I have severe PTSD and all the fun side effects that come with it. I know that happiness isn’t quite as simple as this. Heavens no. Rather, I know how fragile and precious happiness is, and I know I don’t need my nasty insecurities getting in my face and slapping it out of my hands. The mean voices of the past can yell at me all they want. I’m not giving them the satisfaction of a listening ear anymore. I’m going to reach out with open arms to gather all the things that bring me joy, hold them close, and let myself be happy in them.
I’ve been playing the piano and singing the last two days. I’m trying to make it a new daily thing I do. The reason why this is a big deal is because, deep down, I’m a wannabe-musician. It comes out in my books. I love music. I *need* music to write stories. It inspires me. Music says things that can only be felt. Music is its own majestic language, and I’ve always wanted to know how to speak it.
However, a very long time ago, I confided in someone that I wanted to write music. I was very excited at this revelation. I decided that I wanted to major in it in college. The response I got was, “Don’t get your hopes up.” What they clearly meant was, “You are not talented enough to make it.”
I told myself I wasn’t going to let that get to me, but over the next several years, it did. It slowly poisoned those dreams. Every time I went to play or opened my mouth to sing, that was all I heard in my head. And eventually, I quit.
Now, as I sat at the piano today, I sang my guts out. I have started creating my own version of a song I haven’t been able to get out of my head. I played until my fingers hurt. And Dexter, my son, came up to me and told me, “I love it!”
And I thought of a story told by Dieter F. Uchtdorf called, “Three Sisters.”
He says, “A long time ago in a distant land lived a family of three sisters.
“The first sister was sad. Everything from her nose to her chin, and from her skin to her toes, seemed not quite good enough to her. When she spoke, her words sometimes came out awkwardly, and people laughed. When someone criticized her or ‘forgot’ to invite her to something, she would blush, walk away, and find a secret spot where she would let out a sad sigh and wonder why life had turned out to be so bleak and cheerless.
“The second sister was mad. She thought of herself as very smart, but there was always someone else who scored higher on tests at school. She considered herself funny, fair, fashionable, and fascinating. But always, there seemed to be someone who was funnier, fairer, more fashionable, or more fascinating. She was never first at anything, and this she could not endure. Life was not supposed to be this way!
“Sometimes she lashed out at others, and it seemed that she was always one breath away from being outraged by one thing or another. Of course, this did not make her any more likable or popular. Sometimes she clenched her teeth, tightened her fists, and thought, ‘Life is so unfair!’
“Then there was the third sister. Unlike her sad and mad sisters, she was—well, glad. And it wasn’t because she was smarter or more beautiful or more capable than her sisters. No, people sometimes avoided or ignored her, too. They sometimes made fun of what she was wearing or the things she was saying. They sometimes said mean things about her. But she did not allow any of that to bother her too much.
“This sister loved to sing. She didn’t have great pitch, and people laughed about it, but that didn’t stop her. She would say, ‘I am not going to let other people and their opinions stop me from singing!’
“The very fact that she kept singing made her first sister sad.
“And her second sister mad.
“Many years passed, and eventually each sister reached the end of her time on earth. The first sister, who discovered again and again that there was no shortage of disappointments in life, eventually died sad.
“The second, who every day found something new to dislike, died mad.
“And the third sister, who spent her life singing her song with all her might and a confident smile on her face, died glad.”
I smiled as I thought of that ending. What does it matter what other people think? What does it matter if they’re better or worse? It really doesn’t, not one bit, so long as your path in life brings you joy, and makes you glad.
Let yourself be happy.
The night before Dexter’s first day of school, he came into Paul and mine’s bedroom extremely worried. His hair is long, and he’d suddenly decided that he wanted a haircut.
“What?!” said Paul, “I asked you the other day if you wanted a haircut and you said ‘no!’”
Dexter told him, “Well, I don’t *want* a haircut. I like my hair. But I’m scared the other kids will tease me about it.”
He went on like that for a bit. Finally, I stopped him. “You like your hair long?”
“Yeah,” he said.
And I basically said, “Then keep it. Don’t cut it because of those kids. When I was a kid, kids bullied me all the time. For everything. The way I dressed, the way I did my hair, the things I liked, my face, my personality. So, I changed everything about myself the way I thought they wanted.
“And guess what? They *still* made fun of me!
“So I decided that, if nobody else will like me, then at least I can do what makes *me* happy. And I can be happy with myself. You’re never going to be able to please everybody. So, *you* should do what makes *you* happy.”
And he did. He kept his long hair, and I love it.
And I realized that, while what I said was very true about most things—my writing, my style, most aspects of my life—I still couldn’t play music, and it was getting in the way of things. I’d see Paul playing his bass (he’s getting REALLY good at it, by the way) and hear him tell me everything he was learning about music… he’s so passionate about it! And I’d feel so inspired and yet… so, SO insanely jealous!
Then he got me a fancy keyboard, insistent that I needed to find joy in music again.
And after this talk with Dexter—it all hit home. And I decided I needed to fix this. So, I’ve finally—FINALLY—started playing the piano and singing again.
And I love it. It makes me so happy.
Some negative voices are harder to shake than others, but it’s worth the effort. Sometimes therapy is needed—and that’s okay, dang it! It’s worth it! And if I can do it, I know you can, too.
Reach out in your life and fill your arms with all things that bring you joy, and let yourself be happy. As you do this, you’ll see that your courage is contagious. Giving yourself permission to love the things you love gives others permission to do the same.