Are You “Happy” Or Are You Happy?

Many years ago after a long few days of work, I found myself sitting down for a drink across the table from an “A” list actress that I had been working with. (Not as an actor but in a different capacity.) As we talked about past events and future projects and hopes, I asked her a simple question. “Are you happy?” I mean, she had money, fame, was recently married and producers were knocking down her door. I remember that she started to answer quickly and then stopped for what seemed like a very long time. Finally, she put her fingers up to form air quotes as she said, “I am ‘happy’ but I don’t think I’m happy.” We talked about that in-depth for quite a while. Even now as I see her on TV or on the big screen, I both wonder and hope that she was able to take the quotation marks away and is now … happy …

I bring this up because this time of the year especially, I ask myself that question often. We all have times in our life that are filled with joy and happiness just as there are also those times when it’s the complete opposite. So I keep asking, on the whole, am I “happy” or am I happy?

How do you know the answer to that question? I mean, it’s not how much “stuff” you have or how many likes you get on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. It’s not “Well I SHOULD be happy, right?” It’s not even achieving all the hopes and dreams that you set forth in the past. Who would have ever thought that such a seemingly simple question would turn out to be so hard to answer honestly?

The answer has nothing to do with our achievements in life or lack thereof. Some of the times that were the rockiest in my life were also the times when it turns out, I was pretty darn happy. Looking back, there have been plenty of times when I was scared or in pain or wasn’t in the environment I wanted to be in at the time but I also found my way to happiness.

The true answer appears in that flash of an instant when you ask yourself the question. Way before you have time to think about it or rationalize it, way before guilt or greed or ego ever get involved. In that one single instant, the answer is either a yes or no. If there is a “…well…” or a “…yeah but…” then the answer is no.

Happiness never leaves us! I’ll say that again… Happiness never leaves us, other things can cloud it, but happiness is always there. If there is a lesson to be learned, I guess it’s that we can plan and plot and design all of the things we want or that we believe will make us happy, but the truth is, they won’t. We are the only thing that can or will ever make us happy!  In every situation, every decision we face, it’s up to us to not just find happiness but to allow happiness to take control of. Looking inward is the only way we can do that! There are plenty of times when people, places or things awaken our happiness and allow us to make that journey within us. First, we need to allow ourselves to find happiness, to recognize and appreciate it. We must be grateful for whatever shimmers of happiness we might have, instead of lamenting the things we imagine that we’ve lost or are frustrated about. We must open ourselves up to the possibility that while we are living “inside the frame,” we can’t see the whole picture, but we are still part of the whole story!

I strive to live my life, not by the definitions others put on it. I now strive to look at happiness as a constant in my life. For me, it’s a matter of how I view and interpret the things that I’ve been given. There are times when I am happier than I am right now, there are also times when I am less happy. The difference in my life now is that that no matter what, I am still happy! Sadness, frustration and anger don’t mean there’s no happiness. They mean that for the moment, those things have “stepped in front” of happiness and are overshadowing it. When that happens, we might focus more on them, but that doesn’t mean happiness left us!

On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you right now? When times are tough or you’re facing a setback, talk to yourself about it. For instance, out loud, have a conversation with yourself such as…“Man, I’m not very happy this morning, am I? I’m only at about a 3 today, I wonder why?” Sound silly? Well by talking about it, you’re also working out the problem. Remember, being “not very happy” is a whole lot better than not being happy at all! Just the fact that you’re realizing that fact in the darkest of times, means YOU STILL HAVE HAPPINESS INSIDE OF YOU.

My wish for you is not happiness, but that you find your happiness, hold onto your happiness, remember your happiness so that when it’s calling you, you’ll remember how to make your way back to it! As for me, I have my good days and my not as good days, and I’m pretty happy about that.