This sounds silly, being afraid of happiness, but I think there are a lot of out there who are. Certainly there are varying degrees of this fear, but I wanted to put my two cents in on this topic. A recent string of arguments between Erin and I have had this central theme. We all know that Erin is a perfectionist and strives to provide the “perfect” life for us. This alone puts a tremendous amount of strain and pressure on her and when things aren’t going as she envisions, it is harder for her to feel happy. I think this is pretty common among perfectionists.
However, there is another factor contributing to her not being as happy as she ought to be. Fear. Fear of being disappointed (or disappointing). Fear that the happiness is temporary and that the let down when it ultimately goes away is too much to bear. She is safer by not allowing herself to feel that happiness, because the disappointment when it goes away is devastating. It is better to not have loved at all.
I have not been too helpful on this front. Over the past few years I have either been in a start-up company or in a position where I wasn’t really satisfied. Neither provided a tremendous amount of stability, a key to Erin being able to let her happiness flourish. So now that I am in a new job the relief she feels about my employment is fleeting. She cannot allow herself to feel happy about it because she does not yet trust it. Understandably.
Here’s the thing though. Life is bumpy. For everyone. Even for CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies (perhaps especially for them). There are going be times you are happy and they won’t last. There are times you are going to be sad and they won’t last either. Think about the times when you have been elated to be who you are. I can think of lots of times; sitting on a beach, on the Seine with Erin watching the Eiffel tower light up, when we first got Baxter, and then again with Oliver, when we got married, our honeymoon, meeting Erin, graduating from college, getting my new job, a glass of wine watching the sunset at the ranch, and I can go on. At every one of those moments I was as happy as I could be even though I knew it couldn’t last.
Those are some of the easy moments. The trick is to realize you have that skill and apply it more often. Learn to love the smaller moments. They happen all the time. Accept that there are some rough roads ahead, but there are some smooth spots as well. Grab some happiness while you can.
What is the difference if Erin feels safe and happy with my new job now or a year from now? A year of happiness that has been dampened by something she cannot control anyway. This is what people mean when they say you have to choose happiness (and has its roots in the phrase “shit happens”).
This is just another example of life is all in how you approach it. You get to choose. There are going to be times in life when things aren’t perfect (a little secret…those can be happy times too if you really master this skill). But when things are going well jump right in and soak it up as much as you can. It helps you get through the bumpy times and makes life a whole lot easier and enjoyable.