“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” ~Jonathan Safran Foer
“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.” ~Chuck Palahniuk
I recently watched Planet Earth II — the new-ish sequel to the original series from 2006 — and was reminded how beautiful and magical and harsh and violent and dynamic this world truly is.
Because while there is a lot of majestic stuff happening on this planet, there’s also a lot of hardship and struggle that is inherent in being a creature of any kind on this floating rock in the sky.
Existence isn’t supposed to be easy all the time. It isn’t supposed to be joyful all the time.
It isn’t supposed to feel good all the time.
And yet, we place happiness and ease and joy up on a pedestal and spend our lives chasing after these things as though they might be a destination we can ever actually land upon and live out the rest of our days.
The truth is, we Homo sapiens are still here because we figured out how to survive through some pretty shitty situations over several thousands of years. It certainly wasn’t easy or always fun, but we did it.
And probably there were moments of joy and ecstasy and delight along the way, but we didn’t spend the majority of our evolutionary history hanging out in happiness believing we’d finally made it to some sort of final resting place.
If we’d done that, our position on the planet might look a little different and less ubiquitous than it does these days.
Transformation takes place through struggle.
Resilience comes from facing hardship and surviving intact. Breakdown is necessary to building strength. And change is often initiated by serious discomfort.
A few days ago, I was listening to an interview with a woman by the name of Brooke Castillo, who was talking about self-employment and entrepreneurship and all that jazz. And while I was actually not familiar with her work before hearing this interview and can’t vouch for her services personally, there was something she said that just felt so true, I want to share it with you.
She noted that even if you’re doing something you absolutely love — and she was talking about business specifically, but I think this applies to all of life — it is still going to feel terrible about half the time.
Breathe that in, folks.
Because in my experience, it is absolutely true.
Another way of looking at this comes from the writer, Mark Manson, who asks, “What flavor of shit sandwich would you like to eat?”
Because the truth is this: Nothing feels good all the time. NOTHING.
And as long as we remain convinced that there’s some golden ticket to happiness and that we can cash it in for indefinite, uninterrupted joy, we risk missing out on some pretty wonderful experiences that might bring with them a few shit sandwiches in addition to rainbows and unicorns and personal fulfillment.
Also: We risk feeling like we’re doing something wrong if we’re not feeling ecstatic about life all the time.
Personally, I don’t believe that the purpose of this life is to be happy.
I think our purpose here is to continually evolve. Happiness is one component of this. But it’s just one. We’re also here to struggle and be challenged and fail and fall down and eat shit sandwiches on a regular basis.
And being with the perfect person or having the perfect job or running your own ideal business doesn’t mean you are free from the reality of things feeling terrible some of the time. Maybe not half of the time, like Brooke suggests, but easily a third of the time. EASILY.
You know that oft-repeated notion that if you do what you love you never work a day in your life? I’m not buying it.
Every person I know who does what she or he loves still fucking works. And still feels like they’re working at least a third of the time. At least.
I guess what I’m saying is this: If you’re waiting for the thing that is going to make you feel happy all the time, stop. It’s never coming.
And if you’re worried you’re in the wrong career or the wrong relationship because it doesn’t feel easy and fun and glorious every damn day, stop. Even the best jobs feel like work some of the time and even the best partners are going to occasionally annoy the hell out of you.
Don’t get me wrong, there are absolutely, without question careers and relationships that need to end. Like yesterday.
I’m certainly not suggesting you stay put if you’re in that situation.
But if things are generally good and you’re doing something you love and/or you’re with a partner who mostly lights you up and on good days you know you’re where you’re supposed to be? Don’t throw out the baby or the bathwater (or something) because you have a few hours or days or weeks when things feel hard and kind of terrible.
Life is like that.
So put less pressure on yourself to be happy all the time. Perpetual happiness is a pipe dream, friends.
As the journalist, David Epstein, once said: “You’re here. Add meaning.”
If you ask me, this seems like a pretty good place to start.
Happy Monday, friends. I love you.