Several weeks ago, when I was having a particularly rough time with work/life/my thoughts, I told CB (my therapist) how I sometimes feel about life. She gave me a homework assignment to watch the movie Happy. In the movie we meet one guy who shows his shack of a house that gets wet inside when it rains and he says “but it’s a good house” and he is happy. We also meet a woman in Denmark, who lives in a housing community where people share tasks, take care of each other and are generally happier than people who are just out for themselves.
I’ve made some progress since first seeing the movie, but my first reaction was to get even more unhappy, because these people who have so little are able to be so happy and I have a dry house and all the food, clothing and stuff I
need want and I still can’t muster the same level of enthusiasm and zest for life. I felt like there were societal differences that enable these people to live simpler, happier lives and our society has gone way too far down a different path that we can never get back on track.
There is a guy in the movie who leaves his life of capitalism behind to go work in Mother Teresa’s Home for the Destitute and Dying and my go-to reaction was to think the only way to be happy (black and white thinking distortion) is to walk away from everything and dedicate my life to charity. Since that’s not as easy as it sounds, I thought happiness would never be possible/available for me.
When I talked about how the movie had made me feel in group, one of the other girls who had seen it said that to her it wasn’t about the individual situations, but about connection. The reason the people in the movie are so happy is because they feel connected to and supported by the people around them. Of course I also told CB and of course she gave me the sideways look and said “you know that’s not what that movie is about.” She said it’s about daily choices these people make, to be happy about the things/connections they have, rather than focusing on their living/working conditions.
I don’t know if the awareness is being driven by an actual happiness movement, or whether this generation is naturally starting to let go of the years of distortions, or whether I just happen to have a particularly large number of friends who are going through recovery and awakening, but over the last few months my Facebook news feed has been overrun with messages about happiness as a choice, positivity, introspection, kindness, feeling the feelings, living in the moment and gratitude. One of those posts was this video:
The big story here is gratitude, but I also recognize the connection piece, both of which are central themes in Happy. I cried at that video, because the stories touched me, but also because my mind tried to cheat me again. The first two people I thought of have died, so again, my mind said it’s nice for these people to have the opportunity, but I can never make that same connection. I had to reframe that thought, because this video only provides one example of expressing gratitude. It doesn’t have to be that intense, or once in a lifetime. There are lots of things and people I have to be grateful about and I’m going to start making a point of telling them.