Something I have discovered is that happiness is not all about happiness. Sometimes its just about not being miserable. Some days that's all I can manage. Let me give you an example.
Last week I was in the UK. It was a busy time - it feels like I slept in a different bed every night, which is tiring in itself. And everyone I spent time with was dealing with their own stuff. I think, through the happiness work I am doing, I am noticing the world differently. I've always felt a lot of pain, being in the world. And I've always thought it was my pain. I've taken responsibility for it. And thought that it meant that I wasn't good enough.
What I discovered on this trip is that the pain I feel is not always my pain. Sometimes it belongs to the people around me. I remember walking into board meetings, becoming overwhelmed with fear. Taking that fear on board and internalising it - thinking that I was too weak and rubbish to deal with the situation. What I know now is that the fear that I could feel wasn't mine. Everyone in that board room, in that exalted position of Authority, was petrified. Of what, I don't know - being found out, being shown up as stupid, making a mistake, not being true to themselves - its anyone's guess.
We transmit what we feel, without words, without wanting or choosing to. As human beings we feel each other. Our inner dialogue, whatever it is telling us, giving rise to our feelings, is available for all the world to see: through our behaviour, our tone of voice, our oh-so-subtle movements, our attitude. So if we feel fear, we transmit fear. If we feel angry, we transmit anger. If we're happy, we transmit happiness. If we're compassionate, we transmit compassion. If we feel love, we transmit love. And its contagious - everyone around us feels it too.
So what I felt on this trip, was pain. I felt the pain of those around me. Those who are dealing with their issues. Just trying to get through. What was different for me on this trip was that I could see it in others. And I could see how it affected me. How it made me feel. Scared, angry, unworthy. When I got home I cried. For all the pain I felt that wasn't mine. And I felt sad that I couldn't help more. But I am helping. More about that some other time.
Back to my story. On Thursday last week I was travelling home. I'd spent the night in London and on Thursday morning I was supposed to have a meeting before travelling back to France. I also needed to get across town to pick up a prescription, without which I'd die (maybe a slight over-exaggeration but hey, what's a story without a little tension build-up).
So I got up early, did my sitting, and got ready. During my sitting I recognised that I felt a little stressed - I do tend to get angsty when I have a travel deadline. Then I got an email to say that my meeting was cancelled due to sickness. And so was presented my first decision point of the day: do I get pissed off that a potential business opportunity had passed me by, or do I rejoice that I now have more time to pick up my prescription and get to the train station early? I consciously chose the latter. So I set off to the tube station (via Bills for a lovely pancake breakfast - hey, its not all bad).
On the platform a young man caught my eye. And I caught his. Nothing sinister, he just looked like an interesting kind of guy, and perhaps a bit familiar. As it happens, I ended up sitting next to him on the train. What I hadn't realised about him though was that he was chewing a REALLY BIG piece of chewing gum. REALLY LOUDLY.
And so I was faced with decision point number 2. Do I start throwing him dirty looks, tutting loudly and fully unleashing my comfortable passive-aggressive self - giving him the full benefit of all my pent-up stress? Do I avoid the situation - move to another seat, or get off the train and jump on the next one? Or do I sit where I am and try my hardest to ignore it while sending out compassionate vibes to the good people of the train carriage?
I'm proud to say, dear reader, that I chose option number 3. I focused all my attention on feeling the love and I quietly dissolved the passive-aggressive me in a sea of calm. The gum-chewer (or Mr Chomp, as I like to call him), never knew that he was irritating me, and I wished him strength to deal with whatever fears led him to erect a barrier of chewing noise to protect himself. I hope he felt it.
Sometimes its not about happiness. Sometimes its just about not giving into the instinct to give your crap to someone else.