A couple years ago, my therapist and I had a discussion about joy and happiness. This was during a time when there was a lot more sad than glad going on in my life. There was a lot more hard than easy. A lot more grieving than celebrating. Much of this centered around a difficult parenting season, but there were several major things going on in my life right then that contributed. Both of them, joy and happiness, seemed like far off dreams.
I said that my goal was to be joyful because joy transcends circumstances and happiness is dependent on circumstances. My therapist, being the fan of definitions and nuances of words that he is, replied that the word “happiness” can refer to what is happening right now, as in being happy in whatever is happening and not just when positive things are happening. He said he likes to think of it as being happy no matter what is happening.
After my session, I stopped at the store to pick up a few groceries. On the endcap in the housewares department was a display featuring cups and coffee mugs that said, you guessed it, “happiness.” I decided that bit of serendipity seemed as good a reason as any to buy it. So I picked up a “happiness” cup for a few dollars which became my “water cup” at work. Do you have one drinking cup that you use all the time for water at work? Every time I took a drink or saw it sitting on my desk, I had a reminder that happiness can be found in any circumstance. I needed that reminder almost as much as I needed air to breathe, especially as things seemed to be getting worse and not better. I needed to know that I would survive. I needed to know that I would be okay. I needed to know that someday, even if I wasn’t able to yet in those circumstances, I could be happy.
And then, only a month later, at the end of a week that felt like more than a nightmare than real life, I dropped the cup on the floor.
And my happiness broke.
I shut myself in my office and cried. Because it was just a cup, but it wasn’t just a cup. The cup that symbolized so much for me served as a metaphor for that season.
And the day got harder.
And then, a few hours later, one of the hard situations showed a glimmer of hope. Just a tiny sliver of light. Not much. But enough to give me strength to hold on a little longer.
The cup no longer holds water, obviously, but I just couldn’t throw it away. I gave it a purpose and set in on my window sill holding dry erase markers.
It seems silly, I know, that the cup means so much to me, but I can’t look at it without remembering the conversation with my therapist about being happy in whatever is happening. I can’t look at it without remembering how the cup practically jumped in to my cart that day. I can’t look at it without remembering the day my happiness broke.
That was two years ago today.
The last two years have been filled with a lot of sad, a lot of hard, and a lot of grieving. But they’ve also been filled with a lot of joy and celebration and, yes, happiness.
I still need a reminder that I can be happy, that I can be joyful, that everything will be okay. That I will be okay.
But I am filled with gratitude that when my happiness broke, I did not.