Happiness always returns. Just thought I’d let you know, in case you should ever sense its absence.
Perhaps it returns, in part, because while it’s away, it misses you even more than you miss it. “What’s that?” – you say.
Of course, whether we are being assaulted by the daily doldrums or struggling with an enduring, deep depression, there are times we are certain we will never know happiness again. Is it possible that the simple act of being certain we will never know happiness again could keep it from our door? After all, if we don’t know a visitor is coming, we might not be home to invite them in. If we are asleep when they knock on the door, they might think we are not up to entertaining them, and move on.
We need to be willing to entertain the notion that happiness will return. We need to consciously leave the door to our soul open, place the key under our spiritual doormat, a light in the window of our mind’s eye. We must expect and be ready to receive happiness when it returns, when it comes back home where it belongs. I know I want happiness to find a home with me. I want it to live within me, to set up residence, rather than merely visit, but, at the very least, I want to remember that happiness returns, and live in happy anticipation.
For some people, the times of year that traditionally wreak of happiness for most people, the holiday seasons, for instance, are filled with sadness and gloom. Maybe the holidays always find them alone, or they just bring back too many painful memories of holidays gone wrong, or happier times that are no more. Those are the very people who sorely need to find out that happiness returns.
I was a caseworker years ago in New York in the Children’s Division of Protective Services. Unlike happiness, I was not a welcome visitor—well, at least not at first, for my initial visit, always unexpected, was for the purpose of investigating allegations of abuse and or neglect. I found that one way to get in the door, after announcing who I was and why I was there, was to assure them that I was there to help the family, and that I was interested in the safety of their children. Once inside, I gave them a few blank, unlined sheets of paper and a pen. I asked them to write down what they felt was going on in the home and if there was anything with which they needed help. That set a tone that usually opened up the lines of communication. I wanted them to see me as someone who was willing to listen to their side of the story, who respected their opinion, and who would leave them with their dignity intact.
I gave them unlined paper so that I could later do a little handwriting analysis. I would also verify their birth date, so that when I returned to my office, I could do a mini and very rudimentary astrological chart on them. OK, you caught me. I did most of that at home because, let’s face it, those methods were unique to me, and not part of the traditional arsenal given to us to do the job. In point of fact, the only training we had was of the “on-the-job” variety.
Armed then with their perception of their situation based on what they’d written, a better idea of their character from their handwriting, and a clue on their nature from their chart, I constructed a plan of action that incorporated several viable approaches to solving any problems within the family. If I had learned, through my unconventional but hardly nefarious devices, that they had trouble making decisions and required direction, I would say, “There are several things we might do. We could do (a), (b) or (c). I suggest we try (b) first and see if that helps. What do you think?” They would quickly agree and feel they had contributed to the solution. If, instead, I learned that they needed to feel in control, I would say, “There are several things we might do. We could do (a), (b) or (c). Which would you like to try first?” I, of course, was sure to provide them only with viable alternatives. I never asked an open-ended question like, “What would you like to do?” Or “How can we help?” I instinctively knew doing that could have disastrous results because they might easily come up with things that we could not permit, or which we were unable to do. However, given several viable choices, they would make theirs and we would go with that, which gave them some semblance of control over their situation.
Curiously enough, after several months working in that unit, my supervisor, who had started giving me cases that the other, more seasoned caseworkers, couldn’t seem to handle, approached me. She asked me to close the door to her office, sit down and tell her what I was doing that was not in my reports because I was more successful at resolving cases without having to remove the children than any of the other caseworkers in her unit. I knew the other caseworkers would never adopt all of my methods, but, speaking strictly off the record, I, more or less, described what I did. My supervisor, although impressed, admitted she would only be able to share with my coworkers my idea of asking clients to write down what they saw as the problems in the family. She said she could not formally encourage or endorse the use of graphology or astrology in dealing with clients. To her credit, however, she never asked me to stop using them.
You may think I have digressed from my topic, but I have not. I was setting the stage.
In my five years as a caseworker, contrary to popular opinion about what kind of person abuses or neglects their children, I visited people from all walks of life. I visited the homes of attorneys and police officers just as often as I went to the pockets of poverty nestled nearby. I met people of every race, strata of society and economic background. I encountered women who were wearing designer outfits, yet leading lives of quiet desperation with husbands who abused them and their children. I came across men and women who had succumbed to alcohol or drugs and left their children to fend for themselves. I witnessed strong women, proud women, with six children, ten children, struggling to put food on the table, embarrassed that their children weren’t properly dressed for school. I saw weak men who beat their wives and children. I saw defeated men who had been beaten down by a system that sought to judge them rather than offer them a leg up.
“God has forsaken me.” “There’s no God, you know.” Those are a couple of the things I would hear at some point from quite a number of the people I was allegedly there to investigate, but was truly there to serve, for I viewed my job as a higher calling. Of course, I was not there to discuss God; it would have been outside the realm of influence for my position. However, I could not bear to leave them in such spiritual pain. What I did in those cases was to say Camille, the caseworker, was going to take her lunch break, and I would leave their apartment or home, then come right back in and visit with them for a while as Camille, the woman, and we would talk about God in a very nondenominational way. Of course, those talks never made it into my reports either, and while I disclosed my use of graphology and astrology to my supervisor, I did not share my lunchtime discussions about God with her.
When I spoke with my clients about the notion that God had forsaken them, they unilaterally pointed out the debris of their lives as evidence, and I always made this same analogy. God is always there and does not forsake us. Just as the sun is always there, but clouds sometimes obstruct our view, when we can’t see God’s hand in our lives, it is because of our cloudy thinking. Then I did just two simple things: (1) I assured them that God loved them. (2) I taught them a new way to pray.
Sadly, most people pray, beating their chests, imploring God to grant them what they want, while at the same time claiming that they are unworthy. That’s like telling the judge you’re guilty, then asking him to set you free. I suggested they accept on faith that God wants to give them their good, and that when they pray, they say THANK YOU for whatever it is they desire, as if it is already theirs, rather than ask for it. I also asked them to get a notebook, and to write in it every morning upon awakening, and every night just before going to sleep: ONLY GOOD COMES TO ME – ONLY GOOD GOES FROM ME. I said to write it over and over for at least one full page, more if they felt like it. Then I asked them to write down in that same notebook, at least once a week, all the things for which they were grateful, and to be sure to include those things for which they prayed.
Before I left, I would ask them to tell me what they expected the next day to be like. A few would say, “The same as every other day has been.” If they said that, I would counter, “If that is what you truly expect, then you will not be disappointed, for that is what you will get.” Others would say, “Better than today.” And to them I would respond, “If that is what you truly expect, then you will not be disappointed, for that is what you will get.” Still others would say, “I don’t know.” I would answer, “You don’t know? Great. Your future is a blank canvass. Now paint it the way you want it.”
And so it is with all of us. We must expect happiness to return, for if we do not, it might find another place to lodge.