When I introduce myself to the college classes I teach, I tell them about my research areas. At the end of the first class this semester, one student raised his hand and asked, "You study happiness. So have you always been a happy person?" I smiled and replied, "If I already knew happiness well, I wouldn't have felt the need to learn about it."
In moments like that one, I think of the people who knew me when I was younger, and how they would chuckle (or snicker, depending) at someone asking me that question. No, I was not always happy. I had severe depression for large chunks of my life. The specter of depression colored everything about me.
You know that Imagine Dragons song, "Believer"? He sings, "I was broken from a young age. / Taking my sulking to the masses. / Writing my poems for the few that look at me, took to me, shook to me, feeling me / Singing from heartache, from the pain." Well, that describes a younger me well. In fact, as an undergraduate I majored in English with a focus in poetry writing because I didn't know what else to do with pain but share it.
My path to becoming happy wasn't short. It took many, many years of little steps, huge steps, epiphanies, and of facing hard truths about myself, about other people, and about the world. But there is an accuracy to Elizabeth Gilbert's observation that "I've never seen any life transformation that didn't begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit." There is no one who can make us happy but ourselves. No partner, no friend, no career, no physical appearance, no amount of money can do it. If we are not hell-bent on fixing our own unhappiness, it will still be there no matter what other glories come our way.
In the Imagine Dragons song, he goes on to sing about how the pain broke him down and built him up to create the person we hear sing today. Similarly, you would not be reading these very words on this website, nor would there be a Dr. Erin Clair, nor would my students have ever learned yoga from me, if not for the intense pain of my youth. My passion, my determination, my drive, and the life I've created...they came from pain. The pain needed to be there for me to become who I was meant to be. Even though it can be awkward for me to go back to my hometown and have some people who knew me when I was young talk as if I should be embarrassed of all I went through, I am not, in fact, ashamed. I am proud of it. That pain makes the person I see in the mirror today an accomplishment unparalleled.
Happiness is not a destination we reach when all conditions are ideal, when everyone in our life does what we want, or when our goals are met. If that were the case, pretty much no one would be happy. Rather, happiness comes with challenges--like a statue we carve ourselves out of whatever material we're handed. Happiness comes from a way of seeing life and a way of reacting to all it gives us, whether good and bad.
You don't have to believe me about any of this if you don't want to, as pain has made me a believer in my own happiness regardless. But some other folks agree with me. For research about the relationship between pain and happiness, take a look at "Could Pain Be the Other Side of Happiness?," "In Pursuit of Happiness: Why Pain Helps Us Feel Pleasure," and "5 Reasons You Have to Accept Pain if You Want to Be Happy."
Join in for Free! Valentine's Day Thai Massage Techniques
Not sure what to do on Valentine's Day? Join in on my Thai massage techniques class on Monday, February 14, at 6:30pm Central. Give yourself some lovin', or grab a partner/friend/pet and practice on them. And now you have cool plans!
Here's the link for the class: https://atu.webex.com/atu/j.php?MTID=m63d946d54802ad9628a973ad92dfc74f . It will be in webinar format, so you don't need to worry about being on camera or anyone even knowing you're there. Ideal, right?
More Cool Stuff on the Horizon
Inside Flow: "Believer" by Imagine Dragons on Thursday, February 17, 6:30pm at Força. Because, obviously. Ha!
Mardi Gras & Sangria Night on February 28, 6:30pm at Força. Masks, beads, NOLA jazz music, fun yoga flows, and sangria. Bring a king cake if you can score one, and let's party, y'all. $5 cover
Open Studio / Yoga Play Time on Sundays at 4:00pm at Força starting on March 6. This is a time for yoga folks to come work on a pose, transition, or concept they want to know more about, or for them to have a space to work on their own yoga practice. I'll be there to help you and assist as needed. Come play and surprise yourself with what you can do. Free for Força members; punch card eligible for regular students.
Glow Yoga with jam band music on March 9, 6:30pm at Força. Have you ever painted your face as an adult and then moved under blacklights like you don't have a care in the world? Because you need to. It can make a person feel years younger.
May you be happy. May you be well.