Happiness: You Find it by Looking for it!
Hello, my name is Katie and I am ___________. If you thought I was about to give the AA opening statement, you are probably more aware than most of the challenges that an alcoholic faces when coming to terms with their inner demons. I am not an alcoholic. I made the choice not to be LONG ago. Nevertheless, life is HARD.
Many people look at me and say, “I don’t know why you have the difficulties you do.” Some say, “The strongest get the hardest.” Others don’t say anything but look at me as though any moment I might spontaneously com-bust. There are days when I feel that this may be an option!
To reference this, please allow me to share just a few of my life experiences, because this will help those of you reading understand my choice of topics today. Growing up, I did not have many friends. Those who were my friends, would not come to my house to play. At school I was bullied. I struggled academically. The role of caregiver was thrust upon me as a child. I later married due to pregnancy. I divorced due to abuse. I was suicidal. I later remarried, but I am currently separated from my spouse and going through my second divorce. My children are in various stages of life/rebellion, with one looking at possible jail time. I have gone through foreclosures, bankruptcies, fought off a rapist, been homeless, been emotionally abused, battled depression and anxiety, and spent more time crying than a fountain. There are definitely times when crawling into a hole seems much nicer than putting a smile on my face!
With all that, what could I possibly want to write about? Each sentence covers years of my life, and certainly I could go into depth on the pain. I want to share with you however, the things that I have learned and why today I am grateful for all I have! Allow me to share the story of an amazing counselor who found out what life was like, and how she has dealt with it. With permission from Nikki Harmon, I share the following story in her own words:
When I was single I would dream of finding THE ONE and could not wait until my happily ever after got started. Being single was hard and lonely. I anxiously looked to the future and marriage and happiness. Then I got married and discovered that marriage is hard, and I still sometimes felt lonely and I couldn’t wait until we had lots of fat babies to bring giggles and love and happiness to our lives. ⠀
Then when I was pregnant with my second child I found out my husband had been addicted to drugs for many, many years, and our marriage began to crumble. I learned that divorce is hard. And then I learned that being single with two young children is hard. ⠀
The next 5 years were full of “hard.” ⠀
And after a bunch of bumps (and sometimes mountains) in the road, I am now married to a wonderful man, and you know what? It is still hard. We are blending lives and he’s raising kids that were not born to him, and we’ve adopted a little boy from an orphanage in Eastern Europe and it is hard.
And I’m realizing that it will always be hard. Whether you are single, or married, or divorced, or have young kids, or can’t have kids, or have older kids making bigger mistakes, or are an empty-nester, or are working too many hours at a job you hate or are unemployed wishing you had a job to hate… life is full of hard.
The trick is to learn to be happy in the hard. To find the goodness, no matter how small it might be. We must stop waiting for the next phase of life, stop looking for happiness around the next corner, and learn to find it wherever we are right in this moment. Because before you know it, this moment somehow becomes years and years that have passed you by.
Research from all over the world has been done on how being happy affects us. I want you to learn not only how my little world has been changed for the better due to the effects of being happy, but how yours can too.
I must tell you that I am a religious person. I have had religious experiences throughout my life, and I am certain that even through my difficult times, I have had a loving Father looking down on me and I have a Savior who stands in my corner! I also believe in the Holy Ghost, who is a comforter and is with me daily. I learned this from my mother. She too grew up in a household surrounded by pain. Alcoholism was prevalent, and abuse occurred frequently. As a child, she was taken to church by her grandma, my sweet Grandma Blanche. When the congregation became too big, they were divided. My Grandma Blanche told my mom, “Cathi, you will have to take yourself to church now.” My mom did just that, going to church from then on. Getting up each Sunday, and dressing for the meeting, she would walk the three blocks to the local building. She was three years old. Can you imagine, in today’s society seeing a three-year-old walking themselves for blocks and blocks? Perhaps times were different, but I believe that she was watched over. Am I grateful for this? You better believe it! She is the most stalwart woman I know. My mother has had trials, she has experienced loss, and yet she has the most beautiful smile and a soul that is close to God. My mom is happy.
For me, you find happiness when you find peace. Begin by looking at yourself and take an inventory. Maybe, like me, you slept alone last night? Did you wake up with a roof over your head? Be happy! Were you warm? Be Happy! Be Grateful! Did you walk outside and see a sunrise, or hear a bird? SMILE! Maybe you heard your child cry, and you thought “I can’t take it one more minute!” I would recommend this– you HEAR! You have a CHILD! Count to ten, or twenty, or one hundred and then smile and move. If we look for the good in life, not only will we begin to find inner peace, others will want to be around us as well.
As I prepared myself in my teenage years to go off to college, I began to do scholarship pageants. School struggles aside, I was intelligent and witty. I had a great talent developing in both singing and being able to talk to people. It was during my pageant experiences that I was once asked the following question. “Katie, where do you see yourself five years from now?” After a moment’s reflection I replied that I saw myself as being a college graduate. I saw myself teaching and being married with a child, maybe two. What I wouldn’t give to go back now, and say that I did just that, but along the way I climbed every mountain of hardship that came my way! I have learned a lot about myself since then, and today I know even more! I should have replied, “In five years I will have taken the time to grow from my mistakes. I will have experienced joys and heartaches which right now I can’t even fathom, and I’ll be grateful for all of it!”
