Choosing Happiness

Today is my 35th birthday (36 if you count the original) and this year I’m giving myself Happiness. Real happiness, lasting happiness, not just the kind that bounces on trampolines (though that too, of course!) This is the kind that sustains, nourishes, creates, honors. The kind that is friendly, inclusive, honest, real.

Actually “giving” myself happiness is not quite the right word. Joanna suggested “protecting” it. It’s like I’ve discovered a baby bird, a baby happiness-bird that has nestled into my heart and it’s my job now to keep her safe, help her sing, let her fly. It’s up to me to do the things that nourish my little bird-of-happiness and stop doing things that don’t. So what if a swarm of SHOULDS walk into the room demanding to have their way? They are not worth compromising my happiness.

Today is my last day of my two-month dance course. It’s not the last day, but it’s my last. Because I’ve discovered something in my time here: There are two kinds of struggles, those that give energy, and those which take it. Knowing the difference is key. The first kind of struggle is motivated by love. The love creates the energy needed to overcome what is difficult. The second kind is motivated by fear. The fear eventually drains the energy needed even to try.

I’m leaving my course because I’ve realized that most of the physical practices are not making me happy. They are beautiful, and they amplify so many others’ happiness-birds, but not mine, and that’s more important that whatever I thought I would get by learning this style of dance. And it’s more important than staying to protect the teacher, or not disrupt the group, or because I said I would, or because I’m scared of judgment, or free time, or or, or….

Luckily and gratefully, I’ve discovered other things in India that do make my heart sing, singing being one of them, especially with groups of women. To my unexpected delight I’ve in love with a form of Aeriel Yoga that’s hard as hell, but I love it so much that the energy is there to learn it.

I’ve spent every weekend in the ocean, and now sunrises too, overcoming my fear of the waves. The pleasure of being in the water is worth more than the (finally shrinking levels of) panic I experience each time a wave rolls in. I love beach volleyball and that you can just walk up to strangers and say “Can I Play?” A perfectly reasonable life motto, if you ask me. I love riding my scooter at dawn when the roads are nearly empty. I love the coconut latte at one cafe, the banana Nutella crepe at another, the sangria at a third.  I’ve started learning French again, because Mon petit oiseau-de-la-joie l’adore.

And of course, I love my practices of letting go. Letting go of all the stories and beliefs that would have me think I’m anything less that beautiful, capable, powerful, loveable, worthy, or enough. You should see my journal, it’s a growing list, page after page of all the thoughts I no longer have to believe and all the ones I can believe if I choose.

Photo of page from Leah's journal

So for my remaining time in India, I’m giving myself space for these other things that I love, and to find new things that may feed my happiness-bird. I have to admit, there is a part of me that panics a little bit every time a wave of Not-Knowing comes in.

But I want to be happy. I want it so bad. And I finally want it enough to prioritize it, practice and protect it. 

So this year, if you wish me a Happy Birthday, know that I really hear you, and I really will.

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