For most of my life I have held back on being happy when people around me are in pain. And I so want to be happy! When I am in this way of thinking and someone tells me about a problem they are having, I jump in to fix it or demand that they either fix it or suck it up and get over it already!
Then I learned that my happiness should not be dependent on others, that this makes them responsible for my happiness. So I dutifully added a new behaviour to my repertoire – keep the unhappy person at arms’ length, nod, smile, but don’t really engage: Don’t let them spoil that precious vibe. I even labelled some people as ‘downers’
I became familiar with nonviolent communication and now with caring science and learned about the joy of empathy. It is possible to just sit and listen to someone who is suffering and be with them and both of you appreciate and enjoy the connection. Sometimes an opportunity to help arises in the moment and sometimes something clears for the other person and whatever it is just becomes a little more bearable.
The thing is that the quality of my happiness has become so much deeper and more nuanced in these moments. I now know a calm happiness, a deeply deeply sad happiness, a happiness as soft and gentle as a baby’s breath, even a happiness infused with anger and purpose. It has been a long journey of learning and unlearning, and what is behind me lies ahead of me, but I will keep returning my wayward feet to this path. ❤