Guilty of happiness

Here’s a thought: Do happy people lack empathy?

On the internet and in the news, there are ongoing conversations on about everything that’s going wrong with the world- xenophobia and nationalism, poverty and sickness, war and instability and terrorism.

How else can you react to the torrent of misfortune and despair that hits you every time you look at your newsfeed or turn on the television than to feel shitty and hopeless about humanity?

Yet, I admit that in spite of everything, I am happy.

And I feel badly about it. I feel guilty that I can be happy in a world that is so miserable. I am aware that life is tough in many parts of the world, that there are people far away that are suffering. Heck, there are people so close to me that are suffering too. There is sickness and death and heartbreak all around.

How can I allow myself to be happy when the people around me are sad?

At first I wondered if it is an inability to make their pain my own. But I know I am capable of putting myself in their shoes. I know because I have been there and I have tried. Boy, does that hurt.

I guess it’s more of an unwillingness to do so. I can’t afford to risk my own happiness.

Does that make me selfish? Yeah, definitely. I’d argue it is done in self-defence.

This stable state of contentedness I have cultivated over the last year or so is one I haven’t experienced before. I am at peace with where life has taken me, I am satisfied with the choices I have made and where they have led me, I have no regrets about what I have done and have not done, and I have hope for the future. And I refuse to succumb to some external force that may erode all of that.

(That’s why I reject the idea of a relationship, I guess. The thought of my personal happiness being dependent on someone else is inconceivable. Right now, I am sure of my own needs and wants and I am accountable for meeting them. Once you subject them to someone else’s opinions and beliefs and values, you just end up questioning yourself. Should I really be happy?)

Happiness is such a fragile emotion. It just takes an unkind remark from a stranger or a photograph of a tiny Syrian boy bloodied and covered in dust to remind you that the world is a cruel place. Maybe I’m an idiot but I think sometimes it might do us all some good to plug our ears and shut our eyes even just for a minute.

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