2020 was a strange one, eh? Difficult for some. Devastating for others. A year filled with pretty much everything. The near impeachment of a President, peaceful (and some not so peaceful) protests, the death of a Chief Justice, life-threatening storms, fires, and other natural disasters, an election filled with more political shenanigans than I could ever imagine (does anyone remember the days when we knew who was President close to 24-hrs. after the polls opened?? 🙋🏻♀️), oh yeah, did I forget to mention the global pandemic?
Certainly no one’s life went to plan in 2020. I can hardly believe that at this time last year I was enjoying frigid temps in sunny Florida, without a care in the world. Who knew that a mere 60 days later the country would be in lockdown, the least of my worries would be the cold weather in FL, and I would dedicate 77 straight days to caring for my parents, sans pickleball? Despite steering clear of mainstream media, unfollowing every annoying (read: politically obsessed) friend in my Facebook newsfeed, and the help returning in June to lessen the load, by December my exhaustion was complete. In utter disgust I deactivated my Facebook account and this time I am not looking back. Gone are the inane, endless debates about whether or not a mask is effective (wait, is Covid-19 even real?!? 🤦🏻♀️). No more memes stating the obvious fact that Donald Trump will go down in history as the greatest embarrassment the United States has ever had for a President. And I managed to wiggle back out of my hometown and into the open arms of my grandchildren. Whew!
Yeah, 2020 was hard on all of us, and some definitely more than me. RIP 🥀 Cousin John. Still, when December came, every time I heard something along the lines of, “Thank the stars 2020 is gone! It was horrible! I can’t wait for 2021 to get here!!
In 2021 (when the virus is contained, a vaccine is found, and the madman ousted) I can finally be happy again!!”
More times than I can count I had to bite back my reply:
If you did not find a way to be happy in 2020, rest assured that happiness will not find you in 2021.
Packing for move number 31 (or is it 34? clearly I’ve lost count), I was reminded that a change in location had never markedly improved my life. If anyone knew that, it was me. As far back as 1991 I learned (the hard way) that ‘wherever you go, there you are.’ Turns out time is the same (read whenever in place of wherever). In truth, despite the global difficulties we all waded through last year, I also managed to accumulate many beautiful, amazing memories, gained a treasure-trove of relationships, achieved personal milestones, developed new skills, read life-changing books, learned all sorts of useful things, had a ton of fun, and discovered ways to take care of and appreciate myself and others on a whole new level.
As I look back on my life, it occurs to me that there have been even hard years in the past. I remember standing in my kitchen in 2014, having just ‘celebrated’ my first birthday without my sister, begging my was-band to let me join him for counseling in a last-ditch attempt to save a marriage that had died many years earlier; and when I asked my daughter if she knew the last time I had been happy, she answered without missing a beat: “Hawaii,” she said.
Happiness is a fickle companion when we allow circumstances to dictate it.
I spent oh so many years doing that! Enough to teach me that happiness is a state of mind, one that I can find in the blink of an eye – completely apart from any outer circumstance.
Did you know that you become what you practice? There is an old saying among caregivers of the elderly:
When you grow old, you just become more.
More of what you were when you were young(er). I used to think it was due to the loss of impulse control. But having become more intimately acquainted with the elderly, I now believe it is simply a matter of habit.
They say that workers in nursing homes can tell the patient from the angry and the kind from the nasty in the first few minutes they spend with a resident. It is as if what we choose moment by moment when we are young eventually cements into our personality. Not only do we lose any desire or capacity to change our behavior, we become inured to it altogether. Having seen the end result of people committed to a life of complaining and otherwise negative thoughts/behaviors, people who cannot enjoy life without expecting the other shoe to drop, I cannot see a downside to seeking the kind of happiness that is not blown about by every wind of circumstance.
Sometime in late summer or very early fall of 2020 I asked a family member a question that I hope I never forget. They had spent several minutes proclaiming how miserable Donald Trump had made their life, how unhappy they were because he was President, and how Trump had basically ruined their life. It was quite the lament, I have to say! But one I had been listening to for close to a year at that point. I just couldn’t take it anymore without voicing the question that bubbled up inside me every time anyone of privilege complained about their quality of life under the regime of Donald Trump:
Give me one example of how your personal everyday life has been affected (for good or ill) since the day that he took office almost 4 years ago … … …
IF you never watched the news.
Perception really is everything. And perception is dictated by one thing and one thing only: Focus. Keep your attention on what is bad in the world and you will feel bad. Focus on what is good in the world and you will feel good. But when we realize that good, bad, and even great have always been and always will be present around us, maybe then we will finally turn inside to discover the divine spark that is able to bring forth the joy of being alive despite any outside circumstance. That, my friends, will be the great awakening. And it is one that each of us can choose to have at any point in time.
I will not look for happiness in 2021. Instead, I will focus my gaze on the one place that happiness is always available to me – inside my heart. Nothing can ever shake it loose – except my willingness to place my attention elsewhere.
Happiness is right here, right now. It is within me and within you. Do you have the courage to go within to find it? I warn you, it will demand that you drop everything else. The happiness inside will require you to let go of all the stories you tell about your past, and you will have to release all of the ‘what ifs’ of your future. The past is a murky, half-remembered thing and the future does not – will not ever in fact – exist, apart from your dream of it. You and me, right here, right now. I choose to celebrate that.
Please don’t go looking for happiness in 2021. It is not there. Happiness is within you. All it will take is a little bit of focus.
Much love, much light,