What is Happiness?

 Previously published on Words Between Coasts.

Happiness Is What Happens When You Make Room

by Andrea Geones

When people ask you if you’re happy, how do you answer them?

When I was a child, I would have said “yes”, without a second thought.

Somewhere along the line, I forgot happiness. I forgot what it really was and what it felt like; how to feel it. I started drowning in a whirlpool of thoughts; mind patterns attached themselves to me like heavyweights and pulled me down to the bottom of an ocean of panic. I would struggle and fight to bring myself back above the waterline, to breathe, but I could never get there. I kept going down, down, down, hindered by my aching muscles and waterlogged mind.

The more I fought, the faster I sank.

I spent all of my energy trying so hard to pretend. I did not acknowledge my fears, worries, or anxieties. I stopped eating because of the sickening knot in my stomach. Silently, I consented to the dark shadows under my eyes because I was afraid to sleep; after all, sleeping was when my demons would take advantage of my lowered defenses.

My heart was closed and boarded up.

To me, a broken heart meant death, so I kept it nice and safe within a protective barrier where nobody could see or touch it. It kept feebly pumping from behind the walls, but the blood that was flowing was imbued with loneliness. 

I mistakenly thought happiness to be the in-between moments where I was having numbness; a temporary reprieve from the disquiet. The moments of calm before the storm, waiting in foreboding anticipation for the next monsoon. I was full up, but I was filled with sadness, anger, loss, grief, and all of the things I did not want to feel and let out. I was jammed, overflowing, the physical pain of what was inside, the things I did not want to deal with, pressing on me from the inside, like a shaken soda can. 

I had to learn to make room. 

And, once I did, I experienced a paroxysm of happiness and joy that I did not know even existed. It was euphoria. I have never been happier in my entire life. Happiness does not exist without sadness. I had to learn how to be okay with the grim, the devastating, the melancholy before I could feel good. I had to expand in both directions, instead of existing within such a short-range, wound so tightly I could feel the fibers of my being splintering.

There’s a beauty that exists in getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It expands your capacity on what you can handle, both emotionally and physically. I started taking risks in letting myself step outside of my comfort zone, which I realized wasn’t that comfortable, anyway. I slowly and carefully let myself trust, and to let myself be vulnerable around those with whom I put my trust.

And, after I learned how to be happy, I had a swarm of other loving hearts join mine. I have been so lucky in my life. I attribute my recovery of joy and rediscovery of happiness to those other hearts; the incredible spirits who not only appreciate me for who I am, but who want to spend time with me because of who I am. It’s the love with which they imbue my heart that keeps my blood pumping through my veins; blood that is now full of hope. Love is life. Love is happiness. Love is joy.

Now, when people ask me if I’m happy, I can, once again, honestly answer with an immediate, resounding, joyful “yes!”


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