into the sad, defeated little puddle I could become if I accepted it without protest?

Hell to the no.

That’s not what revolutionaries do.

 

Your Turn

What things in your life do you need to say “stet” to?  How can you accept without acquiescing?  Work it out with me in the comments, babies!

Image: Nickolai Kashirin / Flickr