| SARA ERNEST
HEY, YOU! YEAH, YOU. Do you want to know a secret? As we head into the season of the winter blues, I can tell you the secret to happiness. Are you ready? Here it is: Just be happy.
Ah, but there’s the rub: just. I despise that word in this context. It always makes things sound easy. Just one more rep, after you maxed out two reps ago. Just one more time through this song, when your fingers started bleeding three justs ago. My least favorite word in all my years of ballet lessons was just. Nevermind that someone’s toe pad shifted or that someone else’s ribbons worked loose, we just had to do it one more time.
I think that there is a reason that the word “just” is so deceptive. It’s a way to trick ourselves into doing that one thing that seems insurmountable in that moment.
Take, for example, my friend Agnes (no, that’s not really her name). She was the victim of a horrible tragedy involving the unexpected deaths of her husband and kids. By rights, she could have retreated inside herself and lived in a world of misery and despair, succumbing to the anger and grief that surrounded this horrible event. No one would have judged her. Everyone expected her to do this anyway.
It made me so angry when I would talk to people who would say, “She’ll never be OK.” I would rage about the people who clearly didn’t know this woman. They didn’t understand that what they should have been saying was, “She’ll never be the same.”
Agnes is one of the strongest people I have ever met. I think what made me so angry was the people who pitied her because they couldn’t see that she had already started making choices that would promote her future happiness. I know that she grieves every day over the loss of her beautiful little boys. It would be unrealistic to say that she’s not still, to this day, angry about the manner in which they were removed from her life. She dug deep though. She drilled down into the well of her strength and pulled up the bucket that held just enough for her to get through the first day, then the next day, and then every day since.
My friend made a choice, and every moment of every day, she chooses the light over the darkness so that she can go on. Just one more day. Hell, just one more moment. She took just and made it her bitch.
I had a realization one cloudy day when I was on an airplane. It can be the most dreary, gray, depressing day on the ground, but once the plane gets through the clouds, the sky is still blue. I liken the search for happiness to searching for that beautiful blue sky. Some days, all we have to do is look up. Other days, we have to fight the laws of gravity and work with fluid dynamics and physics to get to the magnificence of the open blue sky. The same goes for our personal journey to happiness. Sometimes all we have to do is open our eyes. At other times we have to choose to just be happy.