Go Deep: Happiness is a Big Fish
True happiness comes from within.
We’ve all heard it: inner peace, self-love - it goes by many names - but happiness, the big, rich, beautiful kind, comes from someplace deep. It’s a lot like a fish.
If you want to catch the little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. -- David Lynch
As someone who holds a pretty strong association between happiness and big fish, this spoke to me. If happiness is a big fish, and the big fish live in the deep water… that’s where I’m going.
I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge, to fear failure or to declare something “too risky.” Usually I just jump, with an open heart and a sense of purpose. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not. But I’ve never found myself at a deficit from the chances I’ve taken. I always learn something; it’s always a step forward.
Have no fear when it comes to personal growth.
But it’s dark in there.
It is, at first. But you learn your way around. After all, it’s you. Whatever your practice for going in - meditation, yoga, maybe fishing - once you know where everything is, you can navigate your own mind like you would your living room with the lights off - intuitively aware of familiar obstacles. The anxiety and fear of the unknown recedes, and the more time you spend getting to know yourself, the more love you’re able to create, just for you.
And that love becomes your center; it becomes your shelter from the storms that will no doubt come your way. You become your own rock because no matter what happens with other people, you know there’s at least one person who loves you more than anything and will always be there for you.
When shit hits the fan.
I gave my TEDxBoulder talk last month. I spoke about commitment, and how we have to get through the initial learning phase in any situation - marriage, love, work, fun - to get to a place where we start to get something back from it. Something truly worthwhile - a return on our investment in the thing - is the result of time and stamina.
A week after I spoke about commitment in front of 2000 people, my boyfriend broke up with me. He “can’t be in a relationship right now.” The irony.
A week after that, my grandmother went to Hospice. My mother has been at her bedside for weeks. I’ve made dinner for my father every night. I go to my job, immerse myself in work, fish when I can and try to see through all of this to the next thing.
On wednesday night, my grandmother died. I’m on my way to South Carolina for her funeral as I type this.
For the last two days, all anyone can say to me is “oh my god, how are you? I can’t believe what you’ve been through this month.”
I appreciate the sympathy, my friends are genuinely kind and supportive people, and I’m surprised at my response:
“I’m good, actually,” I say. And I am. It’s strange, and different and new for me to see it this way.
“I mean, all this stuff is happening around me, and it’s tough, but I know that it’s not happening to me. These situations are hard, but I’m okay.”
Amid these circumstances, but not as a victim of them, I’ve been able to maintain a centeredness that protects me from being blown off course. The love of self that I’ve created has become my refuge, and from here I can see through all of this to the next phase, when things will undoubtedly be better.
I believe in the good things coming.
There is only one way to move through this life: with love and trust and openness to possibility.
We have to love ourselves enough to keep pushing for what we want.
We have to trust ourselves to make choices that get us closer to what we want.
We have to stay open to the possibility that we may not know the outcome, but it might be better than anything we could even imagine.
My grandmother lived to be 92. She didn’t take no for an answer. She wasn’t afraid of failure. She saw risk as a challenge and setbacks as an opportunity to do it better next time. To go bigger. She was a force of nature. I hope that she would be proud of the risks I’ve taken.
Balls to the wall.
I had sworn off relationships when I fell in love. It didn’t work out, but I’m a kinder, softer, gentler person as a result. My heart is still open, more so to myself than ever before. In expanding my ability to love another, I’ve expanded my ability to love me, and that gives me an ever greater sense of centeredness and even more faith that I’m on the right path.
I had never spoken in public before I got onstage at TEDxBoulder last month. I should have been terrified, but what was the worst that could happen? I pushed myself in a way I didn’t even know was possible and now, my capacity for taking on new challenges comes with a confidence in my ability to learn and grow that didn’t exist before.
“Be fearless,” my grandmother used to say. “What do you have to lose?” (She also said If you're going to do the New York Times Sunday crossword, then you should trust your intelligence enough to do it in pen. Balls to the wall.)
We have everything we need. Right now.
Human beings are remarkably resilient creatures. We have a capacity for love and empathy that truly knows no bounds. But it starts within. Our self love is our capacity for love. We can’t love another any more than we love ourselves, and we won’t let their love for us exceed our own because we won’t feel that we deserve it. To truly love, and in so doing, to be truly happy, we have to go within. We have to find the things inside ourselves that we love and cultivate an appreciation for our stuff that surpasses the validation we get from external sources.
Those are the things that we turn to when the world goes sideways. Those are the things that are always there for us. The things that make us truly happy. The big fish.