I’ve done it! I’ve stumbled upon the solution to everything! Yes. The solution to every single problem in the whole entire world. And it’s so very simple. I don’t know why I never thought of it before.
Here it is: unconditional happiness.
It’s a thing we’re constantly in pursuit of, isn’t it? Happiness. Tons of recently published books have “happiness” in their title. I have a couple on my shelves: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. It’s a thing I’ve always searched for, out there, in the world.
But I’ve been looking in the wrong place. Turns out, the option for happiness exists, at all times, inside me. I mean way inside me, beyond the me that is me and all the way to the Self that is aware of me.
I’ll explain. My good friend Kathie gave me a copy of a powerful book called The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. Singer believes that when you get right to the root of things, “You are behind everything, just watching. That is your true home. Take everything else away and you’re still there, aware that everything is gone. But take the center of awareness away, and there is nothing. That center is the seat of Self. From that seat, you are aware that there are thoughts, emotions, and a world coming in through your senses. But now you are aware that you’re aware.”
Aware that you’re aware! Deep, powerful stuff.
Once you become aware that you’re aware, you are in a position to make the only decision that matters in life. Now, I know, life appears complicated and it seems like there’s lots of more important decisions to make, but there really is only one. Do you want to be happy? Or not?
Well, who really, in their right minds wouldn’t choose happiness? But – and this is a really big BUT – we want to put conditions on it, don’t we? I mean, I could say, “Well, I’d be super happy, but my husband dropped dead.” And that’s what he did and, to be honest, I did say that for a couple of years while I wrapped my head around this major life-changing event. But what good does it do me, or him, for me to be miserable for the rest of my life?
Because he died so suddenly and unexpectedly, we didn’t have an urgent need to discuss Hugh’s feelings about his demise, but I’m placated – and many others who knew him are too – by his approach to life. He rose up every morning saying, quite loudly, “It’s going to be a great day today!” And each day was great, for him, despite machinery break downs at the plant, despite horses breaking down on the track, despite rain on a summer holiday. We’d put the camper top up on the boat and ski regardless. It’s water-skiing after all. You’re going to get wet!
Sh*t happens. Things Happen. It’s a song by Dawes, a folk rock band out of California, and I love it. “Things happen, that’s all they ever do.”
We have absolutely no control over sh*t happening, because that’s all it ever does. So, it’s a big decision and a big commitment, happiness. Once you choose it, you’ve gotta stick with it, even when everything is broken, like it was for me last week.
Singer, author of the deep soul book, is inclined to remind the reader of this: “You’re sitting on a planet spinning around in the middle of absolutely nowhere.” I love this, because it’s a good reminder of how small the big sh*t really is in our lives. You say you want to live in ecstasy? You’re searching for your bliss? And your friend who you once had a great relationship with stopped talking to you because you had a gigantic misunderstanding and you can’t stop thinking about it? How many other people are there on the planet to talk to? For godsakes, you’re going to have to let that sh*t go.
Why not make a vow to your Self to be happy for the rest of your life? Why not let it be as deep of a vow as one of marriage, or of finding your true passion(s) in life, or of loving your children (or pet(s)). Then let absolutely nothing break that vow. And that becomes the happiness game. Observe your heart when it gets challenged, how it contracts, how it tries to protect itself, and then pry it open, because an infinite well of energy springs from an open heart. Observe your mind, how it defends and justifies and dramatizes, and practise meditation to calm it down.
The month before Hugh passed, October 2004, I showed him an article in the paper about a young local woman who’d recently died of ALS. It’s a debilitating illness, the same one that has Stephen Hawking withered in a wheelchair and speaking through a computer. “Hugh, look at this picture,” I said, shoving it under his nose. “Look how beautiful she is. And that smile! Except for the tubes running from her nose, you wouldn’t even know she’s sick. She planned her whole funeral! And, instead of why, she said why not. ‘Why not me?’ she said. ‘I’m strong. I can handle this.’”
Hugh looked at me like I was off my rocker. “Well, that’s what you’d have to do. Isn’t it?” And then he shrugged, kissed me and went off to work. Because he was going to have a great day that day.