The Prerequisite to Joy: Happiness Part 1

“How’s college going?”

I answered this question maybe half a dozen times over winter break, and told every single person the same thing: “Every semester has been better than the one before it.”

It’s true. And to be honest, it’s kind of a scary truth to come to terms with.

Because yeah, last semester was wonderful. In fact some days I flip through my journal and think that last semester was so wonderful, so mind-bogglingly beautiful that next semester might never hold a candle to it.

It’s the typical barbarous bartering that occurs when you let worry do the talking. Worry loves to trade happy for scared and content for not so much.

From the first day of classes to the last entry during finals week, my journal is chock-full of how blessed I feel (okay, with some bumps along the way of colds/loneliness/fear/guilt). Why I was so happy I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it was the amazing professors (but come to think of it I had two terrible ones, and two wonderful ones, and one pretty average). Maybe it was the friends, or the food, or the subject material. I’m going to say those were all further down the list than this one though, if only to fool myself into thinking this semester stands a chance.

The prerequisite to joy is an attitude of gratefulness.

Recognize that this is an amazing life to which you are privileged. God has taken unbelievable care to perfect every aspect of your situation such that it might perfect you. He has prepared for you new adventures to go on, new places to see, new people to meet, and new things to learn. He has placed you on your particular corner of the world to love those particular neighbors He’s chosen and to enjoy that particular nature He’s imagined.

There is only one appropriate response to this level of tender care, and it is not worry.

So thanks, God! And Happy Spring Semester, everyone 🙂

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Call me Ishmael: Not Belonging is the Greatest Blessing.

I am not bullied, and I never was. In fact, I have led a life of incredible blessing, from the moments before I was born when my parents decided to come to the US to this moment right now, stretched on my bed with a laptop I did not have to pay for lying across my lap.

When I was little I played outside without fear of abduction, joined older kids in starting businesses that would fail but be ever so fun, and tried to make candles out of crayons and a car out of a steering wheel. When I got older, I moved around a bit, met many new people, and learned many new things.

I have no excuse for my “Call me Ishmael” approach to life.

And yet…

I had some hard days. Have. I’m not going to pretend I grew up homeless or went to bed hungry. I know that countless people–maybe every single person on this planet–had harder days than mine. But when you are facing something hard, it’s hard. Hard is hard is hard and that’s the end of it. The fact that it was easier than someone else’s struggle doesn’t mean it was easy.

I was never American and I was never Egyptian and I always walked on the wrong side of the line, whether it was eating a fool sandwich or saying the 2(ha, ح) or 3(ein, ع) wrong. And God knows how afraid I was that I would never fit in. I didn’t want to be like everybodyI just wanted to be like somebody. I just wanted one person to understand how hard it was.

I didn’t like that my irises were so dark that my pupils got lost in there. I didn’t like that my hair was too thick for the braid it was in and my eyebrows joined in the middle but my parents wouldn’t let me pluck them, and my Arabic was rotten but if I was nervous I couldn’t think of the English word for toka — hair tie.

It’s not like there was no diversity. The Korean people all spoke Korean together and the Hispanics all spoke Spanish together, and even to me, but I couldn’t understand a word of it (and in fact grew up to hate the language altogether).  On three different occasions, three different Egyptian men have told me I was too aggressive, one of them being a priest. On countless occasions, teachers and friends told me I was far too shy, too quiet, and too reserved.

Engineers are all Thinkers, but I’m more a Feeler. I liked to read books but conversations with the characters was limited. Christians make friends with other Christians but for some reason I’ve never had a close Christian friend, except one, with whom I argued about Creationism in 5th grade when I could not believe that she did not believe in dinosaurs. And my sisters were (are) kind and perfect souls, but eons older and wiser, or else just sprouting wings when I left the house.

I wanted so badly a Friend, even though I had so many friends. And I knew just where the problem lie… with me. With my too conservative upbringing and my too liberal being and my quiet, scared soul that I could never show to the world because God knew how afraid they would be of something so different as me.

