Sunday, March 21, 2010

Turning the Tide on Happiness

On a sunny morning in May of 1992, my life suddenly changed.

And when I say suddenly, I mean in an instant, with no warning. One minute I was sitting in my favorite chair drinking coffee all by myself, thinking my usual thoughts, and the next minute I exploded. I began jumping around the room, yelling, giving myself the biggest butt-kicking of my life. The episode only lasted for about 10 minutes but it altered the course of my life. If anyone had seen me, they would have thought I was nuts!

What caused the eruption? Thoughts. Just like molten lava deep inside a serene mountain, toxic negative thoughts had been boiling around in my mind for years. Those thoughts took a turn for the worse when, a few months earlier, I started thinking about leaving my family and fleeing my life.

You see, every morning I would get my son, aged 9, off to school and then sit in that chair and imagine going into my bedroom, packing up all my clothes, loading up my mini van and driving off down the street. In my mind I would sometimes leave a note or call someone to pick my son up from school. Sometimes I would imagine where I would go first, like to the bank. The only way I ever got myself out of the chair was to decide not to do it today, maybe tomorrow. And then the whole round would begin again the next day. I was stuck in a depression dew loop with no way out.

On that fateful morning in May, I suddenly realized that I wasn't going to do it. And I was furious! The yelling went something like this:

"You IDIOT! You're not going ANYWHERE because if you WERE, you would have GONE already! I've HAD it with you! STOP this foolishness, GET OVER IT!"

And on like that .... while waving my arms, shaking my fists and I think there was some stomping involved. Pretty sure there was. The best part came next. I ran into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked deranged, crazed, wild-eyed. I was horrified, to say the least. But I looked that crazy woman right in the eye, shook my finger in her face and told her to shape up. Told her I had had it with her and her whining and moaning. Told her she was going to get happy RIGHT NOW or I was going to know the reason why not.

The idea that I could actually be happy sent a jolt of panic through me, I could see it in my eyes. So I arranged a smile on my face and even though it gave me an even spookier look when combined with those wild eyes, I said out loud, "I'm a happy girl." I didn't die so I said it again. And then again. I repeated it over and over until it became a little song. "I'm a happy girl. A happy, happy girl. I'm a happy, happy, happy, happy girl!" Catchy tune, you should have heard it. Satisfied with my efforts, I jumped into the shower singing my little song and went on to the rest of my day.

In the days and weeks that followed, I would sing my happy girl song in my van or in the shower but only when I was alone. I didn't tell anyone about my episode because I really had no idea what I had done.

About three weeks later, I noticed that I felt pretty good. It was a shock of sorts, after feeling so bad for so long. It stopped me in my tracks while I did a mental body scan and decided that, yes, I felt pretty darn good! I wondered if my happy girl song was really working. Could it be true? Could a silly thing like that really help?

Emphatically, YES!