“I don’t know how I’m going to have joy if I don’t believe anymore. It was my whole life.”
This sentence falls off her tongue in a huff. We’re at separate kitchen tables, states apart, and I wish for the thousandth time I could pass a cup of tea through a phone. Staring out the windows as the trees, stripped of their leaves, bend and shake from the wind. “That’s everyone. Friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues…they’re Jewish, Pagan, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Horrified Observer, Married, Dating, Single, doesn’t matter………..They’re all saying the same thing.” I tell her. “You feel as if you are crumbling because a major part of how you make sense of the world is crumbling.”
Many of us are rejecting (or starting the arduos process of rejecting) the gobbledygook we’ve accepted as fact. The underpinning of our perspectives, our lives. Whether it be God loves everyone or Poor people are morally deficient or Humans will (eventually) make the right choice or any number of other philosophies that you have, your worldview will face an upheaval. Several if you live long enough.
Is it difficult to leave our roots behind? Yes. Is it heartbreaking to essentially shatter what once seemed to be solid ground? Yes. Is it incredibly necessary to dig deep and re-examine your beliefs, your traditions, your opinions? Yes. The necessities are so rarely our first choice. Exchanging the short-lived happiness of “staying with what we know” for the unknown joys of exploration is not many people’s idea of a good time.
The instinct, however, when untethered from one worldview to latch blindly onto another to keep from flailing is never helpful. We see this in people who hop from relationship to relationship without stopping to examine themselves. In those of us who exchange one religion or political system for another without fully considering either. We even see this in smaller doses. Don’t like working for your boss? Be an entrepenuer! Never mind that you don’t know heads or tails about operating and sustaining a business. Don’t like this store? There’s three more selling the same thing within five miles. Never mind that they’re all owned by the same conglomerate.
Whenever we try to find (or create) a life hack to happiness, it fails worse than a fad diet. We’ll use the shorthand of Christian in America to mean happy as in “morally decent, law-abiding, selfless” when there’s a whole plethora of examples as to why that’s not always the case. [See: past 400+ years of a Christian country all the way to the Capitol Coup] We’ll use the shorthand of Wealthy in America to mean happy as in “trustworthy, intelligent, hard work ethic” when there’s an equally long plethora of examples as to why that’s also not the case. [See: anyone with wealth in this country.]
You cannot outsource personal happiness. We know this. We know, deep down, there’s no shortcut to being a consistent, conscientious person. There’s only a long, winding trail of seemingly insignificant actions, habits. Do your dishes. Call the people you love. Move your body. Breathe fresh air. Help when you can. Cook good food. Have a good cry. Make the kind choice. Wash your clothes. Brush your teeth. Listen to music. (And if you can, squeeze in some hangouts with an animal.)
You know, the boring choices. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. You can’t get to happiness by jet. That destination can only be reached by walking, one foot in front of the other.