I admit it. I am among the first to cringe when happy, positive, feel-good messages become trendy. You can participate in seminars, take classes, and buy books. To learn to be positive. To allow yourself to be happy. Have we lost the ability to know happiness without buying something that teaches us the how of it? Are we really all that miserable? Or did we just forget what we already know?

I won’t pretend to have the answers. I’m still learning to unlearn. But I have yet to meet a baby that is truly miserable. Yes, they cry when they’re hungry, need a change, or are in pain. It’s communication, rather than misery. And five year olds know they can do and be anything. The misery when my kids were young was that I didn’t have enough money to raise them the way I wanted. Their memory is that we always had good food and a good place to live. And I let them have teased up big hair when they were seven. And I bought clothes economically, but they were always in style. They knew I took them places when I could. And I did art projects with them and talked like cookie monster when I read books to them.

When we finally grow up, we’re supposed to get grounded, realistic,and strive for better.  We’re supposed to pay for our mistakes by doing the penance of remembering all of them. Forever. And if we err by somehow forgetting, someone will remind you that those mistakes you made 30 years ago define you now. It’s one of the reasons people stay too long in bad jobs, bad marriages, and a bad life. I stayed in a relationship for 17 years, which was about 15 years too many. Why? Because to leave would mean I failed. It wasn’t my first long-term relationship, so this one was on me. Hindsight tells me I chose wrong the wrong person for me, but I didn’t fail. It also taught me to trust my instinct for my own life. That being unhappy is not a badge you need to earn to be human.

When we meet new people, we lean toward telling them about our mistakes. Because we now believe that our misery defines who we are, and where we are now. Why is it that defining our dark side is what we feel bonds us to others? It will somehow let them know who we are, at our core. Sometimes? I wish I could meet someone that tells me all the good things about themselves. And I am striving to do the same. Because I am not that bundle of ugly, and neither are you.

I believe misery is learned. That the very act of allowing positive thoughts to flood your brain is worthy. I also believe it takes effort. Not the effort of false smiles and glittery washed-over responses to life. It is being intentional about being happy. Intentional about actually liking who you are and what you’ve become. Liking all the work you’ve done to be who you are. And liking all the work you are doing to become who you want to be. And believing you are worthy.