Happily ever after?
“And then, the prince and the princess lived happily ever after”.
We all grew up listening to tales ending with similar quotes. As a result, for most of us the concept of happiness is something “big and continuous”.
We all dream of the “happy days” that will eventually come after that stressful period we’re in, hopefully sometime in the near future. And exactly because we all expect something “big” to come, “in the future”, we don’t even notice the “small” things around us that make us happy “now”. But what if happiness in life is built around those small things that we don’t appreciate enough? What if it’s an accumulation of those moments of joy that we’re not even aware of because we’re so much focused on the big cloud of happiness that will finally surround us sometime in the future?
On a cold winter morning, a sudden heavy rain shower burst on the streets of Madrid when I was on my way to my Spanish course. Normally what do we do while driving? We’re immersed in thoughts as usual, we kind of notice the rain, probably groaning “what horrible weather!” and then continue our thoughts on the “meeting to come”, “problems at home”, “bills to pay”, “vacation planning” etc.
But that morning, stepping back for a short period from all problems in my life, I chose to enjoy those moments of happiness that suddenly opened out of nowhere: “Being in my warm car in such a cold weather, not getting an inch wet in the rain and having the pleasure to listen to a wonderful music as a bonus“
And then I realized that life in fact is a mixture of stress, difficulties and small joys. The important is to accept the stress and difficulties as a normal course of life, to be conscious of the moments of happiness and to enjoy them even if it is for three seconds.
Even in our most difficult periods, when we’re in pain, we have moments of happiness that we don’t even notice. Because as one of my favorite authors Khalil Gibran has stated so gracefully in his poem “Joy and Sorrow”, happiness and pain dance together.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,”
and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board,
remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Excerpt from JOY AND SORROW, The Prophet,Khalil Gibran
What happens when we wear our best dress 10 days in a row? Do we feel as excited as the first day or do we get used to it? If we were continuously happy, could we notice our happiness? We have to feel the pain in order to be aware of the happiness. That’s why these two always dance together. And when we know that, we can look through life from a quite different perspective.
Since “joy and sorrow” dance together, if we can be conscious of those moments of happiness, then we can focus on them, even use them as small breaks to recharge and pass through the difficult and painful periods with much easiness and less damage.
How can we do that?
Let’s think about how we generally behave when we go through difficult times: we tend to escape to the past refreshing our memories from the “good old times” or to the future dreaming of “happily ever after” days to come. Unfortunately neither of these two solutions fixes the present and they are just an escape from the reality.
My suggestion is not to escape but face the pain, to accept it as a natural course of life but to balance it with the joy and appreciation of little things in life.
In other words, while facing pain, to not focus only on the pain but notice and value those moments of happiness that comes as a bonus.
My mother’s funeral was one of the most painful days in my life. Although it was an expected death, can anyone really prepare herself/himself to the death of a mom? When the moment of saying goodbye arrives does the intensity of the pain decrease because she is finally released from suffering?
Still, while immersed in pain I noticed the beautiful sunshine, which is so unusual for February. My heart was suddenly filled with the joy of this wonderful farewell to my mom full of sunshine and with so many people being able to come due to good weather conditions.
I believe that there are “moments of happiness” spread into our lives in any period. Let’s just be aware of them , appreciate and enjoy them!