Momservation: What a caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly. ~Lao-tzu
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To my 13 year old self from my 45 year-old self:
Did you know there is no such thing as being happy all the time? So stop thinking that’s where you should reside. That address belongs to no one. Besides, why would you want to live there? It is our scars that make us interesting. It is our heartache that proves to us that we are capable of great love. It is the dark times that make us not take for granted the lights who illuminate our way. When we are sick it makes us value good health. The bitter times make you recognize and savor the sweet spots in life. Trudging through the valleys of despair to the mountain tops of hope makes the view that much more rewarding. Without suffering you don’t gain compassion. Without mistakes we can’t learn. Without change we can’t grow. Without love we can’t survive.
And quit feeling sorry for yourself. You are loved. Your parents are first in line to love you. And whether you believe it or not, that line is long. And many more people will step into that line as you go through life. So don’t you dare think of quitting. Anything worth doing is rarely easy and no one said life is going to be easy. But it is so worth living. Please trust me on this. You haven’t done it yet, but I have. I lived to see the other side of 13 despite many times when I was certain I would not—when normal teenage anxieties made my heart hurt so bad I thought it would burst from despair; when I felt so lonely I thought it would suffocate me; when I felt so overwhelmed by my problems I thought it would drown me; when I loathed myself so much for perceived imperfections that I was certain I was unlovable; when unhappiness and rejection made escape from the pain seem like my only option.
So how did I do it? How did I survive it—being a teenager? Lost and scared that I would never find my way?
You choose you.
Choose to be the first in line to love yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to make you happy. It’s up to you to make yourself happy. It’s a choice to choose between darkness and light. Why choose darkness when everything that is beautiful and wonderful and breathtaking and worthy thrives in the light?
You don’t have the energy to stand in the light? Then crawl. You feel too overwhelmed to do anything? Then just focus on one, small, simple thing in your reach—hope. Don’t focus on the 1,000 miles journey in front of you. Focus on one step. That’s it. Today, just one step. Tomorrow, one step. It doesn’t matter where you’re going. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter that today you aren’t happy. One day you will be. Trust it. Believe it. Make it happen.
Also understand that happiness takes many forms—learn to recognize it. It can be the smell of chocolate chip cookies. Fresh sheets on your cozy bed. A tail-wagging dog excited to see you. A cat purring under your touch. A friendly face in the crowd. A hug from your grandma. To be happy can mean the absence of hunger. The quenching of thirst. Contentment found in reading, watching a favorite show, playing a game. The peace of a quiet mind when you surrender yourself to music, exercise, journaling, or any activity you enjoy.
But you want the real secret to happiness? Here it is. You must do these 3 things:
Trust. Hope. Proceed.
Trust. Trust that God has better days ahead. Collect evidence of that. Reflect back for a moment to your hard times, your sad times, your embarrassing times, your worst mistakes, your most gut-wrenching experiences—those times you never thought you’d survive the pain, sadness, or heartache. But you did. You’re here. And I bet you find sweet spots and happy moments in between all those hard times waiting to be collected, proving you did smile again. The pain did subside. Time healed the sharpness of the heartache. You found joy where you didn’t expect it. Trust that there are always mountains of hope that rise above the valleys of despair and as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other you will reach your better days ahead.
Hope. Hope is the buoy that keeps us afloat when we are drowning in despair. Reach for it. Cling to it. Let it do all the work until the rescue boat comes along. Hope means believing you are worthy of happiness. Hope means changing your perspective—choosing to see things that light your way instead of cowering in the dark. Hope means throwing the rocks of anger and resentment out of your pockets that are weighing you down. Hope is trusting that the things that don’t kill us make us stronger. Hope is believing that getting back up is better than staying knocked down. Hope is trusting that God has better days ahead.
Proceed. Proceed toward your better days ahead. Yes, you are overwhelmed. Yes, it makes you tired. So sit. Sit for a minute and catch your breath. But then get back up. If you don’t like who you are in this moment or where you’re at at this time, then leave it behind. The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step. Proceed one step at a time, focusing on the small things you can control. You can’t reach your happiness if you don’t take that step. If you just can’t muster the strength then let trust and hope be your autopilot. Proceed toward the person you want to be; the future you want to have. Proceed forward until you have the strength to look up and let go and are ready to appreciate the view.
Because this life is magnificent. This human experience is amazing. There is beauty and goodness and light all around us if we choose to see it. You can’t be happy all the time—we weren’t meant to be. But we can enjoy the journey. The good, the bad, the amazing, the awful, the euphoria, the pain, the heaven, the hell. It doesn’t matter how banged up you get. It doesn’t matter how you finish. It just matters that you finish. Trust me, you don’t want to miss what God has in store for you.