Happiness Is Weird But Love Is Weirder

Happiness Is Weird But Love Is Weirder

It doesn't feel the way you think it will.
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So, I am getting married. I will now have everything I wanted as a little girl, what I dreamed of and prayed for my adult life. Beautiful house, committed husband, loving church, fulfilling job. It would seem all my immediate needs are being met. I am uniquely blessed. Now, I have had my share of pain and struggle and heartache. It has not always been this calm. So, I am fully aware and fully appreciate this moment of Eden-like contentment.

But I don’t feel the way I thought I would.

Now, I don’t feel sad by any means. Far from it. I recognize that God has given me blessings that I don’t deserve, that I could never deserve. I will be moving into a beautiful home that my fiancé and I worked on together, that is wonderfully located and designed in a way we both approve of aesthetically. I know that I have been given a future husband that is what many women have always wanted: someone kind, full of integrity, hardworking, intelligent, patient and loving, my best friend in every capacity. And my church is a remarkable safe place full of biblical truth and kind, loving people that want to help me to become all God intended for me to be. And my job is a unique, encouraging environment that challenges me every day and has provided me with so many good friends and learning opportunities.

I am content, which is infinitely more powerful than being happy.

“Happiness” is defined as the following:

(noun) Delight, pleasure, or gladness, as over a particular thing; characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy; favored by fortune; fortunate or lucky.

Don’t you think my current life is the very definition of those things? I don’t mean to brag, because I know those things can change at any moment, and I have done nothing to deserve them. It’s an incredible grace. However, I am a human being. I don’t wake up every day with a visible, intense, happy energy. I don’t bounce around, gliding on a cloud. I feel pretty normal. Content, but normal. That’s is something I don’t think people truly understand about the process of adulthood and finding yourself the recipient of what you always wanted. It is more likely (and better) to experience peace, a calm solidified confidence, than an all-consuming excitement.

My fiancé and I intend to have a very small, very un-exciting wedding. In my mind, marriage is a very serious covenant made before God. Sure, it’s fun and the whole wedding planning process is fun. Dressing shopping is fun. Engagement parties are fun. Wedding cakes are fun.

But I am not signing up for fun. I am signing up for a very convicting, very rewarding, very challenging journey. I am publically declaring that I intend to operate (sometimes painfully) in selflessness. I am declaring publically that I will be emotionally, financially, sexually, legally and spiritually tied to another person. Just ONE person. No matter who comes along, no matter what happens within our relationship, no matter how hard life gets. I don’t leave. I stay. That, to me, is very serious.

And in regards to the other things I mentioned, there are similar constraints. Sure, we will have a beautiful home. But that home comes with maintenance, mortgage, HOA payments and expectations, repairs, etc. And it’s another serious commitment. And my job? Well, I love my job. I feel very blessed to have it. But each day, I am responsible for the tasks assigned to me. And the more I move up, the more responsibility I take on. That’s something else I take seriously. I also take seriously that each day I choose to work here (even if I enjoy it), I am choosing NOT to pursue a Masters in Psychology, something I had planned on for a long time. That is something I also take seriously.

So, maybe it’s my problem. Maybe I take things too seriously and its making it hard for me to swim in that milk-and-honey phenomenon known as “being in love” and your “dreams coming true” and “living the life you always wanted” – or maybe it just doesn’t feel the way we always thought it would.

And that’s okay.

Because, you see, happiness is a slippery thing. In some ways, it’s the most deceptive lie humanity has ever perpetuated. We abandon good people, good jobs, good circumstances because it doesn’t make us “happy” and that’s simply because we are still living in the Romantic Age. We still elevate feelings higher than reality. The simple fact is, circumstances don’t determine joy. We do. Love is not a feeling, it’s the choices we make every day to deny our own selfishness and to pursue the highest good for the other person. It’s an active commitment to put someone else first, before ourselves. That’s a very difficult thing. People don’t realize that. Well, they often do, but far too late.

Maybe that’s why I don’t jump up and down in ecstatic joy, threatening to break my ankle at the force of my locomotion. Because I am often sobered by the reality of what my dreams afford me. My joy is not a superficial one. It’s a deep-seeded awareness that manifests itself as a calm, contented solidity. My new life will breed a great deal of happiness. And a great deal of challenge. The weight of that holds me firmly to the ground.

