Posted by: cavemanwithmartini | September 27, 2009

Happiness Vigilante.



What returns from oblivion

Returns to find a voice.

-Louise Gluck

Only someone who has been truly miserable, often, could write a book about being relentlessly happy.

Perhaps only someone who has been would want to. I may be the most qualified person to write about happiness, in this particular way, because I believe myself to have been among the most lost and despairing -and have made my way through it repeatedly.

At first, only barely, and quite roughly. And then quicker, and more easily, and then quicker still, and more easily still.

Through a series of quite-startling events which only should have made me distinctly less happy, not only would I get through my sad or down states, their intensity began to shift and lessen, and their nature changed completely, so that eventually I had to admit these were now happy states, or so near happiness that the variance was negligible.

It didn’t happen right away, and I needed help, but one day, I made one or two really good decisions, and then, quite by chance, one or two more. And this continued for a time, unabated. I began putting actions and ideas together and noting the results. Not just the small, immediate effects but the bigger, longer-term ones. I had been very nearly a professionally angry and depressed person, and no traditional therapies had worked, so these were no small results to me.

I began to trust my decisions. And it was then, when my trust in myself was really established, that the whole thing broke wide open.

Soon, I would catch myself laughing for no reason, others would ask me what was going on. What exactly does one say– “Oh. Don’t mind me. I am in the process of becoming a happy person”? That even saying such a thing aloud would be judged as odd, or even crazy, is deeply unfortunate, we need more happiness-pride and much less happiness-shame.

What was going on, was my sadness was approaching me more half-heartedly, and departing with more alacrity. And when the dark spells did depart- the remaining contentment I was left with felt ever more solidly my own. And what is your own, is yours to share. No going back, the peanut-butter had melded with the chocolate now, and there’d be no separating them. I started to sense that happiness had established a permanent base in my soul. Comfy.

I was slowly becoming an expert in feeling good. Not out of a denial or a shame of feeling badly, but out of a genuine, ever-increasing surety that life was simply amazing.

The good feeling I had seemed to expand outwards from me, to affect and influence almost every aspect of life, and the people I encountered in it. And then they began to change, too. I began to meet a lot of new people, and they were happier people, or people just about to be.

Joyful sets of circumstances came my way, with little effort. When one good option disappeared, three new ones stood ready to take its place. When nothing good seemed to offer itself, I closed my eyes and smiling, took what life offered me, in trust-actual trust, something I had never known before, to have it turn out to be the best outcome of all. Sometimes it’s only when your car breaks down, when the bus you get on breaks down too, that, walking alone on a cold and dark road, that you are finally in a position to meet the one person in the world you need to meet the most. And they, you. Oh yes-they need to meet you just as desperately.

But if I was taking careful notes of how and why this happened, it wasn’t for any ones sake but my own.

I hated feeling down and spent years that way. Often I openly and actively didn’t want to be, but there didn’t seem to be much I could do about it. The world was just very terrible, or I was. Likely both.

I could take action toward my sadness, but eventually there it was again, standing there, a towering figure in the doorway. Like an old friend who knew more about me than I did. And it would take so little; a song, some inflection in something someone said, persistent weather states, toxic nostalgia, looking in the mirror even sometimes would do it, and there I’d go, down.

Who knows how long I’d be down there. In some parallel universe I’m probably

still down there. But not this one, not anymore. And if there’s a continuous disco party going on in my head nowadays, trust me, I’m just as surprised as anyone. But who am I to resist one more dance?

The transformative nature of simply being happy is powerfully underestimated in our culture, and radically undervalued. In many ways we have become used to a certain level of existential misery, but why? Like all kinds of prejudice and injustice, it is finally time to look deeply into what we can do to make our next important evolutionary shift, and that is to me, to claim our time on earth more fully, and to dedicate it to something larger than the shallow identities we sometimes struggle with, to embrace a much larger identity based on who we really are in our deepest soul.

