“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.” – Haruki Murakami (1949-)
What’s the difference between happy people and troubled people? It’s the way they process the messiness of their lives. I used to know a grown woman who was very unhappy and walked around feeling jealous of the happy people she met. She complained that life had handed her a miserable existence, and it wasn’t fair that other people didn’t have problems like she did. I was a child at that time, and so I took her assessment to be the truth.
In case you’re one of those folks who thinks those of us who walk around with a grin have an exemption from life’s storms, maybe I can help you join the ranks of the happy. I am a people watcher, an observer of life, and I have an insatiable curiosity about people and how they go about their lives. What I have noticed is that The Creator exempts NO ONE from pitfalls, tragedies and serious problems. It’s the people who, when their lives are a mess, ACCEPT that their lives are a mess who can walk out of the storm, as Haruki Murakami writes above.
I have two good friends, both of whom lost their husbands — one to choices on his part that ended the marriage and one to death. The first friend is struggling to believe that he did what he did and that her marriage is over. She wants the pain to end. She wants the storm to be over. She wants everything to be like it used to be. The second friend came to peace with her husband’s death within a few months. Yes, she had lost, but she immersed herself in her grief and then, she was able to see what she had gained. You can guess which of my friends is now experiencing happiness.
So, what are the steps to turning the messiness of life into happiness?
- Acknowledge your losses. Talk or write out them out. Get help from a professional counselor; the good ones help you acknowledge your pain at a rate that won’t devastate you.
- Grieve your losses. Some of your dreams will never come true. Some people will not be in your life, or at least, not in the way you’d like them to be in your life.
- Make your losses matter. Use them to do something positive for someone else. American TV personality John Walsh turned the abduction and murder of his son into a crusade which contributed to the capture of more than 1000 fugitives. Use your losses to shape your character in a way that softens you and makes you empathetic to others.
- Walk through your losses into your new life. Your life will never be the same. It’s not supposed to. You are more empathetic now. You appreciate sunrises more. You don’t take for granted that you will be alive tomorrow. You consider any day without a tragedy a beautiful one, and guess what? That puts a smile on your face!