When is the last time you experienced unexplained joy or happiness? I am not talking about laughing. There is a big difference. Am talking about days of joy oozing fresh from deep down your heart. A sense of happiness that you cannot immediately explain or give someone else credit for. If you have not experienced that then you have not lived.
This week am celebrating hitting a new pace and distance in my new found hobby; running. When Covid-19 hit we all felt a shift. I actually felt like things had come to a standstill and it remained so for several days. Long boring week days and short drives to try and motivate the weekends. I then asked myself, what really makes my heart leap? And just like that my Aha moment happened. It has nothing to do with specific work, people or money. These are byproducts of something else.
What makes my heart leap and glow from deep down is new goals, new challenges, new tasks and sharing the lessons that come with all that. The joy of starting a new goal, accomplishing it, doing or learning something new sets up a beaming light from my heart to the face. This was probably just a confirmation of Lisa Crawford words; emotional experience alters happiness than material goods; having can never replace being. That’s was my turning point and this has been one of most genuinely happy seasons.
I had actually not thought of this deeply until last week. I was listening to a podcast by a certain church Bishop. In his opening statement and in a loud voice he said “There are three things that you will never find; Peace, Love and Happiness.” For a moment I thought either I listening to the wrong person or the person had no idea what he was talking about. I however decided to keep listening, if anything it was at night and I had nothing to lose. He went ahead and gave the metaphor of a blacksmith. I hope you have lived long enough to see one.
The work of the blacksmith is to make products from plain metals. He moulds the metals into great products. Despite the hard work, he does not use all those products by himself. The products are taken by others who use them and enjoy them. He is the producer and the supplier of those products. The point is that we need to learn how to be the producers and suppliers of beautiful things. It may not be an easy task and sometimes we are tempted to associate with those who have them with the hope that they will rub it on us. Unfortunately, the truth is if you do not mould yourself to produce the three; peace, love and happiness you will always be in a maze. You will move from one person to another, one place to another and even one religion to another trying to find them. The truth is the three are not found in other people or places we have to create them within us and then supply it to others.
The danger of looking for them from other people or places is that we live under their mercy. They dictate how much they can give you and when. If they decide that you will have a bad day, then you will have one. If they dictate that you will be happy then you will but they determine when and how. In a Kenyan saying; they give it to you in bits like groundnuts. This will drain you and sometimes live you feeling more empty. Until you get comfortable with being who you really are, you will not know if you are choosing something or someone out of love or neediness.
Next time you feel out of tune because people are not treating you the way you expect or you are not where you think you should be mentally or emotionally, remember to create your own peace, happiness or love. Then become a supplier. No one wants to hang around someone who is always sad, miserable or negative. No one wants to hang around someone who is always seeking for validation. They drain your energy. It’s okay to acknowledge that you are feeling off. It’s okay to talk it out to someone. It’s however not okay to throw a pity party. The most important thing is to realize that the buck stops with you. You are totally responsible for your happiness and peace. Whether you are getting support from friends, family, therapist or coach; you have the final task. They cannot do it for you.
This then justified the Bishops words, “You will never find happiness, love or peace” but you can create it or produce it and other people around you will benefit from your overflow. Nothing surpasses hanging out with people who are happy in their own space. Happy with who they are, how far they have come and where they are going. They do not have it all together; no one does. But when crisis throws them off balance, they dust themselves remind themselves of the big picture, forgive themselves and learn. They then hold their head high with a smile and keep going. They have also leant what makes their heart leap, what brings them indefinite joy, joy that is not dependent on someone or material things. Unless you are insecure in your own space you want to hang out with this kind of people. They make you learn, grow and stay focused despite the challenges.
This season has taught me a lot. I have seen people who stay alone and those with families get as lonely and as uncomfortable. I have also seen people who stay alone enjoy their solitude as much as those with families have enjoyed company. I have had ladies call me because they feel overwhelmed, they have home schooling, work and other family roles to take care of. I have heard men say “I have to go to the office because I cannot be in the house anymore.” We longed to be with families but they have become a major source of conflict. When this conversation happens with ladies, my question always is “What’s your pick me up” If you are a Kenyan lady you must have come across that phrase. In short what is the one thing that you can do by yourself and for yourself to rise from that low moment?
This could be as simple as getting a new hairdo or getting the nails done or it could be as complicated as revisiting a long term goal that you left hanging somewhere. Everyone irrespective of gender needs to find something that they do for themselves to create their own happiness. Then they can be energized and fresh enough to enjoy their life and serve others. Take that holiday, start that new class, go hiking, run, dance, do yoga, ride or drive to a new place, visit nature, watch the stars, take a photo walk, garden, watch a night fire, lunch date with yourself or a great friend, give yourself a treat.
Be courageous enough to do something simple or silly. Reach out to that girl or boy that lies deep inside of you. As Maya Angelou said, “I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias. We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.”
The world order dictates that we are interdependent and true to it, we need each other. However, maturity is realizing that life is personal and you hence need to learn independence. You need people to walk together to where you are going but you do not need people for you to be. If their journey stops yours should not. If they are not in a position to lift you when you are down, then you need to be able to lift yourself. In the words of Katie Reed, “Self-care is giving the world the best of you instead of what is left of you.”
There is no greater joy than knowing that wherever life finds you; physically, mentally or emotionally, you can find your rhythm and thrive. That is my greatest believe and strength. That I am responsible for my joy, peace and love. Giving it away is my pleasure, receiving it back is a privilege. Whatever you do for others do it because you want to, not because you expect any of the three things from them. “If you only play for the applause then you place your happiness in the hands of the audience and live in fear of their disapproval. If you live for their praise you will die from their criticism”
The coffin maker wakes up every day with great hope for business. This is an indicator that it could be your last day but you have no idea that it is. Life is too short to stay sad or spend it looking for love, peace and happiness. Create your own peace and happiness because no one can take it away without your consent. Love yourself so much until they want to know the person behind your glow. If you borrow either of the three from someone else, you have to be willing to take it on their own terms.
You will not be happy when you get to a certain place, meet a certain person, earn that much, invest that much or look a certain way. You will be happy when you decide to. The beginning is to find what makes you genuinely happy and not necessarily attached to someone or someplace. Then you can create your joy, peace and love regardless of wherever you are, the stage of life you are in or whatever season you are going through.
I would thrive through each day as long as there is a new goal to chase, something new to learn, something different to do and an avenue to share the learnings. That’s my Ikigai (reason for living.) What’s your thing? What’s your “pick me up”? Have you found your Ikigai? Find it and find life! In the words of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, “There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. That deep place of silence is right in your room, your garden or even your bath tub.” Get out of the maze; stop searching and start creating.
Happiness is not out there, it is in you and it’s not something that you postpone for future, it’s something you design for the present.