As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world ... as in being able to remake ourselves. - Mahatma Gandhi
I started out a few years ago not trying to be great, but trying to remake myself. I realized that by age 55 with my children raised, my graduate degree completed, my career at a place I enjoyed, and my dream home built, I’d moved so far from who I was as not to know anymore. The challenge became unearthing that person. I called it the happiness project because I knew only one thing: if I committed to being authentic, I would be confused. I didn’t know who I authentically was; however, if I committed to being happy, I would find my authentic self in doing those things and spending time with those people who gave me the greatest joy. I can’t say that each day has been happy. In fact, many of the days have been filled with some of the most dread, the most overwhelming darkness, and the most intense sadness I’ve ever experienced. This is what happens when one “burns the boats” so she can’t escape the island. My island was happiness and although I initially thought it would be bursting with days eating chocolate and playing the piano between bouts of drinking good wine and chattering with fascinating friends, it turned out to be isolated, a rare and lonely place where I was forced to come to meet myself.
Committing to happiness was a culling out process. Because it was a choice, I had to choose between behaviors and people who contributed to my happiness. Those choices led me down a frightening path that is only now winding out of the woods where I can see and feel more clearly. Some of the people I thought would be left behind have walked with me into this new place and although I would not have said this even a year ago, today I can honestly say without a doubt that I am loved greatly. I know this with certainty because I’ve had to leave behind behaviors and beliefs that did not make me happy. And although I would not have said this less than a year ago, today I can honestly say without a doubt that I am worthy of great love. Being greatly loved and worthy of it in no way makes me a great person, but I now recognize that I am a sacred person. And although I would not have said this six months ago, today I can honestly say without a doubt that we are all sacred.
This admission came after one of the most intense and hurtful experiences of my life. The circumstances surrounding this realization aren't important. The outcome is. I chose to act from my heart and see it as a spiritual problem, one that couldn't be solved or resolved with words or actions that would make sense to anyone. I finally (and I mean finally after tons of tears and pages and pages of poor pitiful me drama writing), saw there was another side to the situation. That glimpse of a way across the pain meant I could latch on to that light and gently, slowly, ultimately pull myself to safety. In safety, I could find happiness and I could see others as sacred. On the other side of that pain, I could allow that we may not behave in ways that honor our sacredness, but we are nonetheless sacred. The behaviors are a choice. Being sacred just is.
My commitment to happiness has brought me to a much different place than I would have thought a month ago. I am happiest when I interact with each person’s sacred self, which gives me the freedom to be in a much happier place with them. I am happiest when I accept ambiguity and uncertainty, which gives me the freedom to be in a much happier place while I explore where I am going. I am happiest when I am focused on remaking myself, which gives me the freedom to remake my world into a better place for everyone. Coming from my happy place, I get far more smiles and hugs and that-- makes me happy, which is a pretty great place to be and more authentically me.