If you ask people want they want from this life, most of them would say that, ultimately, they just want to be happy.
Happiness seems to be something that we’re all looking for, but at the same time actually letting ourselves be truly happy can be really quite scary.
I know that I’ve wasted a lot of time over the years, not letting myself enjoy things as much as I should, for a few different reasons. It all comes down to this strange fear though, this fear of being completely happy.
I decided a while ago to try and focus on the good things more, to invite much more joy into my life.
And part of that involves letting go of this fear of being truly happy.
I think in a way I’ve always been like this.
But it was an episode of Dawson’s Creek that really made me think about it.
I know, that sounds really silly, but it’s true.
You know the episode where Mitch, Dawson’s dad, dies? In the run up to the accident Mitch is all about how good his life is, how happy he is. I’m sure there’s a scene where the camera sort of sweeps around him as he stands outside their house, looking around in a ‘wow, isn’t life wonderful’ kind of way.
Then the next thing you know he’s in the car and he’s dropped his ice cream and that’s that.
Aside from the fact that Mitch deserved better than death by ice cream, this episode came with the lesson that if you ever get that ‘looking around in wonder at how happy you are and how great life is’ feeling, then something horrific and traumatic must be just around the corner.
My best friend and I still talk about it now. Most of the time we sort of joke about it, but there’s still that underlying feeling though, that there’s some truth in it.
That we shouldn’t let ourselves feel that kind of complete happiness because it won’t last.
And not only will it not last, it will in some way trigger something negative to come along.
The fact that this idea is a plot point in a hugely popular, main stream TV show seems to prove how common this feeling is too.
It’s as if we’ve all been conditioned to believe that there has to be a price to pay for feeling happy.
That there has to be a balance, so if we’re really happy then it follows that we must soon be really sad to even things out.
The thing is, that is true of life. It is a mixed bag and we will all experience joy and sorrow at various times. But I think I need to let go of this feeling that there is a causal link between the two.
Being happy doesn’t cause us to then be sad.
Bad things will happen, regardless of how happy or unhappy we are in the run up to them happening. Not letting yourself feel truly happy won’t prevent the bad things from happening.
I wonder though, if another part of it is this feeling that if we let go and feel true happiness then we’ll be completely unprepared for hardships or upsets that might come our way. So staying in a state of semi-happiness is better.
But, are we ever really prepared for the hard times? No matter how much we worry about things, I don’t think it makes it any easier to deal with them if they do actually materialise.
It’s like that line in the Sunscreen song:
Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday
We can worry and hold ourselves back from true happiness all we like, but it still won’t help us or prepare us for the real troubles that come along.
So, I think it’s time to let go.
To let go of this fear and to just embrace every scrap of happiness that comes our way.
I’m not necessarily saying we should cherish every single moment of our lives.
I’m saying that we should stop worrying so much about what could go wrong, and celebrate all the many little things in our lives that are going right.
We need to learn from our children, who experience life so openly, so joyfully.
A few weeks ago we had a spell of glorious weather, and spent a good few hours at the beach. We dressed the children in their swimming costumes, so they could have a play in the sea. I took the camera along because I wanted to capture this first proper paddle of the year. And as I watched them play with my husband in the water, I started thinking about the last time I actually paddled myself.
I couldn’t actually remember when it was. See, I’m always the one holding back. Holding back from really relaxing and having fun and letting go. With the excuse of being the one with the camera.
So I handed it over.
I took my shoes and socks off and splashed around in the water with my children for the first time in way too long.
It was silly. It was fun. It was wonderful.
To just be in that moment, to drink it all in, to laugh with my family and, in that moment, feel truly happy.
That’s what life should be I think.
I mean, life is tough; it comes with so many challenges and dramas and tears.
But it’s also pretty damn amazing.
It comes with love and beauty and hope. So surely when things are good, when we look around and feel happy, we should grab that happiness and truly feel every last bit of it.
What do you think? Have you ever felt this fear of being truly happy?