Don’t Tell ME To Be Happy

14 Jun


“Rate your happiness on a scale of 1 to 10,”  the discussion leader said.  I was participating in a breakout session called “Happiness”.  It was part of a larger 3 day course.

The two 70 year olds next to me yelled out “8.”  They both laughed and hugged each other.

“I am just so happy to still be alive,” the one next to me said. ” I am happy to be walking, talking, and still be vital.  I thank God every day for my life.  I am happy.”

The second woman giggled and agreed with her.  They couldn’t stop giggling.   I was feeling sick.  Was I going to tell the truth?  They both looked at me, waiting.

“3,”  I finally blurted out.

“What?  How come?” they both chirped, mouths open.

“Well, how can I really be happy when there are things I am not ok with?  I should be a few pounds lower, closer to my quota at work, have a more normal living situation, and have my dream relationship by now.   I am not where I think I should be and I am not happy about it.”

“Tell me more,’  the joy addict next to me said.

“I guess I have a whole list of things that  would need to happen before I could really be happy.”  I switched positions on my chair.    “But, if I really look, I’ll probably never get everything on the list, so I guess I am setting myself up to never be happy.”

Again, they just stared at me. “Tell us more.”

I looked around for an exit path.  I stared back at them.  I felt so wrong, like I should be happy like them.  But I wasn’t.

“All my life I was told not to be upset.  But I was.  So I thought there was something wrong with me.  My core conversation is “I shouldn’t be the way I am.”  So when someone tells me to be happy, it really gets me mad.  And, it makes me NOT WANT TO BE HAPPY AT ALL.  To GET THEM BACK for the way they are making me feel.”

They were just looking at me.

“I guess for me, happiness would be to just be able to be however I am – whether it’s happy, sad, annoyed, frustrated, or mad.  That would make me happy.”

At that point we got interrupted by the breakout leader.

At the end, I thanked the two ladies.  “I just have to ask you something.  Were you telling me I SHOULD be happy?  Because that’s what it felt like.  And I was really getting annoyed.”

“No, not at all.  I admire your authenticity.  It was refreshing and real.”

“Oh,”  Here I thought they didn’t like me.  I guess I was wrong again.  I was not liking these ladies because I thought they were judging me.


I hugged both of them.  “Thank you.  You gave me a great gift by pressing me to answer those questions.  I really didn’t want to.  But I learned alot.

What was I going to do with what I learned?

I found out the next morning.  It was my birthday.  My mother wished me a happy birthday on the phone.  It was a nice conversation until…………

She added:  “Be happy today.  Don’t focus on your problems..  Just be happy.”

My good mood evaporated.  “Mom, why do you think I wouldn’t be happy?  What problems do you think I have?”

“I just want you to be happy today.  Why is that the wrong thing to say?  I don’t get it.”

And we argued.  I was a mixture of ashamed at my behanior and pissed off at her comments.  I told some of my friends what had happened and asked for advice.

“Well, why don’t you give others the freedom to be however they are just like you want them to give to you?  they suggested.

“Good idea,”  I said, knowing it is probably easier said then done.   “Thank you.”

I texted my mom.  “Thanks for having me.  I’m sorry I was a brat.”

“That’s ok,”  she answered.  “I love you anyway you are and always will.”

I sent back a smile.

And, I guess I still have a lot of work to do.  But at least I figured out a strategy so I don’t get so stuck.

And……knowing I have one makes me happy.






“Oh, I have getting my work done a prerequisite to being happy.  First I do my work, then I’ll be happy.  Wow.  Interesting.”




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