You’re not supposed to be happy all of the time. There: does that take some of the pressure off? Now if you’re not happy, you don’t have to see it as a “bad” day. There aren’t things “wrong.” It’s not a “problem.” It simply Is.
The day is made of Moments, and those can take many shapes (enjoyable, frightening, funny, relaxed, exciting, etc. etc.), but none of those shapes are superior to others. You aren’t failing when you have one instead of another. There is no one judging—there are only the consequences of the choice. One kind of consequences are our emotional feelings, but another rather beautiful one is perspective. After all, there wouldn’t even be such a thing as “happy” if there wasn’t such a thing as not-happy. This is the Yin and Yang of life. There are no one-sided coins.
Think of it like friendship. Let’s say Happy is your favourite friend in the world—a friend so close that you don’t even have to speak out loud. You can talk to each other in your thoughts. Happy always makes you laugh, and notice the good things in other people, places and things. But… Happy is married—to someone that’s the exact opposite of Happy. Misery sucks the energy out of you with her negativity. She’ll notice everything uncomfortable or unpleasant about every person, place or thing she encounters. Like Happy, you talk to Misery in your thoughts but her constant complaining about how things are generally makes you either sad, frustrated or angry.
The deal is, Happy will come around as often as you invite him, but he insists that every now and then you take Misery off his hands. You would prevent Misery from ever showing up if you could—but that would mean Happy would stop coming by too. So to love Happy means you have to accept Misery. But there are two ways to do that.
You can do like most people, and you can can complain about Misery all day long. You can complain to Misery herself, to friends, to co-workers, to strangers—even to pets, or people no longer with us. This of course exacerbates Misery, causing her to get even more aggressive about her dissatisfaction with the world and so the moments of the day get progressively worse. Or…
Or you can do like the wise ones, and you can accept that Misery will always be a part of your life with Happy, and you can actually welcome Misery into your life with that understanding. That doesn’t mean inviting Misery in. But if Happy sends Misery to bang on your door, it’s much easier to smile and say hello than it is to pretend there’s a way to slam it shut without locking out Happy too.
Living temporarily with Misery isn’t even that hard. If you push against Misery—if you want her out of your life, she will stay to argue longer. Your discussions with her will be painful and depressing. If you accept that she’s there and you avoid engaging in judgmental discussions with Misery, then you save yourself from true agony. Instead you’ll simply have provided yourself the sort of contrast that will make Happy’s next visit that much more enjoyable. Whatever you lose with Misery you gain with Happiness. It’s like how drinks taste better when you’re dry.
Remember: Misery won’t leave because you ask her to. That will make her want to stay. Accept that she’s a part of your life with Happy and relax. The key is not to engage her in conversation. The silence will cause her to leave. And if you do accidentally start talking to her, stop as soon as you can and go find some relative of Happy’s so you can focus instead on sharing the sort of pleasant, uplifting conversation that reminds you of how wonderful life truly is. Even with Misery in it.
Now go enjoy your day, no matter who you’re spending it with.
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.