This book is about the radical idea that the level of happiness in your life is too valuable and important to leave to chance. The most valuable human commodity in my view is time, it is the one thing which is less every second, for everyone on Earth. And though a lot of things in your life should have the surprise of discovery, finding out you’ve accidentally lived a miserable life for ten or twenty years should not be one of them.

For that we should be willing to look at everything-particularly the romantic overlay we give our reality, by which I mean our faith that the things of this world will fulfill us deeply forever. This alone has hundreds, maybe thousands of expressions for each of us in our daily lives. We have made a bad habit of the rush to comfort. But comfort is not what we truly seek, we seek soul-fulfillment! That is very different. The romantic overlay we give our reality needs to battle with our actual reality, and from that assessment we need to walk away finding our actual reality even more romantic. That is what happened to me, and this book is the account of it.

In some way, it’s already happening-a new regard for how our lives are being spent. Everywhere I see the evidence of it: the time has finally come for a majority of people to live deeply happy lives, who were not living them before. Through a change of emphasis, redirected goals, a broadening of an outlook. It starts from within, the inner-voice, so quiet at first, speaking with an undeniable appeal. It’s a trilling, tickling, lighthearted and friendly voice, with all of the best ideas. Call it the directive of real happiness, not happiness as joke or punch line, it’s an end to highs and lows.

I don’t just mean for the people who were obviously supposed to be happy: those born with no serious issues or problems, who never encountered any, who never did come up against much adversity and who aren’t too curious about what it’s like. I mean the opposite: huge swaths of people of every kind of background and beginning, who have seen a little too much of every kind of adversity, and have almost forgotten what life was like without it, I especially call out to them.

There are no lost causes. No one is in too dire of a situation. Let no one be the victim of a sort of happiness-prejudice. There is no person, for whom happiness would be inappropriate. In this world, the wide gulf in happiness-as-wealth is even more glaring than certain financial disparities, and about a thousand times as needless. Let us change that now, and let the doing of it be part of what we call happiness.

To those that say finding happiness is like finding love, that you can’t wish or work for it, you have to just let it happen I say that finding happiness is not exactly like finding love. Finding happiness is much more important than any other goal. You may or may not meet the love of your life today (I think you may!) but a happy life is not something we can spend a single second more denying ourselves. It is a great responsibility both personally and in the world, to make ourselves as happy as we want to be, with tremendous positive implications the likes of which we can only barely imagine now.

Excuse me for stating the obvious but the situation is that urgent that I will; happy people do not kill, rape, or maim. They don’t even gossip. Happy people do not tear each other down, they are not racist, they don’t hurt others actively or passively. Far from that, happy people don’t even mind if you take the parking space they were waiting for. And they certainly don’t yell for hours over the kitchen table with relatives about politics! To put it in the simplest terms, happiness gets more done, in less time, and with better results. What is not said often enough is that happiness includes many other skill-sets automatically, and these skills are ours to fully possess at any time of our choosing. We’d do very right by the world to make ourselves happy. It is a state luminous with justice and wisdom. It is a very high calling, one that is open to anyone, money or position very much not required. It is noble, and it is active, and there isn’t a whit about it that is dismissible.

This book will not make light of profound sadness and doesn’t aim to cover it up with flowery or sugary aphorisms. In fact, though I consider myself a strong happiness-advocate, I would be averse to doing that.

I actually respect sadness and am fascinated by it, in a strange way it is perhaps this above all that allows me to know it’s opposite so well. When you know every feature of a thing, and don’t hate it anymore, but are merely ready to go beyond it, when the level of curiosity to do so is powerfully stoked, and you are absolutely ready to do what it takes to make some progress, you start to open to the possibility of knowing what is beyond the borders of sadness.

It is surprisingly a lot. Joy is so much bigger and more comfortable to us than sadness. It is so much more us!

Sadness itself will not disappear, nor is it required to. Sadness is just like a land that you leave. You’ve been there too long, and may have forgotten how to. And I’m just the person who, telling you to go grab your passport says, “I notice we’ve got a stamp for this place already, and we’ve been here awhile, and since we aren’t doing much, why don’t we leave? How about that direction!”

