Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,
but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
―Thich Nhat Hanh
I used this same quote a mere two posts ago about getting my braces off, but I need it again to serve a different purpose. Thich Nhat Hanh, you multi-tasking devil, you.
One of the ways I describe myself in the bio I use around the internets is “amateur optimist,” and this is not entirely facetious. I’ve always been a cynical SOB. I’m snarky by nature. The TV character I identify with most is Dr. Gregory House (god bless his crotchety soul).
When I began this blog my life, my relationships, my financial situation and my spirit were spinning out of control. I was in a very deep, dark place, and I wanted to regain some semblance of my self. The better person that I knew I could be. I wanted very desperately to be happy, to not struggle just to get through today so I could wake up and do the same thing tomorrow.
I wanted to be heard, I wanted to do good, and I wanted to make a difference.
Part of that process was through photography. Taking time to discovery the miraculous beauty in all the hidden, ordinary things, people and moments of the everyday. Seeing my life through the lens and in the photo editor, I couldn’t help but observe the wayside sacraments of my life.
The life changing moment was when I realized that I was the one getting in the way of my own happiness. No matter the circumstance, no matter what anyone was saying to me or doing to me, I was the one that decided how I was affected. I was allowing— choosing— to let things get to me.
And I stopped.
Not all at once, and not 100%, but your attitude is a habit like anything else. Where an unkindness would once have broken me to tears, I maintained at least a neutral aspect and I tried to be understanding of what caused it.
I understood that the words of those who spew hate are reflections of them, not me. I learned to have a certain sympathy for the chronically mean and miserable. What sad lives we lead when we choose to not see joy and beauty and good in other people. What’s the point, for those people? What is their purpose, their guiding star?
If you believe every little thing is a big deal, then it becomes one. Whether that big deal is positive or negative, is entirely up to your perspective.
If you look for beauty, you find it. If you look for darkness… it finds you.
In any case, I fell off the optimism wagon. Don’t judge, I’m new at this.
I’ve been having a difficult time these past few months. I’ve been stressed, and I’ve felt a great number of pressures from a great number of sources, and it’s been hard keeping a smile on my face or even staying neutral. I haven’t been feeling it, and it’s why I haven’t been posting here as much as I would like.
Two things have happened in very quick succession these past 24 hours, that I’m choosing to believe is the Universe telling me to get a grip.
The first is this.
Tell me that thing isn’t smiling at me. You can never tell what you’re going to get, taking these macro shots.
A little surprise for when I got back to my computer.
I really believe that the resting state of Nature is happiness, positive energy. That sounds like hippie BS, I know, and I’m not sorry.
what a fat, happy face it has
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
I could go on all day but you get the point. There are a lot of intelligent, beautiful people talking about the happiness of nature. Hell, even Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar wrote “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
Zen text instructs us to be “empty vessels,” to have “mind like water.”
Go outside, be still and empty, and you will find yourself filled. We become unhappy when we close ourselves off from the beauty and happiness that courses all around us. Open up your heart and your spirit to the world and the people around you and believe you deserve to receive good things… and you will.
A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
― Albert Einstein
The second thing that happened, right after a dragonfly mind-bogglingly posed for his closeup, waiting patiently while I went inside to get my good camera for the first time in months, then back in for my better lens, revealing a series of smiling headshots…
was this headline plastered all over my newsfeeds.
Even with our bodies, the default is happiness. Smiling, whether you’re feeling it or not, is physically good for you.
Did I just write 800 words to tell you to fake it until you make it?
I did. I did it mostly as a reminder to myself, but maybe you’ve never experienced this notion for yourself.
Your natural state is happiness.
You don’t have to go around all crazy upbeat all the time. Just be. Contentment is a natural state. Child-like.
Smile. Stop fighting it.
We all say we want to be happy. So… just do it.
It’s that simple.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard as hell.
It gets easier.
Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
―the Dalai Lama
Thus concludes your moment of zen. I hope someone actually reads this, and that it does them some good.
It did me a world of good writing it.