Stop Waiting For HappinessNovember 27, 2017
From the title of this blog, you are probably expecting this to be a piece about finding happiness in the present moment. And it is… but before we get to that part, I would like to tell you a tale about a seemingly unrelated subject: garlic (insert confused chuckle/ eyebrow raise). Ever since I was 16 I’ve had a severe sensitivity to garlic, which resulted in me keeled-over on the floor with sharp-shooting pains, and stomach distention that made me look nine months pregnant. How I figured out that garlic was the culprit still remains a mystery to me, because it literally is in everything! To put into greater context just how great my sensitivity was, garlic could be the last ingredient on the label– and even only as powder–and I’d still have just as severe of a reaction.
Not a day went by that I didn’t pray to the universe to make my garlic allergy go away. Having said that, I always added the clause, “if this is the worst thing I’ll suffer from, then I’ll keep it.” This became such a part of my identity that I never thought about, or prepared for, the day my prayers would be answered…and then that day came…
I was recently on a trip to Toronto and decided to do an experiment: I would not mention to the waiters at the restaurants we went to that I cannot eat garlic. You may or may not be aware, but garlic is basically in everything (sauces, seasoning, etc), so chances were my dish of choice had at least a trace of garlic. So you’re probably wondering what the result of my highly scientific experiment was?! To my surprise, not once did I get stomach pain!
This is great news for me, but you’re probably thinking: Simone, why would you risk keeling over in the middle of a restaurant just for some garlic? Well, as garlic is virtually in every dish, eating out at restaurants has been very challenging for me over the years, and I decided that I needed to try to find a solution. Aside from doing some concrete things over the past few years in an attempt to ameliorate my symptoms, I had an epiphany that I needed to change my perspective as well, and to start viewing garlic as healing to me. (As an FYI, garlic is extremely anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory to most people, but has been so “harmful” to me for all these years). So, with each bite I said that over and over again, like a mantra, “garlic is healing to me.” I’m not sure what exactly has changed, but I have to believe it’s a combination of the two: the physical things I’ve been doing to strengthen my gut health, and the change in perspective.
I have to admit….the moment I had been waiting for for the past 10 years was extremely anticlimactic, which I felt a tremendous amount of guilt over. Was I being ungrateful? As I said earlier, I never really fantasized about how I would react, but when I reflect back on the highly anticipated moment, I thought my reaction would be different.
It is always said that happiness is fleeting when it comes to material things. But, this made me wonder if the contingency of happiness on anything, not just something material, but even something such as a physical change, has the same exact effect. I used to look-down upon the mentality that I onced subscribed to of: “once THIS happens then I’ll be happy…” because for me it was usually something superficial like: once I have the perfect body, once my skin is flawless, etc. Therefore, I thought that my genuine desire for optimal health (which no longer reacting to garlic would get me one step closer to accomplishing) was not in the same category as those vain and superficial desires. I mean, this garlic “allergy” had a HUGE impact on my life to a certain extent. To be able to walk into any restaurant and order whatever I want without making modifications, or being limited to plain grilled chicken and veggies, would be pretty liberating. Feeling disappointed when I’m paying to go out and enjoy a nice meal has greatly impacted the quality of my life, so why am I not happier about my new reality? It’s almost like the last 10 years never happened, and I’ve always been able to eat garlic. It’s a very bizarre feeling.
Part of me, the cynical part, almost thinks that it’s too good to be true and that it was just a one-time miracle. I’m just waiting for God to be like “nope sorry, you still have a problem with garlic.” Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for every single day since this miraculous “healing,” but I guess I expected it to be more monumental. I thought maybe I’d cry or do some sort of happy dance, but life is just going on as normal.
I feel like a major lesson for me to take away from this experience is that happiness can be found in any situation, and is not to be waited for. There’s always going to be something we wish were different, or that we could change about ourselves, or about a situation. While it is a beautiful thing if that change comes, it is important to not hold out hope thinking things will be drastically different. That’s not to say we won’t be excited or thankful, but for me, with something that absolutely affected my quality of life and made me sick, the absence of it hasn’t really changed that much. Or who knows, maybe I’m just being ungrateful, or fear is preventing me to bask in this glory. I’m going to try to keep this as a reminder the next time the “ I’ll be happier when… or my life will be different when…” mentality arises and pause and reflect on how can I really, truly focus on being happy right here, right now. I hope I’m not painting the picture that I was miserable and walking around like Eor with a storm-cloud above my head all day, because that is most certainly not the case. However, I created this story in my mind that all would be right once the garlic allergy disappeared, and did have that habitual thought several times a day– and that just wasn’t what happened.
I’m still in the process of understanding this new reality and shedding my identity with this health issue, so perhaps later on I will come to express my happiness in the way I expected to–or perhaps not. I guess the moral of the story is that happiness is not something to be waited for, and it does not always manifest in the way we expect it to. So, what’s the best way to be happy? To find joy in each moment, and to not have any expectations.