How to Be Happy when Everything Sucks

This year started off normal.  I spent January touring different apartments.  I wasn’t in love with my old place, and I was in a position to move up — so I ran with it.  While signing my new lease on February 13th, I superstitiously joked “Should I be concerned about signing a year lease on Friday the 13th?”  That’s about when 2009 stopped being a normal year…

Within ten days my girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer.  It turned our world upside down.  She stopped working and started spending a lot of time in the hospital.  Five days here, another nine days there.  I couldn’t sleep because I was too worried about her.  Going to work was pleasant just because it was a distraction from the constant worrying.

Then the state of the economy started affecting my workplace.  People got laid off.  Consequently, there was extra work to do.  Everyone who didn’t lose their jobs took pay cuts.  Our life insurance was canceled.  Health benefits were reduced.

If all this wasn’t stressful enough, I heard through the grape vine that I might be next in line to lose my job.  I was concerned because with Cassie unable to work, the best thing that I could be doing for her during this difficult time was to simply keep my day job.  If I lost it, who knows how long it would take before I found something else to make ends meet?  Would I need to break the lease?  How many months could my savings carry us until they ran out?  These are the types of questions I was plagued with throughout each workday.

As the warning signs became more apparent at my job, I decided to change my mindset.  Instead of simply being reactive, just waiting for the axe to fall, I started being proactive, and began looking for something else.  My love for writing was put on pause while I concentrated on the new priority of finding a better job.  I started telling people about my situation, how I was in the market for a new job because of it, and was always keeping one eye open for new job postings in my area.

Unfortunately, with the tanked economy most everything I looked at sounded worse than what I was already doing.  “Part time to start.” — “$9/hour as needed.” — “$10/hour on a contract 1099.”  The pickings were slim.

Despite the discouraging choices that were out there, I quietly kept looking, stayed optimistic, and did all that I could to stay employed.  In a way, I was doing all this because I wanted to improve my life, but the real motivation was Cassie.  I needed to be the strong one while her health was down and push forward in spite of everything trying to knock us back.  I searched, waited, and hoped for a silver lining, and it finally arrived in the form of an email message from my friend Lauren.

Fully aware of my situation, Lauren spotted a job posting that sounded like a good fit for me.  In all honesty it seemed like it was designed for me.  This company was looking to fill a role I had all the relevant experience for, and so they were immediately interested.  I breezed through the phone, in-person, and second interviews.  When they offered me the job, they said “So how much money would it take for you to leave [your current job]?”

For a number of months now, I’ve felt unhappy.  I kept my head up, but all the stresses that I’ve dealt with have been about serious shit that I’ve never dealt with before.  I’ve only recently managed to adjust to it, and thankfully something has come along that makes this year seem considerably less shitty.

It’s hard to explain what kept me going.  In another life, I might have already given up.  Instead, I just told myself things like “One day at a time.” — “It could always be worse.” — “Someone else’s problems would make mine seem trivial.”

The thing is, everyone’s got their own problems, and everyone deals with them differently.  I won’t say that for the past six months I’ve managed to stay happy regardless of everything that’s causing me sadness — because then I’d be lying.  But I will say that at some point I made a conscious choice to deal with these life stresses with a more positive attitude, and continue making efforts to create positive change in my life.

There will always be things you can’t control.  Life has a way of creating situations where you feel helpless about all that’s got you down.  For me, it was having the girl I love fall victim to cancer — and trust me, I’ve never felt more helpless.  In these situations, you’ve just got to decide what kind of person you are:  one who lives with the unhappiness, and allows it to consume oneself fully, or one who pushes past the unhappiness, and makes a conscious effort to be happy regardless of whatever is causing stress, worry, or helplessness.

I’m proud to say that I’m in the second camp.  What about you?

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15 Responses to “How to Be Happy when Everything Sucks”

#1 What It Means to Stay Awake on 27, Jul, 2009 at 12:08 am

[…] to be happy when everything sucks? Check this out. I think it’s […]

#2 Maggie on 27, Jul, 2009 at 1:33 am

Thanks for your honest, real and heart felt post. I read so many personal development blogs that talk only about the “highs” in Life. But the truth is reality does occasionally really hurt, and it’s only then that we truly realize and are grateful for the people and experiences most important to us.

#3 Stefan | on 27, Jul, 2009 at 2:58 am

I agree with Maggie, I am someone who tries to keep positive all the time, and it workes out great for me.
But I have never experienced some real losses, I never lost a near one, I never failed for an exam or something. Maybe that is why I can keep positive, because life is good to me. But I am wondering sometimes, will I still be the same positive person when life isn’t good to me? I hope I can, but I can’t tell you for sure.

