Will you dare to be happy? It’s your choice: happiness is a decision you get to make. Every. Day. In her new book, The Happiness Dare, Jennifer tells us, “God cares about your happiness. And He’s daring you to trust Him enough to discover it.” Will you take that dare?
Let me begin by setting the record straight.
Am I a happy woman? Yes. Most of the time, I am a genuinely happy woman. You are far more likely to see me with a smile than with a scowl. Science tells us that people are born with a “happiness set point.” That baseline is written into our genes. Some of us start with higher set points than others. If something good happens, our happiness rises. If something awful happens, our happiness plummets. But after a while, our mood generally inches its way back to our personal genetic set point.
Genetically speaking, my happiness point is set to sunny. But I am more than a happy woman. I am a person who lives—as Ron Burgundy famously said in Anchorman—“in a glass case of emotion.” I’m hopeless human, which makes me terribly, wonderfully complicated.
In the last several days, a whole range of emotions has surged through me—anger, elation, despair, hilarity, guilt, and confusion. I have lost my cool with my kids, laughed so hard my belly hurt, become impatient in traffic, and experienced an all-out bawlfest during a commercial where a loving father makes origami cranes out of gum wrappers for his daughter.
I have repeatedly been described as a “passionate” woman. Which means I seriously have all the feelings. As I am writing these words, the emotion du jour is fear. That’s because, of all the feelings I’ve ever felt, happiness is the hardest to wrap words around. . . .
Right now, I’m sitting inside a little cabin in northern Minnesota. To me, this is one of the happiest places on earth. Our family comes here at least once every summer to find peace and solace among the loons and the pine-scented air. Writing from this place, I would like to present you with a carefully constructed portrait of a pious, perfect happiness. See me, napping in a hammock after committing various Bible verses to memory. Watch me, paddle boating with the kids and winking flirtatiously at my husband. I am always with a smile, patient and tolerant of my children squabbling. In this portrait, there are no biting flies or sunburns or ruffled feelings. Of course, all of that is a misleading, incomplete picture. Can I show you more?
Last night, right here in this happy northwoods cabin, I went to bed in tears. I heard a loon crying outside my window, a haunting echo across the lake. The nearly full moon hung overhead, sprinkling diamonds of light across rippled water. I pressed my face into the pillow.
Just before bed, my husband, Scott, and I had a stupid fight. We tangled with words. It was a ridiculous argument, but it broke the irascible me open, and that spitfire passion I told you about shot out of my guts and onto the plaid comforter. I was a human volcano, the opposite of happy. I woke up this morning with yet another emotion: remorse. (And about an hour ago, I got up the nerve to apologize; therein one finds the emotion called “being humbled.”)
How can this woman—mildly deranged when provoked and prone to lose her hinges—tell you what happy looks like? Can I write only on the days when my claws have retracted? Is someone perpetually sweet and affable more suited for this task? Even so, I cannot keep this to myself. You see, I took one fantastic dare. That wild dare made me feel new and warm and bright on the inside, like I swallowed a star.
So, hi, here I am—your new friend, tapping out words and embarrassingly feeling all the feelings right in front of you. A friend told me the other day that it was okay to let you know I was scared. “The last person they want to hear from is someone who has it all together.” Well, then. Mission accomplished. This is me—glitchy, imperfect me.
I decided to trust my friend, and that’s why this… begins with a confession. You needed to know, at the starting line, that the Happiness Dare is one thrilling ride that changed me a lot—but it still scares me a little. Because maybe? This dare will scare you a little, too.