Musings

Why you want to get happy now, before it’s too late.

Right after graduating with a Master’s Degree in Art Therapy I took a job in a recreation department at a long-term care facility, a “nursing home”. The residents were mostly elderly and there was a floor with patients who had Alzheimer’s disease. I learned 2 important things in the (almost a) year that I worked there.

1) It’s Ok to quit things. I could not sustain an upbeat attitude like the rest of the rec staff there. I hated going back after a weekend and finding out who died. I felt guilty about not wanting to work there, until I didn’t… Until I realized that I was taking up the position of someone else who would bring joyfulness there each day and be glad to come up with ideas and events for the residents. In addition, I was not moving in the direction of using my gifts to their fullest potential while languishing in guilt and grief. My being there at that time – maybe it would be different now, maybe not – was not best serving the world. I believe that. And I believe it’s Ok to quit things.

2) There is a cutoff date for your happiness. I noticed that many of the residents personalities seemed fixed. There were people in a really great mood – happy because it was Tuesday. There were people who were grumpy or angry, because it was Tuesday. You could count on them day after day being in the same mood, no matter what we did, who visited, how the weather was, or even their health. It was like an exaggerated and elongated emotional state. I wondered how it got there. I suspect that they had been that way most of their life, like more than 50 percent of the time for years and years. I have no scientific research to back this up. And I don’t know when the cutoff is. It’s probably different for everyone. I do know that I want to establish myself firmly in happiness… now.

I also know that it is an inside job – that my happiness detached from what others do or don’t do, regardless of the weather, the day of the week, my health status or other external situations, is what I am looking for and want to hold on to. Things will happen and I might feel sad, concerned, irritated, even lost, for periods. There will be things I try and choose to quit, because owning the power to choose is key on the road to joy. My essential deep-seated happiness and serenity however, will always rise again.

And then when I am old, and a recent college graduate seems unhappy and swayed by circumstance in the nursing home where I live and she works, I’ll tell her,

“Honey, it’s ok to quit. Go use your gifts. And find your happy.”

 

HappyPath

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