Cover Image Credit: KeywordSuggest

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The Potomac Urges Me To Keep Going

A simple story about how and why the Potomac River brings me emotional clarity.

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It's easy to take the simple things for granted. We tell ourselves that life is moving too fast to give them another thought. We are always thinking about what comes next. We can't appreciate what's directly in front of us because we are focused on what's in our future. Sometimes you need to snap back to present and just savor the fact that you are alive. That's what the Potomac River does for me.

I took the Potomac River for granted at one point. I rode by the river every day and never gave it a second glance. I was always distracted, never in the present. But that changed one day.

A tangle of thoughts was running rampant inside my head.

I have a lot of self-destructive tendencies. I find it's not that hard to convince yourself that life isn't worth living if nothing is there to put it in perspective.

My mind constantly conjures up different scenarios and follows them to their ultimate conclusion: anguish. I needed something to pull myself out of my mental quagmire.

All I had to do was turn my head and look. And I mean really look. Not a passing glance but rather a gaze of intent. That's when it hit me. It only lasted a minute or so but I made that moment feel like an eternity.

My distractions of the day, no matter how significant they seemed moments ago, faded away. A feeling of evanescence washed over me, almost as if the water itself had cleansed me.

I've developed a routine now. Whenever I get on the bus, I orient myself to get the best view of the river. If I'm going to Foggy Bottom, I'll sit on the right. If I'm going back to the Mount Vernon Campus, I'll sit on the left. I'll try to sit in a seat that allows me to prop my arm against the window, and rest my cheek against my palm.

I've observed the Potomac in its many displays.

I've observed it during a clear day when the sky is devoid of clouds, and the sun radiates a far-reaching glow upon the shimmering ripples below. I can't help but envy the gulls as they glide along the surface.

I've observed it during the rain when I have to wipe the fogged glass to get a better view. I squint through the gloom, watching the rain pummel the surface, and then the river rises along the bank as if in defiance of the harsh storm. As it fades from view, I let my eyes trace the water droplets trickling down the window.

I've observed it during snowfall when the sheets of white obscure my view to the point where I can only make out a faint outline.

I've observed it during twilight when the sky is ablaze with streaks of orange, yellow, and pink as the blue begins to fade to grey.

Last of all, I've observed it during the night, when the moon is swathed in a grey veil. The row of lights running along the edge of the bridge provides a faint gleam to the obsidian water below.

It's hard to tear away my eyes from the river now. It's become a place of solace. The moment it comes into view, I'll pause whatever I'm doing. I turn up the music and let my eyes drift across the waterfront. A smile always creeps across my face. I gain a renewed sense of life.

Even on my runs, I set aside time to take in the river. I'll run across the bridge toward Arlington and then walk back, giving myself time to look out over either side of the bridge. I don't feel in a rush for once. I just let the cool air brush against my face. Sometimes my eyes begin to water. Let's just say it's not always because of the wind.

I chase surreal moments. The kind of moments you can't possibly plan for or predict. Moments where you don't want to be anywhere else. The ones that ground your sense of being. They make life truly exceptional.

Though I crave these moments, they are hard to come by. You can't force them. Their very nature does not allow it. But when I'm near the river, these moments just seem to come naturally.

I remember biking around DC when I caught sight of the Potomac. Naturally, I couldn't resist trying to get a better view. I pulled up along the river bank, startling a lone gull before dismounting. I took a few steps until I reached the edge of the water. The sun shone brilliantly in the center of the horizon.

A beam of light stretched across the water toward me, almost like a pathway to the other side of the river. I felt an urge to walk forward. I let one-foot dangle over the water, lowering it slowly to reach the glittering water below. I debated briefly whether I could walk on water. Though it sounds ridiculous, anything felt possible. Snapping back to reality, I brought my foot back up and scanned the vast blue expanse before me.

Eventually, the wind began to buffet against my left cheek, as if directing me to look right. I turned my head. A couple was walking along the bike path. They paused beneath a tree for a moment and locked eyes. Smiling, the man leaned in and whispered something in the woman's ear. As she giggled, they began to kiss softly.

While I looked on with a smile of my own, I couldn't help but wonder if there was someone else out there in the world willing to share this moment with me.

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