“happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events”
― Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness
2013 was a crazy year. Other than my son’s birth (and also 2 nephews and 2 nieces), the whole year was just one crisis after another. My husband’s side of the family was hit really hard with a series of tragic events, from heart attacks, to cancers caught too late… we lost 2 pillars of the family. It was hard. But that’s life, and I know that. On a personal level, I have been struggling with my self image since my son was born. I have a hard time looking at myself. I just don’t like what I see. So I try not to look in the mirror. I think it started off as the result of my hormones being out of whack after giving birth… and then came the accumulation of the whole year.
Along with family losses and other health problems, I came to find out that my in laws have all stayed close to my husband’s ex. No big deal? Well, maybe if they didn’t still have pictures of them 2 together on their fridge (and of course, none of me)… maybe if they hadn’t been doing it behind our backs… maybe, just maybe, if they hadn’t pretended to like me this whole time. I walked into my sister in law’s house, holding my 8 week old baby, 1 week before our 1 year wedding anniversary, only to see a picture of my husband and his ex together on her fridge. At that point, they had been broken up for over 3 years. Why was this picture still up? When I pointed it out, she laughed, just flipped it over and did not throw it away. Can you say rude? Later on, I found out that when they would come stay with us in town, they would take her out to dinner and hang out with her. So not only did they all always show up unannounced, they never offered to take us out to dinner or hang out, never offered to do anything for our place while they were here (oh yeah, we never knew how long they were there for!), but on top of that they did THAT? So they would come, stay, leave their crap all over the place, leave their towels on the floor in the bathroom, their dishes in the sink, not make their bed, and then leave. Guess who was always stuck with the cleaning?
When I found out what they were doing behind my back, I broke down. I had been trying so hard to fit in. I let them stay with us, welcomed them… respected them… I let them walk all over me. I asked my husband to say something.I needed him to have my back on this. I was so hurt. I just could not believe that people could be so fake. See, I live by this: “don’t do to others, what you wouldn’t want others to do to you” – so when people lie and deceive, I have a hard time accepting and dealing with it. For weeks after the day I found out I could not sleep at night. I would cuddle my son close and lay in bed, thinking and crying. I was becoming obsessed… depressed… angry. It didn’t help that around the same time my best friend was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. Did I mention I had a rough year?
Something needed to change. I needed to be happy again. Of course I had my son and amazing husband to comfort me. But still, I needed to be truly happy.
When something is wrong, I turn to books. They let me escape. I needed something uplifting, but that made me confront the situation, not just avoid it. I needed something to help me move on, away from the drama, sorrow and pain of the last year. I was browsing in a bookstore one day when it caught my eye: The Art of Happiness, by his Holiness the Dalai Lama. At first I was skeptical. But I needed something. I was desperate.
It was the best find I could have hoped for.
The book is hard to read for me, because some passages are so intense and strong, that I sometimes need a moment. Quite often I re-read a paragraph 4, 5, 6 times for the content to really sink in. There is a difference between just reading and really soaking in the message of the book. It is amazing how much it has helped me so far. I have realized, and accepted, that I need to let go of what happened. I have realized, and accepted, that the best thing to do is to just move on and leave the past where it is. The wise words of the Dalai Lama have pushed me to confront my feelings and thoughts about the situation. His words have made me admit to my bitterness, my anger and longing for revenge. His words have also made me realize that I was the key to my own happiness. Not others. And for that simple reason, I needed to be happy. Happiness starts with yourself, not others. We have to pursue happiness. Do what brings happiness as opposed to favoring gratification. True happiness, the one that comes from deep within and radiates onto the life of others.
So I have decided to be happy. For me. For my boys. It’s a work in progress, but now I can sleep at night.