In search of happiness
Back in the day. The word happy had nothing but negative connotations for me. Even as a child I didn’t think it was really attainable, at least not for me. I believed I was born a flat liner, bereft of those feelings experienced by others.
My perception of happy was the carefree attitude of my younger sister and too many others like her. Those who were not tethered to low self-esteem and were free from the nagging constraints and insecurities that plagued me. I’ve often thought I popped out of the womb an adult, albeit not a very mature one. In middle school, I can remember thinking how silly and what a waste of time it was to get excited over after school activities, boys, or even engage in innocent girlie gossip. I considered myself above those childish pursuits. Even then, I suspected that that kind of thinking was not the norm.
I struggled for a lot of years trying to figure it all out, especially after I entered AA and the fog lifted. My go-to: That this was the hand I was dealt, so play it, was beginning to grow old. The temptation to blame it on the genetic predisposition for alcoholism manifesting itself in early isims didn’t hold water because my happy freewheeling sister shares the very same disease. I wondered if my birth order played a part. After all, I was the oldest and assumed the role of the responsible sibling, allowing Sissy to delight in her role.
The bottom line is that what contributed to it, whether it was a warped personality or another genetic curse, didn’t matter. It was what it was.
One of the gifts of a twelve-step program is that if you hang around long enough you will be provided an invaluable new dictionary. One that transfigures old perceptions about useless, worn-out beliefs embedded in the language we often used to describe ourselves. Maybe the notion that I would never be happy was a myth. Perhaps I had been looking for it in the wrong places; like the bottle, and romantic relationships. Both of which had failed and abandoned me every time.
Needing to focus on my sobriety that first year, I put the search for happiness on hold and concentrated on working the steps with my sponsor and going to meetings. Eventually, I incorporated prayer and reading daily meditation books. As the clock ticked away some of my anxiety for at least that one hour spent in the meetings, and the pages of the calendar flew by, a transition was silently occurring.
Without even noticing it, I had become less self-absorbed. Instead of begrudgingly making a gratitude list, at the urging of my sponsor, I put it at the top of my daily agenda. It was called to my attention that I was smiling more. I was becoming less defensive. And brick by brick, I was taking down my wall.
I began to notice the cleansing scent of a morning shower, the splendor of a sunset, the magnificence of a single rose. I found myself tearing up at the drop of a hat as the beauty that surrounded me every day, tugged at my heartstrings.
God had opened my new dictionary and bookmarked the feeling I had been searching for all my life. It was the preamble on my journey to serenity. And it was spelled CONTENTMENT.