Oprah’s got her “Aha!” moments. Mine are more like “Huh?” moments.
One of those happened as I was hustling down a cobbled street in Israel, sandwiched between hawkers selling scarves, hookahs and everything in between, when a friend turned around and grinned.
“All this just makes me so happy! Toni, what makes you happy?”
I skidded to a stop and something in my heart slowed down too. It was such a simple, benign question, but it sliced through me like a sharpened sword.
My friend scurried on ahead, but I just stood stationary feeling wounded. I had no answer to her question because I couldn’t recall the last time I felt happy. Despair? Despondency? Discouragement? Those were fresh in my mind, but not happiness.
I wanted to cry. Instead I turned my head to the beckon of a bearded man. I followed him behind a curtain, through a wall of smoke and into a cramped back room where I spent a fortune on an incredible string of prayer beads.
One day I’ll take a picture of my beads to show you. We’ll talk about what each bead represents. But right now let’s stick to the question: Why does happiness bunk with some people while it bypasses others?
I thought traveling to Israel (a place I’d always wanted to go) would make me happy. I thought buying prayer beads would make me happy. I thought I was genuinely pursuing a “life of happiness.” So why the crap was I still unhappy?
Yes. Yes. A lot of really horrible, painful, unfair s#@t had happened to me—from birth. So what? S#@t is like rain—it splatters on everyone. My problems were merely circumstances. External factors. Happiness, as they say, is an inside job. I should have been able to feel happy, no matter what had happened to me.
Turns out I was “doing” happiness all wrong.
I was trying to chase it, cage and keep it. That was never going to happen because during the inner search that followed, I realized that happiness isn’t a long-term relationship. That’s not to say that people don’t live long, happy lives. They do it all the time. But not because they contain happiness. Just the opposite. They give it all the freedom it needs to flutter and flitter and find its own way into life.
The happiest people I know are people who have learned to recognize happiness when it knocks, to let it in and make it welcome, to enjoy its magic, and to recognize when it’s time to move on. They open the door and boot it out, bidding, “Thanks for the visit, come back again soon.”
That’s right. They don’t try to force happiness to stay because it’s not meant to stay. If all you ever knew was happiness, you wouldn’t be happy.
Truth is, happiness doesn’t bunk long with anyone. Truly happy people don’t complicate things. Their bliss dances out of life’s most simple pleasures like my grandson, Atticus, and a single piece of chocolate cake.
Hell, who can’t be happy smeared in chocolate cake?
Turns out a lot of people. They’re called zombies—the living dead. I was one of them—someone who goes through the motions without feeling the emotions. Didn’t matter how much chocolate cake I had; life had bludgeoned me to the point that even unlimited cake didn’t make me happy.
In such sad shape, I read article after article on depression. They all concurred that 100 percent of people experience sadness, but only about 20 percent allow it to linger. I wanted out of that stat, but what could rescue me?
My heroes turned out to be endocannabinoids. (try saying that three times really fast). Among all the “feel good” chemicals that our brains produce, endocannabinoids are our “bliss” chemicals.
Our Original Designer created us to know bliss. A 2012 study done at the University of Arizona, highlights the best-known endocannabinoid called Anandamide which derives from the Sanskrit word Ananda, which means bliss.
Bliss is more than happiness. The dictionary defines it as perfect happiness.
I did and when I realized that I was designed to be happy, I stopped chasing happiness. I sat still and let it come to me. Without doubt, that qualified as an aha moment. It’s when gratitude overpowered fear. And vulnerability opened both my heart and my eyes to just how blessed I was to simply be alive.
When I realized I wasn’t a broken vessel incapable of containing happiness, but that I was a soul created to experience bliss, I stopped stuffing the whole cake and learned to savor ever crumb.
Cake tastes better that way. So does life.
So please begin today to remember that you are designed to experience perfect happiness. You deserve it, not because I say so, but because your perfect and divine Designer says so. It’s in your very DNA. And here’s a scientific miracle begging your participation: Just by thinking, “I’m meant to be happy—I welcome happiness,” your brain releases endocannabinoids and a whole host of other “feel good” neurotransmitters.
Give it a thought. And another. And another. Flood your brain with chemicals made to combat whatever plagues your brain.
No, I’m not claiming that a single thought will annihilate your sadness, but it will make your slice of cake taste sweeter, and it will most assuredly take your inner zombie by the hand and lead you away from the edge.