By Rebecca Zook
While driving to the infusion center, I heard on the radio that today is “Happiness Happens” day. It made me pause to think.
Happiness happens? No, it doesn’t. Little happiness fairies do not just follow us around blowing twinkling mood-enhancing pixie dust on us with their glittering wings while unicorns prance around leaving rainbows in their wake. No matter how much I wish it were true.
In the past few weeks, I have had a third cousin diagnosed with stage-four cancer, I lost a family member to suicide and I watched a friend deal with his youngest daughter’s life-threatening/life-altering injury. I’ve had my own struggles trying to drum up enough work to pay for my vital infusions and fears about having to find new health insurance with my pre-existing conditions. The mythical creatures of happiness are not real, but thankfully the state of happiness is, and it’s just as vital to me as my infusions.
I’m sure there are people that “happiness happens” for - people who walk around in a never-ending state of bliss. But, for the most part, I believe happiness takes work, and it is often a conscious choice. Each of us has challenges in our lives whether they’re due to health, finance, conflicts with family, losses of any type and past or current trauma, and there is often more than one going on at the same time. We may face these issues at specific points in our lives, or we may be forced to confront them every day. When that happens, it’s understandable to be consumed by anger, fear and sadness. It’s the easier path to take - to sink into a mode where we no longer enjoy the world around us. One in which we no longer see the good in it. And, it can be nearly impossible to pull ourselves out of that feeling.
I choose happiness. While people expect happiness to be an easy road, it’s not. I don’t think humans have evolved to accept a state of happiness. We get bored. We provoke conflict. We create problems. But if we learn to redirect this natural tendency, to reframe our lives, we can live meaningfully with purpose and do good in the world. Each and every person has the potential to make a positive difference, to start a ripple that spreads and envelops others. We can turn our darkest hour into a light to lead others. Being happy should have higher value than we currently give it.
I do fail from time to time to be happy, but it’s not a reason to give up. I’ve learned to be grateful for what I have rather than mourn what I’ve lost. And, I’ve lost a lot. I am grateful for the experiences I was able to have when I was younger. I am grateful for the experiences I have now. I’ve said it many times, but the little daily moments of joy add up to so much more than the “big events” that we use to mark the passage of time. If we have to miss out on those big moments, we really haven’t lost a lot. We each have to define what is important to us. And, that definition is often in flux (and it should be) as we progress through life. If we don’t stop and examine our lives from time to time, we are doing ourselves a great disservice.
Today was not a one-stick day at the infusion center, but for now, I still get my treatments. They work. I have a great team taking care of my health. I am alive, and I’m not going to let a little extra pain diminish my gratitude.
Look around you and find an object, a moment or a person who made you happy today. Search for these every day. Soon, it will become a natural part of your day to notice the little things. That’s the beginning of making happiness happen. Don't wait for the unicorns. They may never come.
Rebecca Zook is a graphic designer and artist who has common variable immunodeficiency. She receives immune globulin infusions every three weeks and encourages everyone to donate plasma from which this lifesaving medicine is derived.