It’s sunny over there.

Yes, you will hear that the world didn’t set out to be a happy place, maybe the world didn’t set out to be a lot of things it is. We’re not asking the world to change, now. We, the people who wish to be happy, merely note that if we can make our lives much worse by our decisions, it is our perfect right to arrest them from a wayward course, to pick them up, as if something on the ground, and place them in a bright place, too. And we do so by making better, very clever and creative, very different, and yes sometime odd choices, too.

Grab the moment, try something new, don’t let go until you have tried something. All you need to set upon a new path is an instant, a lifetime after all, is a parade of nows. A happy life is literally many healthful decisions.

I’m not talking about the body here. It is not said enough that a happy body is not necessarily a super-fit body, and happiness is not only for one kind of body, or for waiting for this or that to be perfect as others judge it.

This isn’t about the acquiring of any things, it is about claiming a state. If you want to get your doctorate in something, that is tremendous, but here I’ll be urging you to get your doctorate in peace-making, self-care, every day romance, and being silly, and that is actually much more important and overdue. Actually it is so important that not doing so is hurting you. It’s the resolute statement that you can lose or gain the world, and over a lifetime you can expect to and will, but at the end of the day, what you’ve lost, gained, and lost again, has absolutely nothing to do with who you are.

When I was almost done writing of this book, I found, quite by chance, a note I had written to myself thirteen years ago, when I was 24.

I remembered it instantly. I wrote it at a time in my life when it seemed like everyone was constantly criticizing me and when I always felt alone, hostile, and alienated. It was a time when often I couldn’t leave the house because I had such bad anxiety. And when I didn’t feel so anxious a cold sweat was literally running down my face, my impulse toward explosive, maniacal anger would overwhelm me.

I judged everyone I saw as either far better or far worse than I was, and I was filled with wild, uncontrollable lusts. I was someone hard for me to imagine now, a person completely controlled by fear. I was so afraid, and I was so angry. And though I didn’t know it at the time, things were about to get about twenty times worse.

I am 37 now and had not seen the note since the day that I wrote it. Unfolding it as if I was tenderly opening a flower, I brought it toward my face with curiosity and delight, as the sun came in, over my shoulder, to light up the note perfectly.

It said, simply, “Fuck it. I’m going to be happy today”.

More scrawled than written, it was also underlined.

An eight-word poem, it could have been my eight-word biography. A single sentence as the summation of my entire life, even encompassing that exact moment of standing there, being 37. It was one perfectly angry, determined, joyous declaration. A letter to myself, a message in a bottle, for me to find one day. Something to destroy and remake me the instant I found it again. And how wonderful that I did find it again, tucked in a small forgotten book, in a friends house, in a high-up corner, on the other side of the world from where I originally wrote the note, in a house I was living in, while I was actively engaged in writing a book on: happiness. But there it was.

Who was that guy, fifteen years back? And who was I now? What the hell happened?

I sat down, smiling at myself. First, I couldn’t stop laughing, then I couldn’t stop crying. I loved that note. My soul expanded, and touched each year of my past and all of the people I had met, with simple affection. Everything good and bad that happened over the years, began to have the same taste.

Nothing ever felt so obviously earned, nothing ever felt as flagrantly in my possession, as my happiness, then. And I could have died at that moment, thanking every single person on my way out, just for the experience of living my life. I blessed and received blessings from every place I went, every room I ever stood in, every speck of dust, as humility and grace fell upon me, conquered me with charm, subsumed me and lifted me up, before placing me again, gently, in a sun-filled room, in San Francisco.

This wasn’t just some old note I found, written in ball point pen. This was a bold little flag I had there in my hands. If flags were indeed still things travelers sent up tall posts, on ships bound for far-off places.

2009 Draft Copy

Author: Troy Ygnacio Soriano

This post on Facebook.


  1. The most interesting phrase to me was "The level of happiness in your life is too valuable and important to leave to chance." Most of us are so predisposed to letting life "happen to us" instead of "making it happen", that this phrase deserves repeating and deserves to be taken deeply to heart.

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