The Foundation of Happiness


There are two truths I hold in either hand:

1. No one has it all figured out.

2. You're not really messing up.

I sat across from someone recently and had a quiet discussion on how one gets better; on how one finds happiness, in so many words. And as I sat there telling him that I believe it is something that needs to be done alone, I realized I was shooting myself in the foot. But I had a feeling he knew the answer already, and maybe he just needed to hear me say it.

I told him that no one has it all figured out-- it doesn't matter how put together someone looks from the outside, chances are there's something going on that other people don't know about. Maybe they have their dream job, but they are unhappy in their current relationship. Maybe they have a stellar career and marriage, but have a brother with a drug problem, who is a burden on their parents.

Hell, maybe they can't figure out how to stop their basement from flooding during even the lightest of rainstorms. Something that can seem simple and yet it's still complicated.

I know that I'll never fully have a handle on everything in my life. That there will always be something out of my control or comfort zone. And even the things I thought I had a handle on? Well, I'll need to revisit them time and time again. But the difference between today and three years ago is that I now know where to start when I'm knocked off my axis.

I know the things that draw me back to feeling good: a spin class, a Friday night home alone with a slice of pizza and a chick flick, spending time with my parents and my nephew, working on a creative project outside of work, a night spent at an outdoor music venue with those two brothers from North Carolina and a friend by my side.

These are the things that, when everything else falls apart, I know can bring me back to square one. That can bring me back to the foundation of my happiness.

And it took me a good long while to know these things to be true. It took months of waking up and going to a job that wasn't fulfilling, but one that allowed me to fly under the radar while I got my personal life in order. It took me realizing that I didn't like who I was or how I was treating other people - how I was treating myself, too - to be able to pick out books from the self help section and not feel bad about it.

And all of these revelations I needed to discover on my own.

I've never been one to compare myself to others, but shit if it's not upsetting to see other people your age settling down around the same time you kick your live in boyfriend out of your house. And these days people my age are starting families and I can't seem to get a relationship off the ground.

But it's okay. It's okay because no one has it all figured out.

We're all falling down and picking ourselves back up.

So that's truth number one.

As for truth number two...

I really, truly subscribe to the school of thought that unless you're doing something to harm yourself or someone else, you need to cut yourself some fucking slack. "Don't be so hard on yourself" is something we hear so often, that by the time were adults, we're kind of numb to the meaning of it.

But, listen, don't be so hard on yourself, okay?

You're not the fictional brother with the drug problem, right? Like, maybe you were late paying your cell phone bill last month or maybe you're behind on a project at work, but that's not because you spent your money on heroin and played hooky to shoot up, right?

If you are the brother with the drug problem, I can't help you. But you should really go find someone who can.

I don't like to say "things could be worse" because I think, in a lot of ways, that's tempting fate. So instead, when something goes wrong, I think "well, things could be better" and then I get to work on making them better.

Give yourself a break. Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes and most of the ones you've made really aren't that bad. Remember to forgive yourself, too.

I think that's chief among the rest-- forgiving yourself. And the sooner you do that, the sooner you can start focusing on getting some things right, and the sooner you can start building your own foundation.