While sitting in the family room one evening I heard wails emanating from another part of the house. The crying got louder and louder as my littlest love came right up to me, staring at me intently as she approached. When I asked her what was the matter, she pointed to her leg and explained that she had hurt it while playing.
I picked her up, nestled her into my lap, and gently kissed the back of her head. I inspected her leg, found no injury, and assured her that everything was alright. Ever the center of attention, my littlest love then continued to cry. After a while, I asked why she was still crying.
“My happy is broken” she lamented through tears.
I used every ounce of composure that I had to stifle my laugh. I continued to hug her tightly and rubbed her leg. “Your happy is not broken,” I assured her. “You just have a little ouchie, but don’t worry, you will soon feel better. Just rest a little while.”
Later that evening, I was recounting this exchange to my husband and we both smiled at the way she had phrased her little feelings.
As much as I wanted to laugh in the moment, I found myself intrigued by her choice of words.
You see, for many years, I had felt that way… in an entirely different context, of course.
I had achieved success by external standards, but I didn’t feel successful.
I had satisfied the expectations that I had for my life, but I didn’t feel satisfied.
I had fulfilled every action plan that I had, but I didn’t feel fulfilled.
I was constantly looking for an escape from compounding busyness, commitments, exhaustion, and overwhelm.
My happy was broken. Or so it seemed.
I have since come to realize that my happy wasn’t broken. Rather, it was lost – buried under piles of to-do lists. Hidden in the overbooked pages of my calendar. Crushed by unrealistic expectations, some self-inflicted and some inherited.
When we prioritize the urgent over the important, when we sacrifice the desired for the expected, and when we choose the needs of everyone else around us before we tend to ourselves, we feel depleted. We become overburdened. We get lost in the mix.
We feel as though our happy is broken. Because there seems to be no joy.
Because fun is fleeting. Because the smiles appear only on the surface.
But that’s not how we are meant to live.
We are meant to live freely, intentionally determining the trajectory of our lives by each choice that we make.
We are meant to live purposefully, finding deep meaning in the simple gifts that we have to offer to those around us.
We are meant to live abundantly, experiencing joy in the beauty that surrounds us. Fully living each moment that is gifted to us.
We were not made to toil until we tire.
We were not made to drown in duty.
We were not made to constantly operate in overwhelm.
And yet, many of us do exactly that. Facing that reality and actually making decisions to intentionally change our course is perhaps the most challenging – and freeing – thing that we can do.
How can we do this? Well, the answer may look different for each of us.
Some of us need to start saying no to others.
Some of us need to start saying yes to ourselves.
Some of us need to ask hard questions, and truly dig deep for the answers.
Some of us need to practice on ourselves a lot less criticism and a lot more compassion.
Some of us need to schedule pockets of silence and tend to self.
Some of us need to do all of the above.
No matter where you find yourself right now, know that it is possible.
Know that you can uncover joy, right where you are.
Know that you can cultivate contentment in the midst of the chaos.
Know that you can ignite a spark for living everyday life.
Your happy is not broken. It may just be lost. Buried and hidden far beneath the surface that is painted with perfection and varnished with validation.
Start to remove the blankets of obligation and expectation that surround you.
Peel back the layers of busyness that prop your feelings of self-worth and prevent you from allowing yourself to rest.
Sift through the messages of ‘less than’ and ‘not enough’ and lavish yourself with grace.
Tear away the distractions that rob you of mindful presence.
Dig deep within yourself until you become reacquainted with who you really are and what you really want.
Stop looking for your happy outside of you.
Your happy is where it has always been: underneath the heaviness of ‘should’.
Look for it there.
I promise, you’ll find it.
About the Author: Hailing from a small island in the Caribbean, Angelina Lee is a wife, mother of three, and Attorney-at-Law. After her Plan A life left her wanting more, she is exploring her Plan Be in which she tries to live more intentionally.