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I’ve been stuck on the topic of happiness lately, trying to figure out whether it is a choice or an involuntary feeling, a response to external circumstances. Can I just choose to be happy regardless of my situation? I’ve pondered the differences between happiness as an external response and joy as an internal state of being. Is joy permanent and happiness situational? Is it either of these feelings that I am experiencing, and deliberately choosing, or is it hope?  I just don’t know.

I recently did the Color Run in Las Vegas with about 35 friends and it was a blast and a half!!! We were showered, squirted, sprayed, dusted, and covered in colored chalky powder at each kilometer marker. Laughing hysterically was a must, so you can imagine our teeth being multicolored as well, as we guffawed into the colorful air and choked down a few buckets of rainbow dust. It was a day of personal victories, family fun, and health awareness. People of all shapes, sizes, and demographics showed up in droves to complete the “Happiest 5K on the Planet!”  

aMasongrace project

It’s difficult to be depressed when you’re moving. It’s hard to stay sad when you’re surrounded by whackos squealing as they are doused in color! It’s impossible to mope when you are running with friends, sharing stories, encouraging each other to do just a little bit more. Nope! No darkness followed me into that event, and I emerged energized and ecstatic as I completed yet another fun run in remembrance of my son who absolutely loved them! The challenge then is to maintain that level of enthusiasm and embrace each day with the same energy and excitement… yeah, right. Who does that? I used to. I used to be full of joy and very vivacious, actually. I looked for the laughter in each moment and sucked as much FUN out of my days as possible. I miss that feeling. I am trying to find a way back but it is so different now. Most days I feel like I’m pulling twice my body weight through wet concrete with arms that fell asleep and won’t wake up. 

aMasongrace project

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen a much loved pastor pass away while on sabbatical, another pastor suffered a heart attack (thankfully he survived), a friend of mine lost her brother to an extremely cruel and unfair twist of fate. A teacher lost her life as well and the tributes her students paid her on facebook were so very touching. There has been a sad cloud hovering and it seems to be gaining in size rather than dissipating. These are hard days to move through for anyone, and I find myself struggling right along with the crowd.

Do we all need happy pills? Is there music loud enough to energize the world? What can we do to shoo that cloud of sadness away and welcome the rainbows and unicorns and construction paper hearts and glitter back into our lives? I’m at a loss. I do not know what to do. Life is so hard, so painful, so aggressive sometimes. Is there a break in the near future? Where do we sign up for more joy?

aMasongrace project

By now, I’m sure most of us have heard the song Happy, by Pharrell Williams. It’s got a pretty catchy beat that doesn’t let you go. If you’ve heard the song, odds are you’ve been bopping your head to the beat or repeatedly singing the chorus long after the song is over. I find myself doing that allllllll the time… to the point where I am going nuts and will do almost anything to get that song out of my head. It’s not a bad song. It’s really quite fun and cool. I feel happy when I listen to it. I just cringe at the after effects, as does any friend that happens to be trapped in the car with me.

“…because I’m happppppyyyyyyy!”

I don’t know how to answer these questions. I don’t know where to look… I haven’t found any solutions in the many wine bottles I’ve drained over the past two weeks. I haven’t found an overabundance of joy in sleeping or moping or tv watching. I feel it when I am out and about, when I’m surrounded by people, when I am doing something that recharges my batteries! So is it possible that we choose it? By taking the next right step, as one of my fave bloggers says.  Is it found by purposefully leaving the stresses and sadness behind, and actively seeking out people and events that make our heart sing? Is it found in songs with unforgettable beats? Maybe all of the above.

I’m choosing to be happy. I’m choosing to find joy. Call it my own little experiment. I’m going to make a choice every single day to find some reason to smile then kick it up a notch and find a way to make someone else smile.

We aren’t alone. We can reach out and walk this walk together.

aMasongrace project

“…because I’m happppppyyyyyyy!”



  • Jen moss
    Posted at 00:58h, 11 March Reply

    I absolutely L O V E that song for that exact reason—it’s catchy and makes me feel happy. We all need something, sometimes, to MAKE us feel happy when we can’t muster it ourselves. One day I WILL do another run with you. Mark my word..I may be an irregular stalker, but a stalker nonetheless.

  • Carmel
    Posted at 01:23h, 11 March Reply

    For me, it’s both a state of being, rather than a feeling, and a choice. Much like we have to choose love every day, we have to choose happiness. I’ve been feeling that dark mistress of depression seeking me out lately, but I have to tell her no, that’s not where I am now. Some days, I don’t have the energy to tell her no, but just remember it’s not the place to stay. I may not always feel happiness, but I want to make it my goal to continue to choose it.

    Hugs to you Holly!

  • Nadja
    Posted at 02:46h, 11 March Reply

    I took chocolates to work with little cut out hearts that say “You Matter” and I was rejected. I taped up the hearts and they were taken down, the chocolates were rejected “No, thanks, I’m watching my blood sugar.” It was a mess… Yes, I do think everyone can find SOME happiness in every day. Reggae, is what soothes my soul, it is my happy music, opening the blinds and letting the sun shine in, sending loving thoughts to others, planting flowers (in containers for me since I’m an apartment dweller), giving a word of encouragement to patients, doing a squat or three or ten, all things,simple things that bring me joy. There is hope (Nadja, means “HOPE” in German… I hang on to it). Yes, we can get through this thing called life; it is rough, it is painful, but at the end of each day, there is that tiny sliver of light, at the end of this sometimes grueling, cruel,lonely existence, there is hope, there is light, there is love, at the end of this very long tunnel.

