Yet it is in moments such as those that the real greatness of life is so often born. It certainly was for me. I just didn’t know it yet. It actually had to get much worse before it could get better. I had to let the awareness of inauthenticity fester so freely that it would eventually became dangerous and unsurvivable.
Two and a half years later, in overwhelming despair, I nearly drove my car off that cliff.
I didn’t go over the edge. I somehow survived those thoughts when they were at their darkest.
And from there, I went home, studied my reflection, and found a way to change the way I viewed just about everything. I did so immediately and without any fear for what would follow.
There was something about the ridiculousness of it all that shook me to a place of committed action. I clearly remember laughing to myself at one point, shaking my head, and saying aloud: “Holy shit. You honestly thought driving off a cliff was better than a few people thinking you’re messed up?! Geez, man. Stupid much?”
Friends and readers, as tangible as it all was to me for so many years… It really was ridiculous. Every bit of it. The entire culture of never-ending pressure that we place on each other is bizarre. And ludicrous. And preposterous. And straight-up absurd.
And that was what suddenly became so clear to me. It was so clear, in fact, that it became a completely laughable notion almost overnight.
A short time after that dark moment in my car, I found myself fully-awake one fall morning, once again staring at the ceiling from my bed, just as I had the morning after my second marriage ended. Only this was very different.
I don’t remember what I thought throughout most of the morning, though. I only remember what I felt.
It was pure happiness.
Happiness by itself is one thing to feel. Pure happiness is something else altogether.
I felt happiness throughout my entire life, and often. I felt it when I unexpectedly made extra money, or when I first held Roxy as a new puppy. I really felt it the day I became a Dad, and I felt it the day the vending machine gave me two candy bars instead of one. Hell, I even felt it in more selfish moments like when my nemesis at work got busted for lying to clients, or when I bumped into one of the most popular and vicious girls in high school and saw that she had gained a hundred pounds. I know I probably shouldn’t have, but I felt happiness in those moments, too.
But it wasn’t until that fall morning, smiling and staring at my ceiling, that I felt pure happiness.
Pure happiness, like real love, is one of those things you don’t know you’ve never experienced until the day you finally do.
In that single moment, it hits you that your life is your life, your happiness is your happiness, and your next move is all your own. You feel no effect at the thought of having no money or having a lot of it. You feel no effect thinking about what others believe and what they tell you that you should believe. You know what you believe and you are okay if it is different. In that cumulative moment, you also feel no effect at the thought of what others might think of you for any decision you will make next.
Pure happiness is a great moment of freedom, and it is also a great moment of independence. In that same single moment, you cannot think a judgmental thought about another human. You don’t wish bad fortune on even the biggest assholes in your life. You are strangely okay with anyone else believing what they want to believe and doing what they want to do with their own lives.
You realize in that moment, more than you ever have before, that other people’s lives are their own, and you don’t need to have a say in anything. Perhaps that thought scares some people, but I promise you that when you genuinely feel it, it is incredible.
My life’s first moment of pure happiness, the morning I lay awake in that bed, was in the days after I acknowledged the most difficult of my self-truths which finally freed me to be who I always knew I was.
But that wasn’t what actually did it. It was just the final piece to a much larger puzzle that I had been working endlessly on for years. These self-truths were simply my last existing demons that needed exorcizing, and they were the concluding act I had to perform in order to take full ownership of my own life.
During the time that things had gotten harder and darker, I had done a lot between that moment of pure happiness and the sad morning, years earlier as I lay awake, wishing to disappear from being.
During that time, I made my beliefs my own by declaring that I believed and always had believed something different. I made my sexuality my own by admitting it to myself and then admitting it to others. I made my relationships my own by deciding what I thought was right and wrong when it came to sex and marriage and everything in between. I made my conscience my own by admitting and righting many of my past wrongs. I learned to metaphorically flip the bird to all the online haters, and to stop letting their venomous actions affect me so deeply. I made my self-worth my own by writing about and confronting the bullying from my past. I made my body my own by learning to accept its imperfections while falling in love with the quest for better health…