A friend of mine has created The Happy Company (THC), a lifestyle brand that is “founded on the agenda to spread happyness“. They prefer to remain anonymous (if such a thing is possible anymore) so that people will associate with and support the agenda, rather than the person behind it. They recently asked me to react to the phrase ‘Feel Happy’ in one short paragraph. Spoiler alert: I failed the assignment. But the request did inspire me to write a post on my thoughts on happiness.
Now that we are finally “post-pandemic” world, I have been very intentional about curating my happiness. (By the way, did you know that one of the major ways that pandemics end is because the general fear of the disease in question dissipates? We simply get tired of talking about it. So yeah, COVID may be still outchea but so are we!)
The global lock-downs and government intrusions into our lives were a sharp reminder that the concept of freedom is a precarious one and that self-determination can only take one so far. There are greater – and often far too formidable – forces at work with the power to rewrite and reshape our collective narratives. What I’ve learned in this period of being on constant high alert and low on resources is that there is one thing that I have within my power to control at any given time: My happiness.
The pandemic had a similar effect on my HPY Friend. I asked them why they have decided to evangelize on go on this #SpreadHappyness crusade.
“I made a casual decision to go off social media after that awakening so that I can shield myself from the sad chaos and focus on letting in happiness instead. But then I figured going off social media only, won’t do much because this information was coming from every corner. You couldn’t escape it entirely.
I decided that, same way I’m going to be intentional about walking away from the sadness, I will be intentional about walking to (and with) the “happiness.”
In charismatic circles, we are admonished to lean into joy: the joy of the Lord, categorically. This has always been difficult for me, because it requires an inexcusable amount of unlooking. The religious circles I found myself in prescribed “joy of the Lord” in a manner that demanded that I not see unspeakable ills around me, certainly not to move me to any action outside of permitted norms. (MUST you talk about the value of Black Lives so much, Malaka?) One could only walk in the joy of the Lord if you chose not to let the cares and worries of the world penetrate your consciousness – or *gasp* do something to right those wrongs. I believe that this is why so many Charismatic and Evangelical Christians are completely unmoved and unbothered by racism, sexism and any other -ism floating in their periphery. To internalize, or hell, even acknowledge the existence of these evils would mean deliberately blotting their souls. No good Christian would ever want to do that.
In these same circles, happiness was dismissed as fleeting and ignoble. To experience happiness, it was often said, one had to rely on happenings. But Joy! Ah. That’s where the Holy Spirit lives. One could simply inhale the vibes of Joy if they so chose to do. I tried the latter approach for many years, and now I understand why 7.1% of the Christian population in America suffers from chronic depression. I once was numbered among these unfortunate millions, but I have since moved on have decided that happiness is far more attainable and therefore utilitarian than joy – or joy as I have been made to understand it.
I believe that we have the power to create our own realities; yes even in the face of pandemics, wars, trials and tribulations. If happiness comes from happenings, then every day…on any given day…I can construct moments that are beautiful, astounding or even frightening. I can take pleasure in those moments and that pleasure will build on the foundation of happiness I feel generally. “Pleasure” is a word that is sullied in puritanical circles, perhaps because it has been relegated to the realm of sex and sexual gratification. But if we think of pleasure in more expansive ways, one understands its purifying potential. Here’s one of the small (but practical) ways that I have accessed pleasure/happiness in my life. It’s through the power of makeup.
Makeup gets a bad rap. Its use is considered deceptive, its purchase a frivolity. “Real/good women” don’t wear makeup. We should embrace our natural beauty – no matter how raggedy that form of beauty Nature might have given us – and be joyous about it. I would never wear make up for this reason. It wasn’t until I found myself in Sephora a few years ago and was given a gentle education about the real point of makeup…which isn’t necessarily to hide your flaws, but to be used to enhance the things you love most about your reflection. It was in that moment that my mind was permanently altered. I finally understood why girls who wear makeup have more fun. I too am happier wearing makeup.
The other thing I’ve begun doing is exploring and taking pleasure in my surroundings by discovering more about the city I have decided to call home. I was inspired to do this after I linked up with a cousin who told me that he’s never been to the Statue of Liberty, even though he’s lived in New Jersey all 40+ years of his life. People spend time/resources and come from around the world to see this magnificent monument that he can almost see from his stoop, but he’s never felt it worth the trip over the bridge. George (the city I live in) is not exceptionally large, but it is has much to offer and exists in close proximity to exciting attractions and unique things that can only be found in this area…much like my cousin’s statue. I am able to fill my home with beautiful things and hold the memory of soul affirming conversations with the people who live and work in my city. They are worth the indulgence.
I believe happiness is alchemy. I am convinced that one can take mundane elements that exist all around us and turn them and precious, priceless moments in time. I apply this approach to everything now, so that nothing is “mundane” in my eyes. Every encounter, every excursion (even if it’s just a trip to Clicks) is an opportunity to practice my gift as a pleasure alchemist. The intentionality of this pursuit of happiness makes me feel happiest of all.
I’m grateful to my friend who asked me to speak to #FeelHappy. The question has my provoked gratitude that I feel generally, but don’t generally express. (I’m sorry I failed to do it in paragraph…again.) But I hope, dear Reader/Lurker, that you will take some time today to think about how you can increase your happiness quotient. Start with something small. Build on it. And then tell us all about it in the comments below!
My simple recipe for happiness:
Observation/Acknowledgement (i.e. see people and let them know they are seen and appreciated)
A big ass smile
Be open to the possibility that anything is possible…and that includes good things. Especially good things!