Can You Really Be Happy All The Time?
My best friend Shara is the most amazing person you will ever met. Ask anyone that knows her and they will tell you the same thing. She exudes energy that lures you to far reaches of hedonism. With her I discovered the power of laughter and how easily fantasies bleed into waking life. More Drag Queen than maternal, she’s always encouraged me to turn up the music as loud as I could, take off my clothes and dive head first into the deep end. She is bright red paint splashed across a white canvas. Pure, unfiltered passion. Her song is one that has me hypnotized and forever dancing on a Saturday night that never ends. Without her everything would be monotone. You could show up at Shara’s house anytime and she would greet you with a smile that made you nervous and cleavage that made you blush.
We met at a 30 Hour famine in grade 6 where we snuck candy and taught each other how to french kiss while the other kids were learning about Jesus. We got kicked out of school dance for dirty dancing, stole a limo when we turned 18 and signed autographs on the front doors of random houses with permanent magic marker while we were high on ecstasy and wearing pink fur jackets. When her brother asked us if we would sell his magic mushrooms we agreed, left the house, ate the entire bag and spent the day marching through the streets of Calgary chanting..
"Together we conquer. We destroy. We are untouchable."
I have a tattoo to prove it.
We’ve been to the brink and we know excess. We loved being bad and breaking the rules, and thank God, because now on Sunday mornings we can curl up on the couch with giant cups of coffee and laugh about how crazy we used to be. Shara’s biggest talent is making life fun and even in bone dry sobriety we found ourselves skipping the surface of ecstasy but not the kind that comes from colorful pressed tabs. There is something divine about the type of joy Shara brings to the world. She’s never talks about God or spirituality but when you’re around her everything just feels better. You can tell she’s aligned. The love and abundance she exudes envelopes the people around her. So much so that I’ve questioned it’s authenticity.
We all want to be happy. We all want to be loved. We all want to be seen and heard. Why is it that some people seem to breeze through life, no pun intended, while others seem stuck in the murky waters of anxiety, depression and discontent. We look outside of ourselves for validation and perpetuate a constant state of wanting. I’ve had so many sleepless nights, anxious that I wasn’t where I wanted to be, literally crying myself to sleep because I wasn’t as famous as Lady Gaga. Everyone seemed to be a million miles ahead of me. If there was a university course in comparing lives I would have a masters degree ten times over. Shara on the other hand has been brimming over with contentment from the second I met her. I decided to ask her some questions, straight up, about what's really behind the big laugh and all those #grateful statuses.
This isn’t the first time either.
When we first got into the club scene and our affair with hard partying began I tried to figure out how she seemed to stay so unaffected. The ups and down that the lifestyle brought seemed to skip her and I was worried she didn’t have an off switch. And I don’t mean when it came to the party favors, she just seemed to constantly buzz at one frequency.
“You think I have a problem because I’m too happy?” She asked, laughing it off like I had just asked her on a date.
Ten years later I asked her the same question.
“I only ever see one side of you” I said.
I thought she might be holding back and wondered if she had an outlet for the emotions I was sure she had been hiding for so many years.
“Peter thinks I’m hiding something because I’m happy all the time” She said to her Mom in the kitchen. “Oh yeah” her Mom said rinsing off a plate ” The women in my Bible Study group used to say the same things to me”.
So it wasn’t just Shara. It was a family trait. I called her the other day as she was driving home from work to ask her a few questions.
“It’s pretty normal that you’re giving your best friend a happiness test” she said and we both laughed. It did seem a little ridiculous but I’ve never met anyone like Shara and even after all these years she’s still kind of an enigma. I believe her happiness is real and I wanted to know more about how and why.
Shara knows first hand that material things can’t bring you happiness. She lived in a big house on a golf course and wore Tommy Hilfiger every day of Junior High. I have vivid memories of her Mom answering the door in fluffy pumps and hot pink lipstick. I had never seen a house so big. Her Mom’s bedroom even had a doorbell on it. But even with all the that luxury, home life wasn’t ideal and she moved out when she was a teenager and eventually started supporting herself.
“Watching my Mom have so much and still struggle with happiness taught me I had to create happiness for myself.”
When I asked her point blank what happiness means to her she said
She explained that it didn't matter to her if she was talking to her one of her best friends (she has a lot) or a customer at her corn stand (she sells corn out of the back of pick up truck in the summer), she gets high off of connecting with other people. And it’s obvious. She talks a lot, she talks often and she talks to whoever is around.
“Of course bad things happen and I get sad. Of course I get angry. But I don’t dwell on those things. I accept them and I move on” she says.
It reminded me of when I moved to Toronto. Shara couldn’t stop crying. She thought it was too far. I tried to console her on the phone but it was no use.
“I thought the world was ending” she said
After a few days she called me and sounded back to normal. When she lost a job earlier this year, the same thing happened. She cried. A lot. But then she moved on.
“You just have to pull up your pants and move on. I can’t control what happens but I can control what I think about.”
It’s surprising advice from someone as dramatic as her and makes me wonder if my suspicions about her happiness are nothing more than my own projected insecurities of living authentically. It takes guts to express yourself. If something makes Shara sad, she bawls immediately. If someone makes her mad she calls them out. I’ve always known her to deal with things directly even if its ugly. It wasn’t just happiness that she seemed to master, it was her emotions in general. She isn’t scared of them. She also doesn’t subscribe to the ideas of success that I do. I needed to be famous. I needed to be rich. I needed to be admired. But Shara has always been perfectly fine to do whatever it is she happens to be doing at any given time. And she’s never read a book about how to be present.
“Success to me is true love. And I don’t just mean romance. I mean real, true love in all my relationships. My family….my boyfriend...my best friends. “
There is a very long list of people who count Shara as one of the most important people in their lives and the fact that she considers those connections her biggest asset makes her a very rich woman. Shara also loves money and spending every penny she earns. She goes on multiple vacations a year and is always generous when it comes to paying tabs. She attracts abundance because she embodies it.
“What do you say to people who think you can’t be happy all the time” I ask.
“I don’t live a perfect life, no one does. For me, happiness is a choice. You have to wake up and create it. It's different if you're struggling with mental illness. I know it's not that simple for everyone. I've seen it first hand"
She brings up a good point. Cultivating your own happiness is a privilege not everyone is afforded. Which makes Shara seem all the more magical.
"All I know is when I’m sad, I search my mind for one thing….anything...that makes me feel better and I focus on it. You only get one life you have to try as hard as you can, every single day to make it count. Never stop trying. It’s never too late to be happy.”
I don't question Shara's happiness anymore. If you're lucky enough to have someone in your life that shines brighter than the sun then soak it up baby. No point looking for storm clouds when you're living in paradise.
My favorite part of the conversation is when I ask her what her biggest dream is. I can picture her now in the middle of summer, driving with the windows down and music blaring singing at the top of her lungs in her brand new black truck. Speeding down the back roads of Alberta with the nothing but golden prairie and bright blue sky. The sun catches her eyes and they sparkle, Tiffany blue.
“My biggest dream?” She asks, staring down the horizon “To live forever”
She zooms towards eternity and I smile at her simplicity. I think back to all the times she reminded me to just relax and enjoy the moment. She makes it look so easy and when I’m around her I share the same dream. If all I have is right now, with her, then forever is looking pretty damn good.