“I am confident that we can attain the happiness we desire and that God wants for us. It is my prayer that as we pursue the true path to happiness in our families and professions, we will use our knowledge and influence to bring greater righteousness, peace, understanding, and freedom to people all over the world.” This is a quote from a talk given by Quentin L. Cook to the students of BYU-Hawaii on April 10, 2010.
The term “true path to happiness” has been rolling around in my head quite a bit lately. Because since I realized the church (notice I didn’t capitalize it this time) isn’t true or what it claims to be…I’ve never been happier!
This led to my thinking about the question: What happens when the supposed “path to happiness” isn’t YOUR “path to happiness?”
Growing up in the church, I was told that if I did certain things and didn’t do other certain things, that I would be happy! I believed this, I lived this, I made life decisions based on this. Was I happy? Definitely, at times I was. And I know that some of the decisions I made as a good LDS girl had positive outcomes. Was I perfect, oh good grief, no! However, I don’t have regrets; that is a gift.
As life continued, though, I came to recognize that there were so many things about the church that didn’t lead to my happiness. The demand on my time, the constant barrage of “should be doing,” the feelings of inadequacies, the myth that motherhood would be fulfilling (that subject deserves its own post), the myth that prayer would make everything better, the problem with my differing opinions regarding sooooooo many issues, etc. etc. etc. My path to church subscribed happiness was blocked by me! If only I was perfect, I would be happy. Oh, I get it…I’m the problem? I’m not praying enough, reading my scriptures enough, magnifying my calling enough, enjoying motherhood enough, attending church enough, going to the temple enough (let it be known that I HATED the temple and went just 3 times, once being for my wedding), on and on it goes. That path to happiness was miserable and exhausting and it just sucked the life out of me. I got lost on that path and it led to sadness. Where was my happiness? Dammit! I earned it, didn’t I?
At the age of 33, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I began taking medication and it certainly helped. It took the edge off and I could get out of bed, take care of our 2 small children and function. However, I wasn’t happy. Hadn’t I done everything the church asked of me? Now, I’m not saying that being religious should’ve prevented me from clinical depression. I’m saying that I began to feel as though, once again, my path to happiness was blocked by me. Once again, I was the problem. Do you understand how painful that idea is? Maybe if I pray more, read my scriptures more….you see where this is leading once again?
I’m older and wiser now. My faith transition taught me that there isn’t just ONE true path to happiness. I am responsible to find my own path! It’s a very personal path and an institution (church) can’t tell me what I need to do or not do in order to be happy. This is a very difficult jump for some people to make. I was blessed to have the support and even encouragement of my husband as I found my own happy path out of the church. As I’ve come out of the church and come into my own, I’ve found my true happiness. My depression of 12 years has faded so much so, that I no longer require medication. Is this a coincidence? Absolutely not! I found my true path to happiness and it wasn’t in the teachings of the church. It was in me! Now, I trust my opinions, my beliefs, my experiences, my love, my friendships, my knowledge, my instincts, my acceptance, my trust, my view of the world and most importantly, my own authority.
Now, I look at Quentin Cook’s quote differently: as stemming not from a church view, but from a personal, secular view. “WonkyAngel is confident that she can attain the happiness she desires and that the greater good/people who love her want for her. It is her hope that as she pursues the true path to happiness in her family and the world at large, she will use her knowledge and influence to bring greater goodness, peace, understanding and freedom to people all over the world.”
We all want to find happiness in this life. This life is beautiful and scary and full of wonder and surprises, both good and bad. If the path you are on isn’t leading you to finding your happiness, step off of it. Find a different path or start a new one that may be filled with weeds and rocks, but clear them along the way. Maybe put up a sign with your name on it. Own your path and be proud of what you’ve done. It’s scary and often times lonely clearing a new path. You may get blisters, cuts, bug bites as you clear your path, but they will only make you stronger and more determined. Know that this path to true happiness is yours and yours alone! And it is beautiful!