Redefining Sanity – What’s Your New Happy?

There’s a lot written these days about preparing for the new normal. Some of it reads like dystopian fiction. Too often it seems to be magical thinking with little or no basis in fact.

Even though we’ve been watching the virus for several months, it’s still raging out of control in many places with no signs of slowing. A vaccine that will be delivered and distributed broadly enough to make a difference is still a fuzzy dream.

As I thought about that this morning I realized the only certainty right now is ongoing uncertainty and the people and activities that used to contribute to my sense of well-being are no longer available.

Everything is up for redefinition – including sanity – including happiness.

If I had experienced my current detours into mental strangeness before the pandemic, I’d have been worried. These days, feeling off-kilter, hopeless, adrift, unmotivated, confused (I could go on) is just the way it sometimes is, and I’ve learned a degree of acceptance and coping skills for the mood shifts that come out of nowhere.

But I don’t like coping. I prefer to thrive, mentally, physically, and emotionally and I realized today that to do that, I need to redefine happy. I’ve been struggling to fit the old ways into a new reality. It can’t be done. It’s like trying to keep an exploding rainbow intact. Bits and pieces of colorful joy break apart, fly everywhere, and disappear. I may grab one or two fractured shards as they zoom past, but that’s a starvation diet and it’s not working.

It boils down to expectations and there are two questions to answer:

1) When have I experienced happiness during corona?

  • I’ve been truly happy when engaged in projects that require physical effort.
  • I’ve been truly happy during Zoom calls with family.
  • I’ve been truly happy riding on the back of Ketut’s motorbike.
  • I’ve been truly happy when getting together with a friend – even sitting six feet apart.
  • I’m content when I’m writing, cooking, reading, walking, daydreaming.
  • I’m content when I have a plan for the day.
  • I’m content when I have something on the calendar to look forward to.
  • I’m content when I’m doing my morning routine.

2) How can I revise my expectations so they fall into line with what’s actually possible?

Things I can no longer expect are:

  • Hugs
  • Trips to see family
  • Group get-togethers
  • Spontaneous social interaction
  • Taking vacations
  • Leaving the house mask-less
  • Bustling streets
  • Restaurants and shops open
  • Feeling safe…

Comparing the two lists, I’m surprised how many things still exist that bring me happiness or contentment. I don’t have to be happy all the time. Contentment is an acceptable state. Hugs and a sense of safety are perhaps the most difficult to do without.

It will go a long way toward my new happy if I can incorporate a few items daily from the first list, and plan my days far enough in advance to feel I have an interesting life to look forward to. I’ll need time to mourn the loss of what isn’t possible. Time to honor what once was but is no more in an intentional way. But after that — theoretically —

I can release the old paradigm and embrace sanity and happiness, redefined.

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