You’re about to read Chapter 37. Want to start this story from the beginning? Go here.
Taking responsibility for my own happiness is the smartest, bravest, hardest thing I’ve ever done.
And every day feels like a do-over.
First of all, let’s just get this Sheryl Crow reference out of the way
I don’t actually think the song “If It Makes You Happy” in its entirety represents a reliable path to happiness.
But I do know that I have a snip of the lyrics on repeat in my head, which is a surefire sign for me to pay attention.
So, here. Attend to this gif (with sound!):
Ahh, that’s better.
“If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.”
Got it. Okay then. Onward we go.
So what if right now everything’s wrong?
Can you be happy when everything’s wrong?
If we are in acceptance, nothing IS wrong.
Or as Katherine puts it, “We’re not unhappy because we don’t have enough of what we think we want. We are unhappy because we are resisting what is so in our lives and are frantically caught up in trying to fix something that we perceive to be broken.”
Stop resisting what is and start being happy
Can things be better in my life?
Probably. Actually, definitely. Of course!
Things can always be better. But that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with right now.
In fact, right now is a real blessing.
And the more often I recognize that, the less my happiness depends on external factors.
It’s not true that we find love when we’re not looking for it
In Lesson 37, I especially appreciate how Katherine debunks the popular concept that the best way to find love is not to look for it.
I think that’s crap.
In fact, my book Are You My Boyfriend? very deliberately makes the point that it is fine to look for love.
What’s not fine is to get attached to the outcome.
(In the story, the young woman is grounded and enthusiastic about her search—until she’s not, at which point she focuses further on self-care. And indeed, love finds her there.)
So it was great to see Katherine clarify that “it’s not the ‘not looking’ part that allows your soul mate to come to you; it’s the nonattachment part that does it.”
I think “not looking” really just means “not obsessing.”
“Usually those people who “aren‘t looking” will allow only loving and healthy people into their inner circle, because desperation isn’t driving them to compromise themselves. If they have to be single for the rest of their life, they’d rather do that than create destructive, dramatic entanglements. They don’t lose years of their lives entwined with people who treat them poorly or don’t love them. They set about making their lives worth living by pursuing things that capture their interest, good friends and meaningful activities. It’s not necessarily that they aren’t looking. It’s that they were busy enjoying their lives, with or without a partner.”—CITO p.249
Certainly this has proven true in my experience.
I was completely focused on my own life and passions by the time I met Paul, almost to the point of distraction.
But for me, that distraction was good—it meant I wasn’t attached to his interest or our potential.
And I really believe that ease and openness is what allowed our connection to flourish.
(Conversely, did my subsequent overattachment cause our connection to crumble? 🤔)
In any case, I’m convinced that what Katherine says is true:
“It’s when you’re no longer attached that all good things come to you.”
Lesson 37 in practice
My experience with this assignment was pleasant and gratifying—and a little self-satisfying.
We are supposed to answer the question, “What do I think I absolutely must have to be happy?”
I knew better than to put Paul on the list.
But as it turns out, what I did choose to include made the next part of the process much more of a challenge.
Because the next part was a prayer, which I will hereby share:
I believe that I must have _____ in order to be happy. However, I am willing to release this attachment now, knowing that my life is good and beautiful exactly as it is, with or without this blessing. I accept that it is possible for me to have a sense of joy, with our without _____, and I fully surrender myself to what is currently so in my life today. Amen.
So, like, it seems to me that this prayer was designed to release list items like “a lot of money” and “a nicer apartment.” (And, yes, “Paul,” or his generic equivalent, “a romantic partner.”)
As a practice, I dig it. Because it’s true that I can have a sense of joy with or without Paul. I don’t need anything that I don’t already have in order to be happy.
But I also feel like my list was relatively modest.
My “must-haves” for happiness include: privacy, god, sobriety, clean underwear, trustworthy friends, time alone, spiritual connection, a tidy home, clean clothes, nourishing food.
And honestly? I’m NOT willing to release my attachments to any of the above.
In particular, I’m not at all convinced that I can have a sense of joy without god or spiritual connection.
But I still get the point.
And it was nonetheless rewarding to clarify on paper what really matters to me most—and I also ended up with a delightful gratitude list.
Gratitude + Acceptance = All the good things (happiness included)
Several years ago when I was really struggling, I came across a book called Make Miracles in Forty Days, by Melody Beattie.
This was the same author who helped open my eyes to codependency during my “summer of self-help” (as discussed in Lesson 10).
So it seemed fitting that a few months later, when I was desperately ready to finally leave Leo, I would turn to her for an action plan.
I definitely recommend experiencing the book for yourself if you want your life to miraculously change—it worked for me in ways I am still awed to acknowledge.
But at its essence, it emphasizes gratitude.
Be grateful for what you’ve already got—good and bad—and you release resistance, embody acceptance, and make way for miracles to show up.
Miracles like, say, feeling completely pleased and at peace—aka happy!—even without the love relationship you so deeply desire.
Love > fear,
Want to know what happens next? Proceed to Chapter 38.