  • Sarah
    Posted at 14:58h, 12 March Reply

    Wow! Love this. Second time I’ve read it, and since then I’ve had that song stuck in my head! I’ve been singing it out loud and BOS is now whistling it as I write this. You’re right, it’s impossible NOT to be happy and sing that song! You really summed it up with that last line, and the way you choose joy, refuse to be a victim and channel your pain into love to serve those around you is nothing short of AMASEING!!!!! You are an inspiration and an example to us all. If you can do it, I sure as shit can! Thank you xoxox “Because I’m happeeeeeee!”

  • Liz
    Posted at 20:20h, 05 May Reply

    I don’t know the answers to those questions either. I’m glad you are experimenting with choosing to be happy and I especially love that you are choosing to try and make others smile. I really appreciate that you are telling others that they can choose to be happy no matter what their circumstance because there are times when we are not meant to be happy and it would be dishonest to put on happiness during those times … and there may even be times when it would be immoral to be happy. Of course I’m not saying that we should live in a perpetual state of “unhappiness” or “sadness” but sometimes it is an appropriate emotion/feeling/state … and I just don’t want to make people who are going through a difficult time to feel even more bad than they already do because they are told they can choose to be happy. Of course that is not what you were doing and I appreciate you for that.

    I liked what Kay Warren had to say recently:

    “As the one-year anniversary of Matthew’s death approaches, I have been shocked by some subtle and not-so-subtle comments indicating that perhaps I should be ready to “move on.” The soft, compassionate cocoon that has enveloped us for the last 11 1/2 months had lulled me into believing others would be patient with us on our grief journey, and while I’m sure many will read this and quickly say “Take all the time you need,” I’m increasingly aware that the cocoon may be in the process of collapsing. It’s understandable when you take a step back. I mean, life goes on. The thousands who supported us in the aftermath of Matthew’s suicide wept and mourned with us, prayed passionately for us, and sent an unbelievable volume of cards, letters, emails, texts, phone calls, and gifts. The support was utterly amazing. But for most, life never stopped – their world didn’t grind to a horrific, catastrophic halt on April 5, 2013. In fact, their lives have kept moving steadily forward with tasks, routines, work, kids, leisure, plans, dreams, goals etc. LIFE GOES ON. And some of them are ready for us to go on too.

    They want the old Rick and Kay back. They secretly wonder when things will get back to normal for us – when we’ll be ourselves, when the tragedy of April 5, 2013 will cease to be the grid that we pass everything across. And I have to tell you – the old Rick and Kay are gone. They’re never coming back. We will never be the same again. There is a new “normal.” April 5, 2013 has permanently marked us. It will remain the grid we pass everything across for an indeterminate amount of time….maybe forever.

    Because these comments from well-meaning folks wounded me so deeply, I doubted myself and thought perhaps I really am not grieving “well” (whatever that means). I wondered if I was being overly sensitive –so I checked with parents who have lost children to see if my experience was unique. Far from it, I discovered. “At least you can have another child” one mother was told shortly after her child’s death. “You’re doing better, right?” I was asked recently. “When are you coming back to the stage at Saddleback? We need you” someone cluelessly said to me recently.

    “People can be so rude and insensitive; they make the most thoughtless comments,” one grieving father said. You know, it wasn’t all that long ago that it was standard in our culture for people to officially be in mourning for a full year. They wore black. They didn’t go to parties. They didn’t smile a whole lot. And everybody accepted their period of mourning; no one ridiculed a mother in black or asked her stupid questions about why she was STILL so sad. Obviously, this is no longer accepted practice; mourners are encouraged to quickly move on, turn the corner, get back to work, think of the positive, be grateful for what is left, have another baby, and other unkind, unfeeling, obtuse and downright cruel comments.

    What does this say about us – other than we’re terribly uncomfortable with death, with grief, with mourning, with loss – or we’re so self-absorbed that we easily forget the profound suffering the loss of a child creates in the shattered parents and remaining children.

    Unless you’ve stood by the grave of your child or cradled the urn that holds their ashes, you’re better off keeping your words to some very simple phrases: “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Or “I’m praying for you and your family.” Do your best to avoid the meaningless, catch-all phrase “How are you doing?” This question is almost impossible to answer. If you’re a stranger, it’s none of your business. If you’re a casual acquaintance, it’s excruciating to try to answer honestly, and you leave the sufferer unsure whether to lie to you (I’m ok), to end the conversation, or try to haltingly tell you that their right arm was cut off and they don’t know how to go on without it. If you’re a close friend, just tell them “You don’t have to say anything at all; I’m with you in this.”

    None of us wants to be like Job’s friends – the pseudo-comforters who drove him mad with their questions, their wrong conclusions, and their assumptions about his grief. But too often we end up as a 21st century Bildad, Eliphaz or Zophar – we fill the uncomfortable silence with words that wound rather than heal. I’m sad to realize that even now – in the middle of my own shattering loss – I can be callous with the grief of another and rush through the conversation without really listening, blithely spouting the platitudes I hate when offered to me. We’re not good grievers, and when I judge you, I judge myself as well.

    Here’s my plea: Please don’t ever tell someone to be grateful for what they have left until they’ve had a chance to mourn what they’ve lost. It will take longer than you think is reasonable, rational or even right. But that’s ok. True friends – unlike Job’s sorry excuse for friends – love at all times, and brothers and sisters are born to help in time of need (Prov. 17:17 LB). The truest friends and “helpers” are those who wait for the griever to emerge from the darkness that swallowed them alive without growing afraid, anxious or impatient. They don’t pressure their friend to be the old familiar person they’re used to; they’re willing to accept that things are different, embrace the now-scarred one they love, and are confident that their compassionate, non-demanding presence is the surest expression of God’s mercy to their suffering friend.

    They’re ok with messy and slow and few answers… and they never say “Move on.”

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