Have The Courage to Be Happy

A friend once said to me, after she'd patiently heard me recount the same old story about a guy for the 600th time, "Laura, some things do not need to be pondered any longer. If you want something to ponder, pick up the big book." (She was referring to the big book of AA.) I wanted to punch her. And then punch her again. Because I knew she was right.

I was in the midst of struggling hard to get sober. I had real, big, serious issues to face: debt, some small challenges with honesty, a lingering divorce, a court date for my DUI, a kid that needed my attention and an unfortunate habit of getting drunk when I didn't mean to.

Now that those issues are no longer screaming at me, I find myself clinging to all the reasons I should stay stuck. I wake up in the morning and the committee is there, waiting - Oh look! She's up! - ready to hand me the list of well-constructed arguments about why I should be pissed off, disappointed, and otherwise unhappy with things as they are. As they're delivered, I gobble them up like candy.

Yesterday the voices worked so well I didn't write the "Ask I Fly" responses I'd promised you all. Instead I went back and watched old episodes of "Tell Me That You Love Me" on HBO - an incredible, heavy series that aired back in 2007 and only lasted one season, but is among my favorites of all time. It follows the lives of six couples connected by the same therapist. In the last episode, the therapist counsels a couple whose marriage was on the brink of shattering, and as they start to turn a corner, she tells them to "have the courage to be happy." I forgot how alarming that message was to me at the time, when I was at the bottom of my own deep well of desperation in my marriage. I didn't want to be happy. I thought happy meant I'd have to stay.

So what would it mean if I had the courage to be happy now?

This morning, as I sat down to do Day 1 of the Oprah and Deepak Meditation challenge, I heard Oprah's voice come through and say "gratitude is the way toward grace." I smashed my palms into my face and said, "You've gotta be fucking kidding me." If I hear another thing about gratitude, I'm going to puke. Really.

But I didn't get up. I didn't throw my phone. I listened to the words and I sat there, with the committee, and promised myself to just remain teachable for those 20 minutes. It was hard.

My mind wants to continue to coddle the ways I can stay stuck. The more I grow, the stronger it resists. This morning I went to court (again) to settle up what I hope will be the last of my license and car-related idiocy that stemmed from my drinking nonsense. It's done. That part of it is all done. I left and thought, what next?

Today I am reminded that sometimes we need not unpack things any further. Sometimes it's time to have the courage to be happy (and it does take big courage because it means you have to drop those age-old arguments and patterns and blame games and self-pity that let you play small).

This Maya Angelou quote came to me as I rode the train into work.

"Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, ‘I’m with you kid. Let’s go.'"

 If this speaks to you (which might feel like the heartbeat of rage in your temple) maybe it's time. Maybe it's time to grab life by the lapel, to do the hard work of dropping your arguments and resentments even though they remain unresolved - even though they may forever remain unresolved - and get on with the business of your life.

Sometimes it's not time. Sometimes you need to continue to unpack, to nurse your wounds, to stay in the bath or cry in bed for another day or week until you're strong enough and ready.

But if it's time, don't wait any longer, okay? Kindly, lovingly, but firmly tell the committee to fuck off. Because you have work to do.