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What is Happy & How do I get it?

Don’t wait for everything to be perfect before you decide to enjoy your life.”  – Joyce Meyer

This picture reminds me of happiness.  Not what you were thinking of right?  See that rainbow faintly peeking out from behind the clouds?  That’s where I used to think my happiness was.  At the end of a rainbow.  I’ve learned that happiness is not to be confused with joy.

I used to think that happiness was all I ever needed.  It was the guy I had to have, the money I needed to get, the weight I needed to lose, the car I wanted so desperately, and on and on.  Well, at one point or another I finally got the guy I thought I needed, the money I always wanted and bought the car I’d been dreaming about.  I should have been happy, right?  Nope, I was more miserable than ever.  Where was this “happy” feeling I was promised?  I had been chasing it all my life.

Since then, I’ve learned that happiness is external.  It’s based on outside influences like meeting the “right” guy or girl, buying your dream house in the perfect neighborhood or getting the job interview you’ve been hoping for.  Happiness is related to the future and is based on other people and things.  It’s fleeting and you can’t control or wield it.

Happiness is not joy because joy is not external.  Joy is not for sale, you can’t hold it in your hand and it’s not conditional on what someone else does or doesn’t do.  Joy is not dependent on anything or anybody in order to exist.  I think of joy as a mystery, a spiritual quality that is internal.

My Grandmother had tons of joy and I wanted the same thing watching her live her life.  Her mother passed away when she was only 10 years old.  This left her as the oldest girl in the household to help cook, clean and basically be a surrogate mother to her 9 brothers and 3 sisters while her Father worked in the fields all day as a Farmer.   She grew up in a house made of sod with no electricity or running water.   Her family was so poor that she didn’t even have any shoes.

She married my Grandfather when she was 15-years-old.  At their wedding reception, they had a dollar dance and my Grandmother got so tired of dancing (but still wanted to collect more dollars) that she and her twin sister decided to switch dresses so that her twin could keep dancing and collecting dollars for her.  Nobody was the wiser.

My Grandmother was pregnant with my Mom when she was just 16-years-old.  Over the next 19 years, she had four more children, all while working with my Grandfather in the fields everyday on their farm.  She didn’t complain. She had nine Grandchildren after that and each and every one of us felt like we were her favorite.  My Grandmother had a hard life in so many ways, but she lived her life joyfully and with such gratitude for what she had.  She didn’t allow circumstances; people or sorrow lessen her joy.  She turned her misfortune into love and laughter and shared it with her friends and family so graciously.

I want that.  I want my selfishness and expectations to stop getting in the way of my joy.  When I take my final breath on this earth, I don’t want to remember my life full of complaining, coveting, and always having to get “my way”.

So today, I choose joy!  I choose to be thankful for my God and the life I’ve been given.  I choose to love, laugh and live like it’s my last day in this world.



  1. This is beautiful. I needed to hear this tonight as I am dealing with health issues but am trying to practice gratitude for what I do have and where I am. Thank you!

  2. Amy Amy

    This absolutely perfect! I had never looked at the fine line between joy and happiness like this before!

  3. Pat Van Gorder Pat Van Gorder

    Another great piece. I marvel at your grandmother, and appreciate reading about her life. I loved the wedding dance. Her children and grandchildren reflect her…especially your mom!! A lasting legacy for generations to come. You are such a good writer!!! I look forward to your pieces. Keep it up.

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