I did not belong in this world. And when I realized that– when I realized that I did not belong, and could never belong, I stopped giving a damn. I took the covers off my soul, and said Here I am. I submitted my soul to the One who owned it and told Him that if He would have me, Here I am. I told Him I sort of want to be an engineer but I sort of want to write books and I really want to own a bookshop and sell books and chocolate, and Here I am. I’m no good at basketball and I’ll always need a stool in the kitchen, and I will lose every arm wrestle, and Here I am. I might say a million sarcastic things in one day, in one hour, but in your hour of need, I will be there for you. Sometimes I’m shy and afraid and sometimes I stomp through this world like Beyonce, and half the time my brain’s not paying attention to the current situation, and that’s just too bad if you happened to try to start a conversation with me, but God, you always have my full attention, for Here I am.

Not belonging? Not fitting in? Of course not. This isn’t your puzzle. And thank God for that.

When today started, I was in a weirdly good mood. I woke up and shouted to the universe, “Hello World! I am in a Very Good Mood!” I was in a whistling-while-walking mood. A the-wind-between-my-neck-and-hair-is-poetry mood.

Today, the weather is perfect–“Colombian weather” my friend from Columbia would say, or “California weather” my friend from California would say. Today, the leaves were falling so slowly that by the end of my 20 minute walk, I had caught so many lucky leaves that I felt the luck pouring out of my ears.

The morning fog lent the world a glowing fairy tale feel to it, and as I crossed the street, I saw Icarus just starting to take flight (whereas every other day this  week, the same statue was of Icarus mid-fall), and the-less-famous-white-house on the mountain peeped out from behind him. My thoughts this morning were “I am the most blessed person in the entire world” and “I hope God deals with others as tenderly and personally as He has with me.”

Singing on the corner and laughing to myself and if there was a Cloud 10, that’s where my head was.

In fluid mechanics, I watched a peer spin around with a huge bubble wand and make, as my professor very seriously explained, 2D flow fields everywhere.

In a small local restaurant, I had lunch with a friend I haven’t seen for ages and there was much laughter and storytelling and good food and delicious iced-tea-and-lemonade.

I came home and found the brownies my roommate made to celebrate our success for the second year of managing to be best friends while living in an 8 foot wide room. I settled down in my fancy living room bench to start a lab report that wasn’t due for another four days (I know, seriously getting ahead here) and then I remembered my phone was dead.

I stuck my phone in the charger and then I saw the telltale new voicemail symbol. I put my phone on speaker and heard the words from them that had rejected me saying, “I have good news.”

And I, lacking any logical emotional response system, found all the airy-happy-go-lucky feelings that had been encompassing me all day popping like 2D flowfields.

You say “I have good news” and I say now? Now I am afraid.

I fell from Cloud 10 and into the stronghold of the God who surrounds me and hid there. It is a good feeling to have this oasis. The safety and security of a loving God is irreplaceable.

There have been times where I have regretted the safe decisions I have made all my life. I have wished for prodigal living: the younger son not only got to party all day, but also received and understood the grace more than his older counterpart in that he came home. Sometime I wish I would get that come home experience because sometimes I am sick of being  in the house all the time. Sometimes I wish I had rebellious teenage years. Sometimes I think I would enjoy sinning recklessly.

Then God goes and does something like this. Whispers that He (remarkably) does not think the way I do. That He does not think much of my simple, silly pride and that, hard as I try, sometimes I just can’t read His signs… correctly.

Thus I find the life of an ordinary, boring, non-rebellious Christian like myself quite a rollercoaster. Cloud 10 confidence to safely hiding my face behind God’s legs like a toddler behind his father.

And I am at peace.

Welcome to Happy Right Now.

 colette

I am greedy for happiness. Like that girl in that commercial: “I want more, I want more.” (You know you know what I’m talking about, despite the overall vagueness of that description.)

More every day wide smiles, more occasional side-splitting laughter, more overwhelming peace-that-passes-understanding. I want the joy that the Christ-like figure in our lives has, that person we always thought reached an unattainable level of Christianity. I want to reach the out-of-reach.

I want to be HAPPIER!

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