In one of my low points this year, I was homeless and alone. I spent a month living in other people’s homes. I slept on couches and I slept in other people’s beds. Sometimes they had spare bedrooms. Sometimes I took the bed of a child, who graciously moved to the couch. That was a difficult time, but I never had to sleep in my car. I never had to sleep on a bench, or a dingy motel. I never had to worry about my safety. For this I am grateful. I was NOT happy about this situation, but I am happy that I grew from it. I have a lot more to be grateful for, when I see where I am now, and I am happy that times have changed!
My children are wonderful people. I have a beautiful daughter who is kind and talented. She is a caring and all-around great mom. I am grateful for her love, and I am happy. I have a son who calls me “mamma.” He and I have been estranged for eight years. He is in the autistic spectrum, but he is very high functioning. I am grateful for that. He lives with his dad, who helps him because he and I tend to clash. I am so grateful for my ex-husband’s efforts! My third child made it through high school (Massive kudos to all his teachers). When he went through the graduation line they called out his name. He walked to the front, raised his hands above his head and shouted, “I LOVE MY MOM!” That was one of the happiest moments of my life. That was two months ago, right before my homeless episode, and today he is my lost child. Just recently he had a party, and I put on my MOM mantel and called the police on him. Still he loves me, and I am grateful that he understands that what I did was also out of love. My youngest son is a sage. He instills wisdom in me that I can’t imagine coming out of a fourteen-year-old boy. For all my children, my cup of gratitude just spills over. I had the opportunity to be a mother! There is no greater gratitude than that! Happiness can occur even when life is HARD.
As Meredith Gray wrote, from “The Beauty of Motherhood”
“I’d rather be a mother than anyone on earth
Bringing up a child or two of unpretentious birth…
I’d rather tuck a little child all safe and sound in bed
Than twine a chain of diamonds about my [Carefree] head.
I’d rather wash a smudgy face with round, bright, baby eyes
Than paint the pageantry of fame or walk among the wise.”
I firmly believe that gratitude helps you look on the bright side of life. Because I chose early in life to not drink alcohol, I have saved myself from that terrible family addiction. I can think clearly, and I do not have to worry about the consequences that come from a life of debauchery.
I have had several students ask me if my wedding was boring because no spirits were served! My attitude was, “And look at the money I saved!”
Part of having a good attitude comes from learning to be humble. Maybe you are thinking to yourself, ‘and you haven’t learned that yet?” The answer to that is that yes, I am continually being humbled. I am being humbled, refined, molded, and shaped into the type of person that the Lord wants me to be. I am willing to experience that shaping and molding and refining if it means that I will someday get to return to His presence and live in Heaven. This does not mean that it is easy! There are times when I get on my knees, and I begin praying, hoping for answers and strength to make it through a new day. Before the prayer is finished, I am thanking my Father in Heaven for all that He has blessed me with. If you are in touch with your spiritual side, I would be willing to bet that this has happened to you as well.
Sitting in court this morning, waiting for my son to stand before the judge, I was struck by a woman whom my heart immediately went out to. She was in court for having an open container in her vehicle, and for driving recklessly under the influence. She stood there, and when the judge asked her what she wanted to do, she said, “I don’t know, can you help me?” Her voice quivered as she spoke. I thought how sad it was, that she was here because she did not have control over her life at this point and I was filled with gratitude that I had spared myself that obstacle. I can only hope that as my son goes through this experience that he chose, and which I enforced upon him by calling the police and stopping the party- that he will look back and be grateful for this learning experience. He’s not happy now, but perhaps this will change his outlook on his lifestyle, and someday he will recognize where happiness comes from as well.
Sometimes it is hard to see the bright side. It IS hard to be happy. Someone near and dear to me recently told me that he sees no light. My heart yearns to show him that if he would LOOK, he would find things to be grateful for, and that light WOULD come. I don’t believe you fall into happiness. You find it by looking for it. It reminds me of the little saying, “I know I am somebody, ‘cuz God don’t make no junk.” This little saying, coming from the mouth of a child, helps me find happiness. In a more eloquent way the words of my Heavenly Father also apply to happiness, “Men are that they might have joy.”
When I am at a low point, these six little words remind me that although life is hard, “I was meant to have joy”. Look for the good. Find your inner happy face. Fake it till you make it. Whatever motto applies to you, remember this: Happiness is found along the path, not at the end of the road.
Author: Katie Stevens
Katie is the busy mother of four children, and both a teacher and a writer. She loves working behind the scenes at a Good Cause, and her passions include philanthropy and mentoring. She is a singer by birth and a choral director by choice. In her spare time she sleeps, but her spare time IS between 11 pm and 5 am!