If we don’t know what happiness looks like, how will we ever know if we’ve found it? Part of my reason for creating The Checklist and writing about it in this blog is because I’m still trying to figure out my definition of happiness. But while all those things on my list are part of that ideal life I imagine for myself, maybe they’re not the whole picture. We’ve all known someone who seems to have so much and yet isn’t satisfied with what we see as a good life, maybe that person has even been us. We also “know” that money can’t buy happiness and designer labels won’t make you a better person—although, like me, you may still hope to find out by experience. But if that perfect job, Mr. Right, fancy shoes, or spacious apartment won’t make us happy, what will?
The answer is staring at me in the mirror, and sometimes that’s my harshest critic. There are days when I’m unhappy, though maybe I should be. Perhaps work is going well, but it’s still not the job I really want. Or I did a three-mile run this morning, but why isn’t the weight coming off? And then I look at myself in the mirror and my reflection mocks me a little. Not hater-talk or even self-deprecation, but more like the snarky truth-telling that I can’t ignore. Hey, remember when you didn’t have a job and were in debt up to your eyeballs? Wasn’t that fantastic? Or what about how you used to hate yourself so much you refused to have a mirror in your room? Good times! And this is usually enough of a butt kick to make me realize that I am extremely fortunate and should be happy with what I have (though not so happy that I’m unwilling to strive for higher goals).
At the same time, I have to wonder if there will ever be a point in my life when I will look in the mirror and regardless of what is going on in my life, I can just be happy without the sarcastic anti-pep talk. Will I always have to mentally yell at myself, be happy dammit!, or it could possibly just happen without my forcing it? Well, there was a point when I truly believed that bad days would always outnumber good days and when I believed the only way to function was to bottle up all the bad feelings until I could release them in controlled explosions. But thanks to some judicious medical advice and certain people in my life, that’s not true anymore. And if I could get past that, then it seems only a matter of time and effort before the pep talks are no longer necessary, at least not in front of the mirror. I will still need them to get me out of a warm bed on a super cold morning.