I should be happy. Often, I’m not happy. This is because there is a problem between what I believe I “should” do or have or be and what is.

A little ray of sunshine

As an example: many people utter this mantra, “I should be rich because I work hard.” Bologna. The people who work the hardest, even worked to death, are slaves. They are remarkably not rich. We don’t get rich because we work hard. For example, Paris Hilton is rich.

We make some money by selling our skills and our time. The more valuable our skills are, the more money we are paid to display them. My skill set as a nurse was more valuable than my skill set as a secretary. I made more money (and had far more responsibility) as a nurse than as a secretary. I’m still working hard, but the pay rate is much different. I was happy in both instances, since I personally valued my work.

I should be beautiful. Well, tough. Looks, like intelligence or height (anything innate) is scattered across the spectrum. When looked at as a whole, most people are of average anything – beauty, intelligence, or height. However, some people are really ugly and some are really beautiful, just like some are really smart (genius) and some are really stupid (profoundly mentally disabled is the term de jour, I believe, because somehow retarded got to be a bad word), and finally some people are really short (midgets which is also probably a bad word) and giants (aka basketball players).

We should be what we are. Instead of wishing I was in fact beautiful, and whining about how I wish the entire Bell curve was different, I could be clean, neat, well-groomed, and nicely dressed. These are all things I have some control over and I could look better than just run of the mill, where my “looks” quotient lands me, by sprucing up what I was given.

I’m slightly taller than average, but not by much. If I want to appear shorter, there isn’t much I can do. But as my daughter-in-love has proven, being a few inches shorter than average can be offset by wearing high heels.

What I could do instead of whining about the “shoulds” in my life is actually accept that life is unfair. Let me repeat that: Life is unfair. It has never been fair. I was lucky enough to be born in the United States where the standard of living is quite high. I was lucky enough to be born in the mid-twentieth century when sanitary conditions and medicine had conspired to give me a long and healthy life. I could have been born elsewhere, places in the world torn by near constant warring, for example.

Most of us don’t stop to think of the basic luck of our time and place of birth. Most of us don’t look around and see the masses who are worse off than we are and whisper a prayer of thanks for the good luck that landed us in the spot. Instead, we ignore the left side of the Bell curve, the side with the less than desirable things, and look farther to the right. Over on that side people are richer or smarter or whatever it is we believe we “should” have.

The secret to happiness is not in getting what we believe we should already have. The secret to happiness is liking what we currently possess.

Happiness is not encased in any thing or person or place. Happiness resides in your heart or soul or brain. It is a choice. Those who choose to be content with their current set of circumstances do not need to give up what could be. You can be happy while working toward a college degree that allows you to provide the world with skill set that is valued, thereby increasing your likelihood of some day being rich. It will not guarantee this, but you could possibly parlay a skill set into an income.

If you have ever said to yourself, “I will be happy if …” or “I will be happy when …” you are setting yourself up for disappointment. If or when something happens, you will notice only that the “could” became reality but now there are a whole new set of “shoulds” waiting in line.

Things could be better, but they could also be worse. This moment isn’t affected by what you believe you deserve, but only by what is available. Bad things can happen when we least expect it and upset our applecart, but even so, looking for the ray of sunshine in the bleakest dark will allow you to choose the happiness you so richly deserve.