Image by Łukasz Strachanowski via Flickr
Happiness, that grand mistress of the ceremonies in the dance of life, impels us through all (life's) mazes and meanderings, but leads none of us by the same route.
We all want to be happy; it seems like it is embedded in our DNA. So when we face a lack of happiness, naturally we feel compelled to do two things: complain and regain our happiness.
The biggest challenge in life is to find happiness no matter what each day brings. Learning to see happiness as your traveling companion, not a destination, is life's greatest lesson. For some, it may be a lesson it takes a lifetime to learn; for others, it's a lesson it takes a lifetime to master.
So why is it, when someone close to us faces a major life change or difficult life-altering circumstance, do we insist that they "be positive" in the face of their adversity? Why are we disappointed when someone appears to wallow in their sorrows? Why do we judge someone who is having problems coping with their pain?
Clearly, how someone chooses to face their struggles affects their success: if they deny them, their problems will not go away; if they face them, work through the thoughts and feelings, they stand a chance to find happiness again. Facing the obstacles that get in the way of our happiness can be scary, overwhelming, disappointing, irritating, frustrating, maddening, sorrowful, painful, miserable and weary. Feelings, once felt, dissipate with time, but sometimes we get stuck and have problems moving forward.
In the end, perhaps it is as simple as remembering that we are all on different paths. Ever people-watch when you go to the park? You'll see that some people walk fast, some walk slow and some just sit on a bench. Some people stop to smell the flowers, to throw the ball back to the kids playing soccer or to chat with other park-goers. Every once in a while, someone happens to be under a bird when it poops; sometimes a person doesn't look where they are going and steps in dog poop.
As we all traverse the maze of life, the greatest gifts we give each other are a listening ear, compassion and understanding, honest feedback and the time and space to figure things out for ourselves. The greatest gifts we give ourselves in dealing with other people are taking care of ourselves first and other people second, accepting that we can't change other people and exercising out right to set limits and boundaries with other people. It serves us well to remember that we all want to be happy and just because someone is on a different path doesn't mean they are lost.