When my mom passed when I was 18, it was terrible, but I thought, “I can get through this, I just have to get through the next five years. Then I’ll be happy again.”
You see, I expected to suffer. I expected to grieve for 5 years because I remembered that, that was how long it took for me to get over losing my Dad 5 years earlier. I figured that I would grieve and be sad for about five years and then after that, I would be happy again. So, if my Dad died when I was 13 and my mother passed when I was 18, that would mean I’d be grieving and suffering for 10 years.
However, when I was 19, I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Since that seemed terrible, and measurable to losing a parent, I contemplated the amount of grieving that would be necessary in order to move forward through the diagnosis and feel happy again. Five? Would five years be reasonable to grieve an untreatable disease?
As a result of my experiences, I was learning to handle outside challenges, by blocking out time and putting off happiness. By my calculation, my calendar was booked for the next fifteen years to be sad. You see, I learned to delay happiness. I learned that happiness was only possible if life outside of me lined up just the way I wanted it to line up. That would mean that no one could die, there could be no diseases, no divorces, no weight gain, no aging. I had believed that I could only be happy, once the sad feelings of loss subsided or the perceived sense of lack dissolved. That was my expectation. That was my standard. That was the unconscious standard of happiness I had learned to live by.
I don’t think it’s just me. I believe a lot of other people have the same types of expectations and standards that they live by. Have you ever unconsciously, lived by the expectation that until you got this job, owned this house, had a bank account with a certain amount of money in it, found your passion, or met the right person etc…only then you could be happy?
But your parent died. How can you be happy now, if your parent died?
I’m not saying that I, or anyone else does not have the right to be sad or to grieve. I have more than enough people in my life who would support my choice to be sad, who have told me I had every right to feel the way I was feeling. “I can’t believe what you’ve been through. I could never go through what you’ve gone through,” they would say.
They respected my challenges, and they honoured my strength to move through it. But, what did it matter? What did it matter that I was justified to be sad? Justified or not, feeling sad sucks. It’s depressing, and it’s exhausting. No one wanted to be around me. Even I didn’t want to be around me. It made me mope around, eat tubs of ice cream and drink way too much wine. I mean what’s the point?
People told me that I needed time to process the loss. People told me I needed time so I could learn to accept my situation.
Learn to accept my situation? That sounded like a pretty low standard to live by. It’s like stating, “My life sucks, but I’m OK with it.” Really? Is that the expectation I wanted for myself? Instead of my life sucks, I’ll rise to the state of, “suck it up?”
Acceptance to me was synonymous with tolerance and if I was tolerating my life, I was not loving my life, and if I was not loving my life, I was never going to feel the happiness my heart longed for.
I refused to see acceptance as my glass ceiling.
In that moment, I refused to keep doing what I was doing. In that moment, I decided that what I was doing to handle my experiences, was not working, and I was going to find a different way. Just because I had set the expectation or standard, did not mean it was unchangeable.
Going beyond the standard of acceptance, required me to do whatever I had to do to make it happen. I was going to learn whatever I needed to learn, I was going to challenge whatever thought I needed to challenge, and I was going to open myself up greater possibilities, because I was choosing to be happy now. If I wanted to feel happy, I needed to think differently and to think differently, I needed to identify, question and transform the limiting beliefs that shaped my thoughts.
I invite all of us to raise the expectation of what’s possible and question the thoughts that are preventing us from connecting with our natural state of peace, calm and happiness. It’s time to set a new standard, set a new expectation of what is possible in the moment. It’s time to stop delaying the happiness that exists right now. It’s time to require more of ourselves so that we can experience what is our divine right. We need only one standard, and that is to see the gift that exists in every moment. To see the possibilities. To notice the beauty and recognize that we require nothing outside of ourselves. We need to see ourselves as a gift, to notice the beauty of our existence, and recognize that we already are, what we are looking outside of ourselves to feel.
I now recognize that the way I feel now, this state of peace, calm and happiness, is and was, always available to me no matter what was happening outside of me and it was only my thinking that was keeping me from being aware of it.
I invite you to stop putting off happiness. I invite you to write in your day timer, “Be happy now,” because your experience, depends on it.
Lori Brant is an Author, Teacher, ACC Life Coach, and Life Coach Trainer for ICF Life Coach Certification approved programs. She provides one on one coaching in person or by teleconference. Learn more by going to www.LoriBrant.com