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When Happiness Becomes a Façade

“I know I’m getting older, but I’m still learning. And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is not to be afraid to be happy.” Diane, (Book Club)

Learning to be happy, learning that it’s okay to be happy is complex because the feeling of happiness can be a façade that fools even the person who believes in their happiness wholeheartedly. They refuse to acknowledge the many things that eat away at their happiness because of the few good things in their life. Somewhere along the way they begin to focus so much on what is good that they don’t realize it when the bad things begin to deteriorate their source of happiness. I believe this is why learning not  to be afraid to be happy is such a difficult concept to grasp. An individual may think that if they acknowledge their overall life isn’t happy, that it might take away from the few sources of happiness they still try to hold on to. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the movie Book Club, Diane is a recently widowed woman with two overly concerned and slightly overbearing daughters. When she stumbles into a new love interest, she is hesitant to accept it, but not because of her husband’s recent death. She was hesitant because she was trying to be sensitive about how her daughters would react to her being involved with a new man only a year after their dad had passed away. An important factor in this movie comes when Diane talks to Mitchell, (her love interest), about her late husband. She revealed to him that her relationship with her husband had been over long before he passed away. There weren’t a lot of other details included with this statement. Through other interactions she has during the movie, it becomes apparent that Diane spent much of her time focused on the lives of her grown daughters and on caring for her house and on meeting with her friends for their monthly book club meetings. She refused to acknowledge the unhappiness that surrounded her at home.

Diane thought she was happy, overall, because she accepted the level of happiness that was comfortable and familiar. It was only when Mitchell entered her life that she was introduced to a happiness that she didn’t know was still possible. This is an all-too-familiar tale. I once thought I was happy because I was happy taking care of my children while they were growing up. I love my children more than anything in the world. It wasn’t until they were almost completely out of high school that I started to see the level of unhappiness that surrounded me. I’m not trying to say that a person’s life should be made up of all good in order for it to be a happy life. There will always be bad, and sometimes even terrible things that happen. What makes a life happy, overall, is the balance between the good and the bad. When that balance is negatively off, deterioration begins, and it sometimes isn’t evident until too much damage has been done.

I, too, had to learn that it’s okay to be happy. I had to learn that it was okay to choose happiness, even if it meant turning my life upside down and starting over; I had to learn that flipping my life for the sake of happiness couldn’t possibly negate the good things that already existed in my life. The good could only enhance the new, happier me.

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