“I’m not so afraid of losing something that I won’t try havin’ it” — Zoe Washburn Firefly

I love that quote and it resounds with me.  In a lesser form its the answer I give when people ask me how I can possibly go to events, concerts, plays, or even dinner by myself.  If I didn’t, I would have missed out on a huge portion of my life so far, and I’m not afraid of reaching out to get it.   A great many people feel exactly the opposite, however, and spend a huge amount of energy working to prevent themselves from enjoying things, trying things, or doing anything that might change their lives from dreariness and complacency. And they will tell you so if you ask.  If you ask, “I know you really want X and you know how to get it, so why don’t you?”  they will answer with all the reasons why attempting to have X will cause their life to change and they don’t want that.  And there is no guarantee of having X anyway so why bother.

What they are actually saying is they are afraid of happiness because if they once achieve happiness, they may lose it afterwards and that would be worse than having it in the first place.  So they need to not be happy.  They need to ‘make do’ and ‘put up with’ what they have, put their heads down and not try for something that would change the status quo.  This response is not to be confused with someone who has a quiet life and is truly happy doing what they do, which may seem boring or mundane or unspectacular.  One mans happiness is another man’s jail.  However, you can tell when someone is genuinely happy and when the are just going through the motions.  Happiness is like sunlight.  It brightens everything around it, warms and encourages everyone it comes into contact with (let’s leave deserts out of this simile for a moment) and can be felt even when it isn’t seen.  It’s life-giving and life affirming.  When someone is trying to act like they are satisfied with their life and are truly happy, you can tell its a mask because there is no sunlight in it.  It doesn’t warm anyone.  It’s going through the motions and there is something missing, something not quite right, an empty space that causes and echo when they speak.

Change and loss are part of life.  No way around that and now way to stop it.  It just is.  With that in mind, there is a choice to be made between taking the chance to be happy or attempting to avoid happiness to protect oneself.  It is possible to avoid the majority of happiness that comes your way, although there will be happy moments no matter what you do.  No one can completely control their environment so there’s no way to avoid moments of joy and contentment.  And in the end we are social creatures who need happiness once in a while, even if it is in limited and qualified amounts.  But what would happen if we turned this on its head?  What if we chose to strive for happiness?  Same rules apply, you can’t be 100% happy all the time.  You won’t have happiness on your speed dial and you will still need to be aware of your surroundings and the people in your life and deal with the daily ins and outs of life.  But wouldn’t it be better if you challenged yourself to try to reach for what you truly want? Or is it too scary to think about what you life would be like if you achieved it?

Personally, I think it would be exciting for everyone. As it is said in EM Forster’s “A Room with a View”:  ‘If miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting both for us and for her.’