|Property of Stormberry|
How is it that happiness seems like such a difficult thing to get hold of? What is it about happiness that eludes many people? What is that secret that some hold that make them able to be happy? Is happiness even real? Does happiness actually exist? Or is it just a commercial fabrication instilled into us to keep up chasing a mirage and spend loads of money in the process?
Well, for starters, happiness is a real thing, and yes, you can be a happy person and be pretty much always happy. Happy can be your default state. I know that, because I happen to be a happy person (even if many of my posts are sometimes bitchy and angry). So yes, it is possible.
As you might imagine, I'm writing about the topic, because a friend of mine is in a situation where they don't seem to be able to find their happiness. My friend's case is one that many people seem to suffer: what makes them happy isn't something that's acceptable in the circle they move in. For the sake of making this easy, I'll call my friend... Emma.
Emma is the kind of girl that has had the life anyone would consider proper and perfect. Sure, she had her "tribulations", but every single element of her life followed the designated path. Grew up a good girl, went to college, studied hard, met her future husband, married him, had kids, got a good job... Shouldn't she be happy? Her husband is supportive, understanding, loving, handsome, and her kids are wonderful children. She's appreciated in her job and her colleagues and clients speak highly of her. And yet she isn't happy. Through many conversations, it has transpired that Emma is unsatisfied with her life, but debates between hating the predictable monotony of her life and the fear of losing the stability that very predictable monotony gives her.
As I listen to her over a cup of coffee (Starbucks, naturally), and her slender fingers play with the edge of the plastic lid covering her beverage, I see a person afraid of herself. She truly desires to be happy, but she wishes so hard that her happiness could be achieved with socially approved means. She sometimes hints of her dark side, a part of her that she sees as "her demons", something she must be strong enough to supress, repress, conquer, while striving to stir her whole self to be content with something that's not designed to sate her needs. She's afraid to face the fact that she is - in her nature - different from what society, and specifically her environment, is willing to accept.
Emma has been suffering silently her demons, and this year she had a sort of crisis about it. In the light of this, Emma sought help by taking a sort of "spiritual retirement" or something like that. You know, the kind of... spiritual camps or something that cost you a small fortune, where you basically pay to live in poor conditions, deprived of civilized means, exposed to daily hardships and boring meditation, to find enlightment, or yourself? Yeah, totally not my thing, and I wouldn't have pegged Emma for the type, but there you go: she paid a handsome sum to go abroad to meditate wrapped in a sheet, do chores and sleep in a cot.
The retirement was hard, but full of lessons for her, and she dutifully did the entire program, and though she enjoyed it and made new, exciting friends, she came home disturbed. Of course she didn't say so to anyone, but only talks to all that ask her about the views, the people from all over the world and the exotic flowers and fruits. Her environment treats her retreat time like that needed by the high power executives who overwork themselves to meet deadlines and reach the expected quarterly results. And Emma is so lucky Eli is such an understanding, supporting husband! Yet Eli can't really support her because Eli doesn't know the truth about her demons. And Eli ignores that Emma met her demons in the retirement camp. Her encounter with her demons came so close, and was so brutal on her soul, that some weeks after she came back, she started taking pills to control her growing anxiety. Things got so bad for her, that she sought the advise of a trusted friend, someone who knows well her environment, and who has had problems of his own, though of a different nature.
Calmer, but lacking the sparkle in her eye and the bounce in her step - my sparkling little pony, as I used to think of her - flicking and turning the lid of her hot coffee, Emma told me this wiser friend urged her to never mention the matter again. He urged her to erase everything, every last bit of "evidence" of her deviation, and hide it forever. For a while, Emma was advised to be super-dotting to Eli and her kids, and be a charm at work, and forcefully jump into the picture perfect role of the fully accomplished Mother&Wife. If not, well, of course it would be a huge scandal, that would rip her away from her children for ever, will tarnish their memory of her, and would brand her so deeply, that she would even lose her job. Yes, it seems that their company gives a huge lot of emphasis on the personal image of their executives. Why, is beyond me, but Emma did assured me that if she ever thought about divorcing - and doing so for THAT reason - she would either be exiliated to some remote corner of the company where her chances of ever getting a promotion would go up in smoke, or she would be kindly asked to "be happy somewhere else".
Emma was really trying to smile, forcing the corners of her mouth upwards while she told me how this "fake-it-until-you-make-it" plan was going to be her salvation. I stared at her in disbelief, because she isn't living in a country where such limitations exist, and work should be about what you give to the job, what you do at your job, and not about how you live your personal life.
I was at loss of words. Emma wasn't happy, she was suffering, and was trying to erase who she is and what makes her happy with pills, because her environment hates people like her. She has been carrying a huge rock on her back, and it's crushing her, but she is afraid to drop it. She's convinced that her only option is to silence her demons and deny herself. I tried to hold her cold, thin hands and ask her what makes her happy. Her sad, clouded sky eyes looked at me and she shook her head. For her, her happiness is such a complicated thing, she's no longer sure she can find it. I tried to tell her that she should take this moment and dare to be a bit selfish. She's not helping anyone by denying who she is and sinking herself deeper into sadness.
After we said our good-byes, Emma stayed in my mind. She might have been going years and years being unhappy, maybe finding here and there a moment to express herself, to be herself, only to be punished by it, made feel guilty for her transgression. She has been told to feel grateful that the people who had punished her for being who she is, had the "grace" to forgive her and given her a chance to correct her "deviation". She is convinced deeply that she is flawed, deviant. That she must tirelessly fight her nature, and if she fails, she must be punished. When I told her, that maybe, just maybe, this was her nature, and that it was ok to be that way, she smiled at me and cocked her head to the side. Of course that's what her witch friend would say. That's why she loves me, she said, because her witch friend can always say something that makes her feel good.
But that's not a solution for her problem.
But Emma, maybe it is. You only have to try.