What does it take to be happy?

What does it look like when you decide between the safe choice and the right choice?

When I was a little girl, the hints that my grandmother dropped made me believe that, certainly, love wasn't enough. If you were savvy, she'd say, you'd also find a way to have money. And intellect, too. If you were smart, you'd marry a man who was educated, because that would lead you to a higher station. And elevating your station, that was the ultimate goal.

For my immigrant grandmother, who never went to college, but who could finish the daily Washington Post crossword in under 10 minutes, happiness was something that you were granted by another person. Others were the sources. Find the right other, and boom! You'd be all set. And if that other also happened to make a good living? Well, then. Even better!

I internalized this message. So, as a girl, I developed crushes instead of skills, pursued boys instead of interests. I understood the endgame was to marry well. I wasn't sure my chances, but I knew the charge.

So when I met my husband, a lovely, educated, stable man, I convinced myself that he was the right choice, for my grandmother. I dismissed my own desires to be seen and heard, not to be judged for being my silly, goofy self. I convinced myself that my need to be social, affectionate, warm did not matter as much a paid off mortgage, nice vacations, good credit. But here's the thing: I was lonely. And loneliness does not bode well for boosting one's happiness.

So, the pursuit of happiness. What does it really mean? It means being true to yourself, practicing self-kindness, granting yourself the freedom to pursue the activities and ideals that you want: Not someone else's idea of what's right for you.

I have decided to leave my marriage. A gut wrenching decision. And one that makes zero financial sense. But, I can feel my spirit begin to peek out from the shadows, to look toward the light, and to begin to dream about what possibilities, what internal happiness may be waiting for me.

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Loneliness is painful. Especially when you're sharing the same bed with the person that makes you feel the most alone. Sometimes there's no way around it but to get away from the person that makes you feel worse when you're with him than when you're alone.

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