Every Sunday in church there is a meeting for the women called "Relief Society". It lasts an hour long and usually consists of someone leading a planned discussion or lesson about some aspect of the gospel. Today (and most Sundays), I got to hear only the last 10 minutes, as Luke is consistently deciding that he needs to eat at exactly the time the meeting usually starts. Thank goodness there is a separate room in the church set aside just for mothers to feed and care for their babies!
By the time I actually get to the meeting, I have no idea what the topic is, and everything is usually winding down. Today I think the topic was on true happiness; at least that was where the discussion was when I sat down. The teacher asked for us to think about and share a memory we have of a time when we were really truly happy. The first thing that came to my mind was my wedding day. Best. Day. Ever.
There were other memories that came flooding in, like the birth of my son, when we found out we were pregnant, when I finally graduated college, the day I opened the letter telling me where I would be serving as a missionary, the first time I went through the temple, every time someone I taught in Argentina entered the waters of baptism, and I could probably go on and on.
Most of the people who actually raised their hands and shared their "happy memories" had similar stories. One woman talked about the day her parents and siblings were sealed together as a family in the temple. Another talked about when she was finally able to forgive her mother for bad things that happened in her childhood and how much joy she feels at the new relationship they have established. Another shared some memories about her and her husband.
Then the woman leading the discussion pointed out something that I found really interesting. No one shared a happy memory about "that one time I bought a boat" or "every time I drive my fancy car" or "when I buy that new video game I've been waiting for". They didn't even say "that one time I had my house spotless clean when people came to visit" or "when I finally lost those last 10 pounds I had been trying to lose". The things that really make us happy involve people and relationships. How many times have we sat and thought "Once I acquire ______, then I will be happy"? This shouldn't be. We all have family and friends and a perfect God in heaven who care about us and love us more than we could hope for. Even if our circumstances aren't ideal (like if we have a lot of debt, or we are overwhelmed with responsibilities, or we have bad health, etc...) we shouldn't let those things get in the way of our being happy. We have all that we need to be happy right now.
Happiness is something you choose, not something that happens to you. I'm sure we can all agree that there are times when life is hard and we don't like what is happening to us or around us. Despite the hard times, we still need to focus on those things that we know bring true happiness, like family, friends, and God. I will have difficult trials regardless if I focus on what makes me happy or not, but my happiness does not depend on if I'm going through a trial, it depends on what I choose to focus on and when I choose to focus on it. Happiness is a choice.
I'm sure someone out there reading this is thinking "Sure, easy for you to say, but I have _________(insert emotional struggle)". I totally understand emotional struggles that sometimes make it impossible to see the light in life. Last year my husband finally convinced me to see a doctor about my frequent and sudden "shut downs" as we called them. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and I was relieved to find that taking a pill every day prevented most of my debilitating breakdowns that periodically left me completely unable to see the good in anything until it had passed. But once I got pregnant my doctor and I decided that the best thing for my situation was for me to go unmedicated throughout the pregnancy and wait to start again until I finish nursing my son. Some days it is really hard, some days have tears and some don't, and some days I don't even get dressed. I'm not suggesting that focusing on family and friends and God makes the trials go away, because it doesn't. What it does do is give me perspective. It reminds me that there is joy in the journey, that the rainbow is just as beautiful as the pot of gold at the end, and that I have much to be grateful for even if my current situation feels miserable.
I know that God wants us to be happy, that is why He put us here! But we have to choose to be happy. Don't expect to find happiness at the end of something, because you'll be missing out on the joy that surrounds you right now! And don't be fooled into thinking that happiness comes from material things; money can't buy happiness. Happiness comes from being with the ones you love, and from doing good things with your life. If you don't believe me, just try it. I promise that God will show you what real happiness is and that it's not as complicated as you think.