Disclaimer: For the purposes of this post, I am defining happiness as any and all experiences of joy, rest, peace, pleasure, and/or contentment acknowledging the simplest yet also the most complex sense of the definition. Just to cover all of the bases.
Five minutes left in my counseling session and I am asked the above question. I spent the entire session maintaining my mascara until this moment. I am suddenly swallowing tears and avoiding eye contact like I’m getting paid to do so.
“At counseling? Or life in general?” I ask after a moment of silence.
“Either.” Mrs. Counselor replies.
I can’t hold in the tears any more and they begin to slip down my cheeks. She graciously hands me the Kleenex. I should really start bringing my own.
Why AM I here (at counseling)? I start racking my brain. The clock above me is ticking away obnoxiously like I’m answering on a game show. I finally fall back on the classic and ever reliable, “I don’t know.” If you’ve ever gone to counseling, that statement never gets left alone. It will be poked, prodded and/or stared at until it is forced to elaborate. She asked a follow up question before I could spew out another vague reply. “Do you want to be happy?” I take the new question and press in deeper knowing that my first response was a cop out and would not suffice a second time. Surprisingly, I really had to think about the answer. I replied with true commitment.
“No. But yes. But only for a moment. So, no.”
Are you kidding me? I don’t know if I want to be happy? The logical side of me is smacking her hand against her head.
“The correct answer is ‘YES’. YES. You want to be happy. Moron.”
Sure. That is what I am supposed to say because no right minded person answers with a ‘no’. But, wait, I am not a right minded person am I? HA. #exempt
Brattiness aside, I change my answer.
“I am here because I want to WANT to be happy because, for a variety of reasons, I don’t want to be.”
I try to elaborate.
A long, long time ago, in a land far away, I experienced happiness. Then I experienced pain and suffering after the happiness was broken and decided never to risk experiencing happiness ever again, due to the possibility of great pain and loss. The ‘happy’ parts of myself are banished into exile, never to be seen or called upon at length again. Depression takes the throne with Anxiety, the jester, dancing around the room.
The sequel to that story is that I have now spent the last 10+ years experiencing happiness in my peripheral vision, at arms length, and from a distance. My happy moments are floating around in an ocean of unhappy ones and every once in a while I manage to net a happy one. The rest of the time, I’m swimming in what I know: pain, depression, stubborn pride, and independence. It’s the old, “I’ll break my heart before you can.” mindset. In order to avoid the unknown pain, I live in a constant state of known pain only indulging in brief, controllable, and containable moments of happiness.
THAT. That is why I go to counseling.
I believe that even if it has to start with the wanting to want, that’s enough. It sucks. It’s heavy. It’s hard. It’s often miserable. But I’m not alone. You’re not alone. We are all sharp experts at our own self sabotage.
The first risk taken must be in putting down our weapons long enough to recognize the person we are fighting for and against are the same.
Poor Mrs. Counselor. Better block out two hours next week.