I have been asked this question a lot in my career as a social worker. Most recently by a coworker at a newer job. The question is “Why do you smile so much?” Before answering, I asked the coworker to get a pad of paper and a pen. I suggested this was going to be a complicated response. My response was “I don’t give a shit about anything.”
This, of course is untrue. I’ve been a social worker in practice since 1985. A social worker doesn’t get the opportunity to have kind of longevity by not caring. The truth is there have been many times when I have cared too much. This, my ability to “over-care” has caused me to make clinical decisions which ultimately have not always been in the clients or my best interest. Those decisions led to enabling and physical health concerns for me such as high blood pressure and ultimately a mini-stroke or TIA.
People see me smile, a lot.They think I’m happy, all the time. I’m not happy all the time. That’s just not even possible. I have worked hard in my life, personally and professionally to find happiness and gratitude. It is this effort which helps me find some modicum of both success and happiness. That work, that effort goes on everyday.
I am lucky to have chosen a profession that I love. I had a supervisor years ago who told me the profession chose me. Regardless, I love, truly love what I do for a living. I am one of those individuals who loves mornings and loves Mondays. I love to work and more importantly I love to see the light bulb go on over the heads of my clients when they “get it.”.
As a trained social worker I practice what I preach. The work never ends.
Like I said earlier, I’m not happy all the time. I have stressors just like everyone else. The stressors are not usually the problem. The problem is my perception of those stressors and manufacturing the thoughts which I can allow to drag me down the rabbit hole to anxiety and depression. In addition to my perception of those stressors is my response to them. That is the rabbit hole, the quicksand in which I can find myself mired.
Everyday I make choices, hundreds if not thousands of times everyday. Some have more thought than others. Some are reactive. I make these choices because they need to be made. I make them based on the information which is present at the time. Tim, in case you haven’t noticed is not our friend. Most of us look forward to the day we’re going to retire to do the things we love, the things we want to do “if we had more time.” The truth is there isn’t more time. There isn’t ever going to be enough time. When I had my mini stroke it was something that came over me immediately. There was no time to think. What was my response? I finished the therapy session I was doing and saw my next client before allowing my daughter-in-law to take my blood pressure and my wife to drive me to the hospital.
In my life there is no room to be miserable. I turn 56 in a couple of months. My wife and I just celebrated 32 years of marriage and I am genuinely happy.
It is happy to think that happiness is within the grasp of each and everyone of us. It is a choice. It is not always an easy choice, but it is a choice. I will often ask clients for permission to record some of their statements so I can play them back and they can hear themselves outlining all of the reasons for their anxiety, their depression and ultimately their unhappiness. They hear themselves complaining.
People who struggle with depression and anxiety often have a recording playing in their head that reminds them of the poor decisions which they have made and the reasons why they can’t or shouldn’t be happy or the reasons why they need to put off doing what makes them happy. Sometimes it’s statements like, “I’m never happy” or “How could I be happy” when…fill in the blank with the complaint.
I have found in life there is often as much joy as there is sadness. We just can’t see it through our destructive thoughts.
I choose not to remain stuck in the sadness and the “I can’t ever be happy” and the “There isn’t enough time.”Weeds will grow in the flower bed. The house may not get power-washed this weekend. Those things will always be there. There isn’t always going to be time for happiness. This is why I smile all the time.