Happiness NOW

Life is a drink and love’s a drug…Coldplay, ‘Hymn For The Weekend’

I stood in the Costco parking lot early in the evening on Wednesday, November 1st, loading a box full of bulk items into the back of my SUV. Once everything was secure I slammed the door, the flags of the US and Tanzania on the rear catching my eye. As I opened my door to drive off, I thought of how my mentality has changed over the past nine years.

There was a time when the basic act of buying groceries provoked sadness in me. I can remember walking down 15th Avenue in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, my then four-year-old daughter hanging on my hip. There was no one to watch her, so when I had to run errands she came with me. I’d navigate the busy Safeway with her in tow, working to carry my child and multiple grocery bags on the bus ride back to our apartment.

I remember the frustration I felt on those days, of telling myself that I was doing what I had to. I wasn’t going to make lemonade with the lemons life had thrown my way, but I was going to persevere. However, truly enjoying my life wasn’t on my agenda at the time. I thought I couldn’t be happy and satisfied at all until certain criteria were met. I wasted valuable energy and time by insisting that happiness was a far-off destination, repeating such thoughts so often that I came to believe them:

If only my Mom hadn’t died…

If only I got married again…. 

If only I went back to school and obtained my Bachelors…

If only I made $20,000 more per year…

If only so-and-so would change…

In allowing external factors to be the sole determinant of my outlook and satisfaction, I created a narrative that deprived me of what I truly desired. I also gave too much of my autonomy to others, passively accepting the idea that my situation limited what I could achieve.

But in 2017, my views began to evolve. In a session with a career development coach at work, I was introduced to the concept of Positive Intelligence.  I completed the Saboteurs and PQ score assessments, amazed by what they revealed about my mind and character. They confirmed what my ego kept me from facing for so long: that at times I served as the major obstacle to my happiness and progress in life!

I was so intrigued that I eagerly downloaded the audiobook of Shirzad Chamine’s Positive Intelligence, and I’m glad that I did. Of all the various self-help books I’ve heard of and attempted to benefit from, it has had the most impact thus far. It has taught me that to flourish I can’t allow my primal mind to control me so deeply, that no matter what is going on externally I have the power to control what happens internally.

I wake up at 5:30am, Monday through Friday. I sit up, thank God for another day and pray for guidance, then make my bed just like Grandma taught me to. When I step out of the shower, I play the song above, bopping and singing along as I put my makeup on. The beauty of this ritual is that I believe the words I recite.

It’s not that my life is perfect, that all of the issues that troubled me in the past have been resolved. There are changes, like a position that I love and compensates me well, that has greatly benefited me. There are lingering disappointments, as well as the challenges that come with the new stage of parenting I’m in as the mother of a teen. However, the difference between now and the past is that I don’t waste energy dwelling on what I can’t change, choosing to focus on that which I can. Because of this, I’ve finally discovered that happiness isn’t  a destination for me to arrive at; it’s a decision for me to make daily.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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