Discovering Joy and Happiness in a Difficult World

This isn’t a story about you, it’s about me…AND, I hope you will glean something from it!

One of my favorite writers/columnists is David Brooks (New York Times) and recently he published an Opinion entitled “The Difference Between Happiness and Joy” below.

In it, David Brooks speaks of his experience and content of his commencement address at Arizona State University. This essay resonated with me for many reasons, but primarily because of my interest in helping people see their potential, particularly young people, and vulnerably acknowledging the influence and impact of emotions on that development for all of us.

What also resonated with me was David’s statement about how he perceives the difference between Happiness and Joy:

“ Happiness usually involves a victory for the self. Joy tends to involve the transcendence of self. Happiness comes from accomplishments. Joy comes when your heart is in another. Joy comes after years of changing diapers, driving to practice, worrying at night, dancing in the kitchen, playing in the yard and just sitting quietly together watching TV. Joy is the present that life gives you as you give away your gifts.”

Why this piece resonated with me is that it prompted me to remember who I am and how I got here. It also reminded me that though the circumstances of my life have been far from glorious I am joyful because each event has contributed to who I am. Each event, viewed from this perspective, has given me strength. Therefore they are gifts that life has given me to encourage me to see my gifts and propels me to offer them to others.

One example is losing everything in 2000. I was living the life of Riley, a beautiful home in the country, a beautiful wife, a great career, two dogs in the yard and all of the other accouterments that I associated with success. My life at that time was from the outside, okay, but inside it was…a mess and I didn’t know how to handle it or how to ask for help! I was emotionally unstable and distraught, to say the least.

Out of the ashes of this devastation in my life came a strength that would appear almost 20 years later when I faced my 2nd divorce. I still had a hard time emotionally, but I was learning how to work through it, I was learning more about the patterns in my life. I was learning about facing my fears and standing in my true internal power. Though I hadn’t yet learned how not to be an asshole, I was learning that being one no longer served me or the people I was in a relationship with.

I was happy knowing I was changing, and it brought me great joy knowing that I am beginning to treat the people in my life in a different and more respectful way. It was because I had the experience of going the wrong way on a one-way street — expressing anger, sadness, and guilt — realizing that I was inappropriately projecting it onto others that I was able to lay the foundation to become a happier and more joyful person.

David Brooks also writes, “ Transparency is the fuel of friendship. We live in an age of social media. It’s very easy to create false personas and live life as a performance.”

It was hard for me to admit that I was who I was and that I had and have issues that need drastic attention and change. It’s hard for me to admit that I have contributed negatively to two failed relationships that were important to me, or that is what I said. I do, however, admit it, because it is true and I feel as long as I keep these “shadows” directly in front of me, in the light of day, that I am making the type of progress that will culminate in happiness for myself and joy for myself and others. I think I am proving that my message is coming from my mess.

I cannot fix what happened in the past. What I can do is change my internal dialogue that precipitated my behavior. That is a process and I’m working on it. I can ask for forgiveness of those I hurt and I can begin to find happiness in what I do and experience joy in the results. I do it, one moment at a time and when I find that I’m unconsciously off track, I ask myself if that is the way I want to live the balance of my life. It is then the time to return to a practice of holding myself accountable, being authentic and vulnerable from which point I can again find Happiness and Joy in my daily life.

I believe there is a happy place inside each of us. For me, it is one aspect of my life. It is a transformation of the view of my circumstances. I know when I’m there and I’m learning how to get there more often, for my benefit and for the benefit and joy of those around me.

I hope you can discover and rest in your own place of peace.


A believer in Lifelong Learning and Collaborative Wisdom, remembering Who I AM through essay, story, and poetry. Listening for narratives that nurture Life.

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