Finding Your Happy
It wasn’t some grand moment. We weren’t on vacation or taking part in a celebration.
It was just a regular weekend morning. The music was playing while we were brushing our teeth. The little one stood on a stool so he could see his face in the mirror. He was doing his best to be like Dad.
We sang a favorite song. The two-year-old jumbled the lyrics, making the moment even sweeter.
“And a little bit of chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday night…”
I knew I had won.
I had found my happy again.
I don’t even remember what we were getting ready to do that morning. Probably just going to grab some lunch. All I remember is this overwhelming feeling of joy and contentment – like my heart had settled back into its proper place.
Months of depression tried to break me down and there were times it certainly did. When despair came knocking at my door again -- and it sure did -- I would pray. Then I would sing the same song until I pictured the three of us in the bathroom mirror.
“A pair of jeans that fit just right, and the radio up…”
This insignificant memory became my focal point to use to take my thoughts captive when needed. The lyrics would dance in my mind until they poured out of my mouth.
“I like to see the sunrise, see the love in my woman's eyes…”
And I would win again.
“Feel the touch of a precious child, and know a mother's love…”
In thirty-three years I had experienced some sad days, bad weeks, and tough years. There were losses and failures. It took a while to find real friends. You know, just life in general swings different ways.
But nothing prepared me for hour upon hour of darkness. I had never truly understood other people living with depression. It made no sense to me why they couldn’t take a few days to lament and then dust it off – just snap out of it.
And then I experienced it for myself. It was the hardest fight I’d ever endured. There were times I thought it would never end.
The heaviness. The hopelessness. The feeling of being unworthy. The emotional baggage. Being a burden to others. Not looking forward to another day. Dreading another sleepless night.
I thought it would never end.
But slowly – I mean slowly – a weight would lift. It was like shedding a pound here and there, lightening my load of despair. Until one day, I saw the reflection of myself and our little family singing in the mirror.
I saw my happy in an ordinary, nothing special about it day. It was just like the words of the song we sang.
“It's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most, not where you live, what you drive or the price tag on your clothes…”
A couple of years after the dust had settled for me, I sat in a restaurant booth with my laptop and a coffee. I had finally caved into writing on a regular basis. As I typed words and began to relive the journey through my mental illness tsunami – I paused on the verge of crying.
I simply asked God, “Why?” Now I had asked this question many times over, but I decided to ask one more time.
“Why God did I have to go through it – all of it?”
This time I prayed with expectation. I didn’t expect an answer right away. I certainly wasn’t looking for an angel to sit across from me and share a coffee, because that would warrant a trip to the therapist or hospital.
I wanted understanding. I needed closure.
Glancing around at the people eating their breakfast and taking notice of the buzz of conversation surrounding me – I wondered “what’s their stories?” You know everyone has one, some harder than others. Other stories might be a little on the crazy, wild side – not speaking from experience or anything.
Maybe they are still waiting on their defining story. The one where He refines you.
I smiled as I turned my attention back to the laptop screen. My fingers froze and I took a sip of coffee. Looking up, I noticed a picture of a little boy running around at a camp, obviously having the time of his life. He was surrounded by bubbles when they snapped a picture mid-laugh.
Then I read the wording at the bottom of the poster.
It certainly was an experience, I thought. Experience being the best teacher – teaches you more in a lifetime than taking a class or reading a book. Looking back, in the course of less than three years it was like taking a crash course in humility and compassion. And a humbling of the soul.
I now understand what it is like to stand on the other side of light and bargain for the darkness to give way. Extending grace to others and myself was a lesson in itself. Grace taught me to listen to people’s stories first. This lent knowledge of the cause which resulted in the side effect of mental illness.
“What happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?” became a more relevant question in most cases.
As I relived the stories with my friends, I understood the resentment they held. I experienced the sting of holding resentment myself, especially towards our amazing Father in Heaven.
All of it was living out pages of a story. A story where I experienced the shackles of solitude and captivity. But also a story of breaking bondage and crawling towards freedom. Feeling pain so deeply only led way to embracing joy ever so tightly. Then there was the celebration and the delectable taste of victory served at the party afterwards.
So coming from someone with experience, nothing lasts forever especially what you think is impenetrable darkness. God is bounded by nothing. He owns the dark and can lift you straight from the pit of despair – if only you will let Him.
One day you will find yourself singing a song or holding someone’s hand. Maybe it will be a moment spent holding a long awaited miracle. You may simply be sitting on a park bench by yourself. The time may come at the midnight hour or while sipping a cup of coffee.
And you will think to yourself, I’ve won.
Hello my happy. I’ve been missing you.
And maybe you will sing a little song.
“There's no dollar sign on a peace of mind, this I've come to know…”
Song Lyrics: Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band