The Happiness Found in Disappointment

There are people who have achieved a high level of success, and more than a few success gurus, who say that if you believe in your dreams, you can achieve anything you want. There are others who tell you that if you follow your passion, the money will follow. It’s a nice thought, but all you have to do is watch the try-outs for American Idol to know that isn’t true. There are times when no matter how much you believe in your dreams, or how passionate you are, you simply don’t have the natural ability or the resources to make things happen the way you planned.

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When my daughter was very young, I had her hair cut short because I was tired of the daily battle of the brush, and the anguished screams over tangles. She was furious with me for cutting her “princess hair” and wore an old baby blanket on her head whenever she was at home. This faux princess hair protest went on for a month, as she could not get over my betrayal of her feelings. She was right to feel betrayed. I had not included her in a decision that affected her so personally, so I tried to make amends by hosting a “princess high tea party.”

I felt really bad about disregarding her feelings, so I went to a lot of trouble for this party.  For each of the four girls attending, I made special princess dresses in a color selected just for them. I bought tiaras for each guest. (My daughter insisted on wearing her blanket hair at the party, so she wore a garland of blue flowers on top of the blanket instead of her tiara.) We served fancy crackers and petite sandwiches and pastries on my best china. We toasted the event with ginger ale in champagne glasses and finished with a cup of tea and lots of sugar cubes.

It was a wonderful time for both mothers and daughters as we spoke in our best faux French accents with pinkies high, sipping tea. My husband served as the photographer for a princess portrait photo. It was a blast, and my daughter and I were able to heal our relationship.

For about a year after the party, until she completely outgrew that princess dress, my daughter would put it on whenever she felt sad or upset about anything. She would tell me she needed to go have a “princess moment.” In the privacy of her room, she put on the dress and garland and relived the memory of the party. I would peek in and see her acting it out using her stuffed animals as her princess guests.

My daughter taught me several very important lessons from that experience. The first was the best way to kill love was to try and control another person. I have never made that mistake again and my relationships have been much better for it.

She also taught me a valuable coping skill with her little dress ritual. Each of us has many princess moments inside of our memories. We can call them up whenever we choose and immediately boost our mood by reliving the most joyous moments of our life. I’ve used this trick often when I have been very stressed, afraid or just sad. I keep a box of my “princess memories” tucked away in the back of my mind, ready to be pulled out to dress up my mood.

All I have to do is close my eyes for a moment, take a deep breath and remember a time when I was surrounded by fun and laugher, safe in the company of people I love. I recall as much detail as I can and relive the emotions. Sometimes, I look at photos. Sometimes I touch a few keepsakes and call up the memories with the tips of my fingers. Sometimes a particular scent will unlock a treasured memory.

My princess moments never fail me. They remind me that life has so many moments that are perfectly wonderful. The emotions of those moments come back to comfort me and lift me out of my darker emotions, no matter what is going on around me.

All of us face sadness and disappointment, but in every minute of life there is also happiness. Sometimes, the circumstances we are facing can be overwhelming and we have trouble seeing what is good in our lives. On our darker days, it helps to appreciate the truly wonderful moments we have already had. Our treasured memories are a guide that keeps us moving through the worst times to the next princess moment waiting to happen.

Does Religion Make You Happier?

Spiritual PracticesPeople of sincere faith, regardless of their religion, or lack of religion, are happier people. There are a number of studies that confirm that a belief in God makes you better able to handle stress, more content with life, and even lowers your blood pressure.

I know several atheists and agnostics who would argue that the happiness of a religious person is an illusion because it is not based in fact, but in a belief. I also know several religious people who believe happiness is only found in believing according to the teachings of their religion. I think both of these of views are missing the point.

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