Thanks for the story Shaun, good luck with everything!

#4 Deanna on 27, Jul, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I used to be that person that nothing bad had happened to yet and I was SO NAIVE. What I’ve learned is it’s not if something will ever happen to us but when, it’s a part of human existence. That doesn’t mean we sit waiting on doom, you have to live int he day, something I learned in the last 3 years, there is NO OTHER WAY. Some of us learn the lessons of life pretty early, some very early, and some won’t learn pain (true pain of heart) until they are old. Before 2006 (age 41) I hadn’t felt much loss either, but then 2006 I found myself divorced after 18 years, 2 years later, I lose my mother suddenly to recurrent breast cancer (24 days from diagnosis until death), two months following that, my son was diagnosed with brain cancer…..we’ve spent a year fighting his disease and he’s been changed forever, I have been changed forever. One thing I will say, I learned that I am a very strong person, I am a person who finds happiness where I can find it (darkness will show you light), and I’ve truly learned to love stronger than I ever could have loved before. As a matter of fact, I have found that I have changed so much that I now have difficulty being around most other people (which is not good), with their materialistic love, love of power (in which we truly have none other than over our actions), money worshipping, fighting over things that are not important, hating others, intolerance, I spiritually have moved to a different plane and will not say its easy to be there because it can be a lonely place in America, I’m working on myself to be more tolerant of those who are (lucky enough) to still live worry free. 🙂

#5 Dave Witwicki on 29, Jul, 2009 at 12:01 pm

It can be hard to stay positive in the face of adversity but as you’ve pointed out, it’s a conscious choice you can make to deal with the bad stuff and still stay positive. I find it helpful to consider the curves life throws at you as opportunities to grow.

Thanks for sharing…

#6 Lauren on 30, Jul, 2009 at 8:10 am

I hope this new job really is a *dream job* for you, like mine was!! And I hope it means more time/motivation to write 🙂

#7 Jannie Funster on 01, Aug, 2009 at 10:57 pm

This really brought tears to my eyes. I really respect that you said this… “I won’t say that for the past six months I’ve managed to stay happy regardless of everything that’s causing me sadness — because then I’d be lying.” Yet you have a spirit of optimism.

So sorry to hear of Caisssie being sick. I have not actually had any cancer in my immediate family, except for my dad’s father who died years before I was born. I wish you and Caissie well. And glad Lauren was able to hook you up job-wise.

Thanks you for sharing. You seem like a very special person. And a real inspiration.

#8 Corinne Friesen on 26, Aug, 2009 at 8:59 pm

“Be kinder than is necessary because everybody is dealing with something.”

#9 WhiteShellNuggets on 25, Sep, 2009 at 5:32 am

So you’re a moron who decides to be naive so he can progress in life. Moron. I wish you killed yourself instead!

#10 Phil Campbell on 07, Oct, 2009 at 12:52 pm

i do hope things work out for you and thanks for that bit of writing.

#11 Patrice on 09, Oct, 2009 at 11:27 am

I am hoping and praying for the best of you and your girl friend. God is always there for us even in times when we are down and stressed. Always be happy.

#12 anthony on 25, Oct, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Thank you Shaun:

I think you hit the nail on the head. Most of us can list a series of misfortunes, disasters, pain, anguish…. What is important is how we react to them. Its accepting the reality and then finding how you can continue to move forward.

Good, bad, ugly; its all part of life.
I lost both parents, older sister and younger sister in a 5 year period. I had a choice, feel sorry for MYSELF or accept that this is part of life, grieve and then move on. Live life on life’s terms or be miserable forever.

Remain positive and continue to appreciate every day you have.

#13 jacqui on 02, Jan, 2010 at 5:19 am

Thanks. My husband has been recently diagnosed with cancer and your post and optimism really has helped.

#14 anna on 12, Apr, 2010 at 3:34 am

Thanks – this was awesome. I have had a lot of unhappy situations in my life and finding that I am not alone seems to make everything better. Now recently I am in the process of going through losing my job and have no idea what i am supposed to do……I was distraught and just an emotional basket case and something in me told me to belive – just belive it will work out – and just wait on the Lord He is the sole provider as long as you can give him you.
I did and I know deep down in my heart that it will be okay i have taken the choice to not let anything pull me down and just believe and as long as there is no doubt – there is a way for you.

Keep positive.

#15 Sonny | be happy on 04, Apr, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Very touching indeed.
By now its been more than a year. I hope that the tables have turned and your life has given you the fortune you deserve.

Take care

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