I was shocked when in my 30s, I realized I was frightfully uncomfortable being happy.
When I was a little kid I know I was happy a lot. Not always jump-up-and-down happy. but there was a lot of laughter in my life. I have countless memories of being with girlfriends and laughing so hard that my stomach hurt.
My teens and 20s had a lot of laughter -- but also a lot of tears. I wasn't alone. Most of my friends had the same set of problems that frustrated us, scared us, or made us angry. There was always a guy we really liked who didn't like us back, a relationship where something wasn't quite right, or the fear of being alone. There was roommate drama and family drama. We weren't in the right job or the right career. We didn't know what we wanted to do with our lives, we didn't like our co-workers, our boss didn't get us, These frustrations were always up for conversation when we came together for drinks.
The opposite was also true. When someone was content with a boyfriend or a job, it still somehow felt fleeting. There was no sense of permanence. and change always seemed just around the corner.
Then I entered my 30s. After years of dating some great guys (and some total losers), I found an amazing partner to share my life with and got married. We were equals in every sense of the word and we didn't have a single thing to argue about. Not one. I had always moved between cities freely, but we found ourselves happily living in New York City with no plans to leave. Professionally, I had finally made the plunge to work for myself. It could be scary and uncertain at times, but I felt great about my decision. I had learned from both the good jobs and the terrible ones about the environments where I thrive, and I was confident in my abilities to make a positive impact in the world. I even had time to volunteer.
Then, one night out with my friends a funny thing happened. I didn't have anything to say. I didn't have any complaints. Nothing was on my nerves. Things were good. I realized I was actually happy. The editorial voice in my head kept saying this was fleeting and that very well might be true. Still, in that moment I was speechless. And worse, I felt left out. I didn't feel better than any of my friends. I felt different from them. I felt alone and dare I say? Boring.
Had my pendulum really swung so far to the other side that I didn't know how to be happy?
I found myself having to learn how to lean into being happy. I had to relearn how to be in the moment. I had to discover how to share happiness with my friends without apologizing or feeling guilty. Once I did, I began to relax. I could also see the road ahead of me more clearly.
When people live "happily ever after" in the movies, no one ever shows the after. It's hard to know what comes next. In my quest to be happy, I had never really considered what to do when I got here.
I have worked to get used to sticking with the positive. I still struggle when I feel cheerful where angst used to thrive. But I've also accepted that this might be my new normal. It's okay to be satisfied. Now, when I feel guilty for being happy, I just shake it off with a smile.