Since I have gotten past “that day” (It seems my life is now divided by before attempt and after attempt) I have found that I am especially sensitive to those that are always quoting, remarking, or including in their business signatures little blurbs about happiness. You know the ones… “Make the choice to be happy today!” or something like, “Make it a great day!!” The ‘Polyannas’ of the office/book club/PTO, etc. Those that make you feel guilty for feeling less than exuberant on a particular day. You might run into Miss/Mrs/Ms/Mr Pollyanna at any given time and she is always well-groomed and looks extremely well-rested and if she has children they always are in matching outfits with scrubbed faces and perfectly unscuffed shoes. I used to be one of those always posting inspirational quotes about happiness, love or ambition on my MySpace or Facebook page. Usually I would do this when I had nothing better to say, or since my mother taught me when you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all; this was my version of saying nothing. It was also my attempt to both cheer myself up and give the appearance that I was ambitious, loved and happy. I so badly wanted to be…
Not to make it seems as if I think being the Pollyanna type is bad. IF it is genuine. And also if the purpose of being so, and posting such quotes, is not to be passive aggressive to those who may be having a bad day and desperate not trying to take it out on anyone else. I saw a (mis-appropriated) quote by Voltaire posted on Istagram not that long ago very shortly after I disclosed that I battle Major Depressive Disorder. I had just spilled my guts about trying for years to fight for cheerfulness and a positive outlook on life to only end up feeling worse and exhausted at the end of each day. Explaining that by shoving my true feelings of despair and self-hatred had only built up to a crisis of violence and a few moments of self-destruction that nearly ended my life. My intention of putting this closely guarded secret of mine out into the public was to bring depression out into the open and help defeat stigma as much as to cleanse myself of this false image of myself I felt I had portrayed for so long. The quote read something like:
“I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health” http://shimercollege.wikia.com/wiki/Fake_Quotes_Project/Voltaire/I_have_chosen_to_be_happy
(1) Voltaire never said that. He said something more to the effect that ‘I have heard being positive is supposed to be good for you so I guess I will put more effort into that…’ or something. Although, it was known to have been said more tongue in cheek than as an actual mission statement.
(2)Yes, naturally happy people do live longer, this is a proven fact. And if people could simply make a choice to be happy and upbeat, and never be in a bad mood or irritable, surely they would, right?
Although I do think there are some people who seem to wallow in their misery and that is way more annoying that the Pollyannas of the world. I have known way too many people who are only satisfied when they are pointing out other people’s flaws or beating people over the head with bible verses to prove them wrong or show them how badly they are living their life or because they feel it is their purpose on this planet to point out the horrible, evil, sinners of the world; none of them realizing that sinner and saint alike scatter when they walk into a room.
So, what is ‘happiness‘ anyway? It is something I am not sure I have experienced much in my life. Or maybe my standards for what happy is is too lofty. Websters Dictionary defines it as: Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
Okay. A “state of being”. Happiness is a state of mind. So I can simply say I am happy and it is so? Even if I am jumping out of my skin with anxiety? But then what is it to be content? And when would one feel “intense joy”? I only have more questions so I did a little more research. The Dalai Lama thinks; “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” but yet George Orwell does not agree saying, “Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.” So was Mr. Lama (is that sacrilegious?) unhappy then?
Other notable ‘happy’ related quotes:
“Remember happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have; it depends solely on what you think.”
~ Dale Carnegie
“Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
“Definition of happiness: The full use of your powers along lines of excellence.”
~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy
The most interesting one was from a man who has been discovered to be extremely depressed during his entire life. Even confiding in some and writing at times of his own death in a wistful manner. These days they call this passive suicide if one hopes to get hit by a car, or doesn’t take life-sustaining medication. This seemed to be the level of the President’s melancholy. “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
In my 30 something years here I have done everything from volunteering for good causes, I exercise for hours a week and eat healthy, always put a smile on my face, read books about being happy and seeking contentment, prayed and claimed peace and fulfillment and yet the depression would follow me wherever I went. I didn’t ask for it. I certainly didn’t seek it and I don’t think there is one person in this country who would say I ever wallowed or felt sorry for myself and yet this ‘happiness’ feeling has seemed to skip right over me.
Now that I have faced my real feelings and am allowing myself to talk about my mood and have begun to talk about depression and gone into therapy, I can admit that sometimes I just wake up sad. There are days that I want to close myself in my room and scream. I can actually be in physical pain because I am so unhappy, but you may not know it. Most days it is all I can take to get through a typical workday and to have to also go to the store and deal with crowds and noise can put me on edge fast. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to “Make It a Great Day”. I distinctly recall NOT choosing to be unhappy. And I have never prefered to be a Debbie Downer. This is just where I am at this moment. And suppressing it makes me sicker.
So please forgive me if I do not ‘like’ your professing of choosing our own happiness on Facebook, or click the little heart on Instagram when you misquote Voltaire or otherwise diatribe about a self-boasting ability to cure yourself of depression simply by deciding to make it so. I’ll just be in my corner trying not to correct your grammar or worse yet, slap you silly. Instead, I’ll be listening to a podcast about the newest research on depression studies or researching some peer-reviewed essays regarding case studies in PTSD hoping to be closer to an effective treatment and maybe even editing my next blog to assuage my need to reach out to find others like me who would like to love life and would LOVE to like ourselves and wish it were as easy as choosing to make this possible but until then I’ll leave you with this quote from one of my favorite and most tragic literary geniuses: “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” ~ Ernest Hemingway