As I thought about the topic for this week’s blog, the word ‘HAPPY’ kept resonating - mainly because it is one of the common adjectives that others, particularly girlfriends, have used to describe me. Likewise, it is one of the descriptions that I accept - not because it is the only one - but because it is a choice and a state of being that precedes my ultimate goal in life: HAPPINESS!
According to the Dictionary (2019), ‘happy’ is defined as:
(1) Characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy; and
(2) Favored by fortune; fortunate or lucky.
What I appreciate about these definitions is that they define everything that happiness IS but as I write this blog, I aim to share with you what happiness IS NOT too.
From my perspective happiness does not equivocate to an exemption from inevitable trauma in life. In other words...just because I’m happy that doesn’t mean that I haven’t experienced some sh*t nor does it mean that I never will (HELLO somebody?! LOL). One example of this complex duality in life, is my experience with domestic violence. I always remember the conversation that I had with a girlfriend who came to the shop one Saturday and later called me and said: ‘Kimmi (that’s my nickname), you won’t believe this? I just got a strange call from Stacy (hypothetical name) saying that you were beat up and the forensics department was at your house...I told her she must be crazy because I was just with you and you were happy as usual and it couldn’t be true!’
(Now I can chuckle as I think back on this moment but...) I remember feeling a wave of emotions because how can I say to this person ‘It’s true.’? Just an hour before, havoc...screaming for help...fighting strangulation...crying over police calls...standing for forensic photos...watching neighbors close their doors and turn a blind eye...and of course, hearing the fright of my parents as I informed them of what had happened...this was my reality. Domestic Violence became a part of my life journey just an hour before I got myself together...put on my make-up...coordinated my outfit...put on my heels...grabbed my car keys...and drove over to my boutique in numbness...until I opened the doors of My Girlfriend’s Closet in the beautiful St. Croix. U.S. Virgin Islands - my happy place and saving grace. In just one hour, I had experienced every emotion from fear to anger and numbness to happiness; BUT while happiness was the only state of being that my girlfriend saw at that time it didn’t negate all the other emotions that were present before nor did it exempt me from experiencing domestic violence at the hands of someone I loved. Happiness WAS my state of being in that moment, however, because I was truly happy...happy to be in my boutique...happy to see my girlfriend...happy to have a business that was (and is) a source of financial independence and creative expression for me...happy to occupy my mind from what I just experienced...and happy to be alive in the midst of all. So...what is the moral of this story?
Happiness IS NOT the absence of contrary feelings like sadness, disappointment, sorrow, uncertainty or even anger; nor is it a predisposition that exempts someone from past, present or future experiences with ‘unhappy’ feelings or even mental health diagnosis that are often linked to traumatic events or experiences; and nor should it be mistaken for fakeness because there is duality in reality. To expect otherwise, is to ignore the complexity of humanity and the salty yet sweet and sour yet spicy flavors of the human experience! Happiness IS, however, A CHOICE… a choice to BE happy despite and even amidst the presence of negative feelings and experiences.
In addition to the choice of being happy...I challenge you to reintroduce yourself to the notion of ‘negative emotions’ and here is why. Positive Psychology says that pleasure, comfort, gratitude, hope, and inspiration are examples of positive emotions that increase our happiness and move us to flourish whereas in scientific literature, happiness is referred to as hedonia (Ryan & Deci, 2001) - the presence of positive emotions and the absence of negative emotions (Positive Psychology, 2020). I challenge this notion of ‘the absence of negative emotions’ as I do not believe that any emotion is negative unless we make it so by residing in its space instead of moving through and learning from it. Fear, for example, when viewed as an emotion that cripples or weakens someone, becomes a negative emotion - not because it is, but because of how it is viewed. If we shift our perspective of fear, however, we have the power to create a different experience. So, instead of giving power to the emotion of fear by characterizing it as negative, crippling or weakening...consider reintroducing yourself to it instead (as fear will likely visit us time and time again). The next time fear (or any emotion that makes you squirm) knocks on your door, consider this narrative: ‘Hi Fear, happiness is my goal so before we go any further, I’d just like to thank you for showing up to remind me that what I want is on the other side of you and everything I need is already on the inside of me.’
So girlfriends, as we launch our Girlfriendism Wellness workshops and prepare for our Girlfriendism HOPE initiatives in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, challenge yourself to CHOOSE happiness (or whatever makes you happy aka peace, truth , etc.) if that is what you seek because trauma is all around us - in our society, our communities and in our lives BUT we are not exempt from happiness because of it. In fact, we should actively CHOOSE happiness because of it; and if you’re not sure where to start, know that Girlfriendism is here to support you on your HAPPY journey as you too, support your girlfriends in theirs. Whether your path to happiness is through self discovery and may benefit from ‘The Masks She Wears Workshop’ or whether it is forgiveness and may benefit from 'The Art of Forgiveness Workshop' or whether it is self care and may benefit from the 'Fill My C.U.P.' workshop, choose happiness...choose YOU!
Good news is...your HAPPINESS journey may be one click away! Please be sure to check out our Girlfriendism Wellness offerings at www.girlfriendism.com/g-wellness. Also, please join us for our G-Spot LIVE This Friday at 9am as we talk about our Domestic Violence Awareness Month campaign: #DanceForHOPEVI - a project of Girlfriendism HOPE that is hosted by Girlfriendism Fitness/SoKh Caribbean Dance Fitness and Create Your Own Reality Initiatives (C.Y.O.R.). Bring your dancing shoes in case as this LIVE is ‘subject to dance’ and stay tuned to learn more about how you can join our initiative as well as support survivors with our upcoming 'HOPE Talks' Series - a project of Girlfriendism HOPE in collaboration with our Master of Social Work Practicum Student at the University of the Virgin Islands (more details to follow so stay tuned at www.girlfriendism.com/g-hope.)