I Wish Happiness

When I find out somebody is pregnant and want to wish them luck, I say, “I hope you have a happy baby.” Though the typical blessing is “healthy,” I refuse to say that because I firmly believe after years of experience that health is not a guarantee of or required to achieve happiness. Helpful? Yes. Necessary? No.
Happiness is one of those nebulous concepts that we know when we feel it, but cannot define in concrete words. Moreover, it is not restricted to one specific feeling rather a term that covers multiple distinctive emotional states. Between the different kinds, comparisons can be made. Euphoric joy is better than satisfaction, both superior to contentment, yet all encompassed by the word happiness.
For a long time, happiness wasn’t even a state on my radar. I was too busy being miserable about my chronic illness, wishing it would go away, and planning for the great life I would have when. Constant yearning unfulfilled is pretty much happiness toxin.
Finally, it dawned upon me that healthiness was a part of able bodied culture that I had swallowed as essential to my happiness. It took time, but eventually accepting my health status allowed me to be happy. For me, it was about taking what I had and making that into a happy life. Very pioneer spirit in a weird sort of way. Don’t have a pen and paper to draw a map? Use a stick on the dirt or charcoal on birch bark. It’s about using what’s at hand to get where you are going.
And then I unthinkingly fell into the decision to work on getting healthier. It proved to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life taxing every emotional resource I possessed. When you are focused on your health in such a single-minded way, every sign of progress or regression is noted. Each symptom is cataloged and analyzed. Did eating that food make my pain worse? Was I too drained after that hike? Did a particular supplement improve the situation? A step forward was success and a step back was failure. Given the nature of my chronic illness, I often felt failure. Life was a constant emotional rollercoaster with my health the driver.
Even though my health was a slowly rising spiral, eventually I realized I was cracking under the pressure. Multiple times I tried to shift my thinking without success. Finally, it came to me that I needed to return to making the most out of what I had fashioning it into a happy life.
So, with an improved health situation giving me more resources, I did just that. In the process, I realized something very important: health while not crucial to happiness did make it easier.
Over the past year, my health has been all over the map, yet I would not hesitate in saying this has been the happiest year of my life. I haven’t completely sorted this all out, but I have become more convinced than ever that our cultural emphasis on health being key to happiness is total crap.
To me, the essential part of happiness is maximizing what you currently have and shaping it into something you want. Waiting for some distant day when you might feel better in order to be happy seems rather pointless to me. Then again, I do have a weird way of looking at the world.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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