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  • Writer's pictureClarissa Tapia


Do you know the difference between happiness and joy? Genuine, unapologetic joy? I think most of us recognize fleeting moments of happiness, and actually, I think fleeting is the best way to describe happiness because it does not last - one can only hope to have been present enough to notice it happening. You see, happiness, as defined in a very interesting article on Psychology Today, "Is external. It's based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. It (Happiness) is dependent on outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations so that the end result is your happiness."

What does this mean exactly? It means that in order for you to be happy, things have to go exactly as you plan. One mishap and suddenly the perfect trip, date, meeting, interview, whatever it may be, is ruined. That is how shaky the foundation of happiness is. The straw house that withstands hardly anything. How many times do things actually go as planned? I hope you chuckled out-loud at that question, it is rhetorical. I'm pretty sure 2020 is laughing backstage at humans and their silly plans.

Joy, on the other hand, is not external. In fact, joy is something that already lives within you. In the same article in Psychology Today, they describe joy as something that "...can't be bought and is not conditional on someone else's behavior. In fact, joy is not contingent on anything in order to exist." The question is, how deeply have you buried joy and if you found it, would you even recognize it?

If you are like me, you can't help but wonder, if joy is something I already poses and it requires nothing in order to exist, why can't I just summon it at will so that I can be "happy all the time." My thought is that if it were that simple, we wouldn't appreciate it. We would take it for granted. You'd think by not relying on anything to exist that joy would be easy to find, or at least obtainable but on the contrary since we are human and we want things to bend to our will, fit our needs and be available to us at a moment's notice, it slips our grasp. To have joy, you must surrender control and take life in stride, with a gracefulness that would make even the most famous ballerina jealous.

One of the things I think that blocks our joy is our fear of leaning into happiness. It sounds silly, but I do believe we avoid staying in our happy place long because we think if we do, we're going to jinx it and something bad will happen. Dr. Brené Brown calls this action a dress rehearsal of tragedy.

Let me give you an example. You meet someone new. You like them immediately. Those butterflies at the beginning of it all make you blush in sweet longing. Your mind gets fuzzy, clouded by desire and awakened feelings you so desperately try to keep at bay. It's intoxicating. Slowly, almost deceptively, these warm and carefree notions transform into a not so welcome stomach ache. Your throat gets dry, your heart beats fast, you literally feel like you've just downed a Venti Cold Brew at Starbucks. Fear. What do most of us do at this point, when we find ourselves in a vulnerable position where we now care about the outcome? Cue the dress rehearsal of tragedy. This will never work. I am going to end up hurt. This is a bad idea. Why would I willingly put myself through this again. We lean away from happy feelings by pushing people away and making up stories that suit our narrative. We put up walls. Planting big, thorny cacti all over and create a maze-like fortress so that nobody can hurt us again. Honestly, you'll be lucky to find a way out yourself. Some people never do. Your blanket of righteousness will not protect you from being lonely at the end of the day. So instead of leaning away from happiness, let yourself off the hook and know that if things don't work out, at least you tried. Imagine if, at the end of it all, you find yourself, dare I say it, joyful.

This above example is actually real. It happened to me. I found myself spending time with a human being I really started to like. It was wonderful to know and feel that despite the scars you will carry forever, your heart still makes room for new experiences. It's probably one of the best traits we humans carry, the ability to try again. But of course, this does us no good when we don't trust ourselves. After my excruciating break up, I fell into the habit of being extremely hard on myself. Wondering time and again how I willingly put myself in positions I would never wish on anyone. I had to ultimately learn to forgive that young girl who at the time was doing and did the best she could. It's incredibly difficult though to feel ready for a new experience. Again, there is never a good time! I'm grateful that this person looked me in the eye, and to an extent also looked my fear in the eye, and told me he wasn't ready for this to be over, giving me the confidence I needed to give this a try. By standing with me, despite my fear, and despite his own I'm sure, he asked me to be brave. I felt seen. Validated. Important. Had he dressed rehearsed tragedy with me, we wouldn't be where we are today.

By not leaning into our happiness, we never quite reach the mountain top that is joy. Happiness is the climb. Joy is the summit.

I encourage you to read the full article in Psychology Today on Joy vs. Happiness, it is written so well and although from 2012, still holds a lot of truth today. Honestly, I feel this just means we humans keep repeating the same stories. A broken record on never-ending repeat. You'd think it would be so scratched by now it would stop playing all together.

Here's to us and our journey toward Reckless Joy.

"Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude." - Denis Waitley

Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone

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