I’m late to the party that is The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee. It released last summer, but I saved it to kick off this summer.
As I read it, I found myself wishing it had come out not one year ago but three or four, when I was profoundly unhappy. But maybe it worked out better this way. Lee mentions that “in one skinny minute, a crisis can grow out of nowhere to devour your happiness.”
Yes, sometimes it’s a crisis. Sometimes it’s more like a cancer growing in secret for a long time.
I was a little like Beth in chapter 13, “My first thought is that happiness is a three-syllable word, and some days that just feels like too much. It’s hard to live, and it’s too big of a word to say.”
Actually, I’m more than a little like Beth. Beth is me. I said those words in a voice message to Jennifer Dukes Lee while sitting in one of my happy places, under the enormous oak tree at my church. It’s so big it has stone benches underneath it.
At some point in my journey, I found myself asking the same question Lee did that led to the dare that then became the book: “God, do you want me to be happy?” The answer, I was certain, was no. With this big a loss? With this much collateral damage? Being happy felt more than a dare — it felt like a betrayal. As in, How dare I be happy after This.
So it’s no wonder that I so greatly appreciated the story Lee shared of another Jennifer, one who “fought for happiness.” She experienced a greater loss than I can imagine, and she responded, “I had to move from darkness to light. I had to.”
So did I.
So I did.
Something remarkable happened along the way: I found new ways to be happy. Most weren’t big. But I built so many of them into my day, like a shield of tiny pebbles to handle the inevitable ongoing disappointments and conflicts. Soon those small happinesses were all over the place. I wasn’t Happy, but I was experiencing a hundred happy moments each day.
Things like tea blended with local lavender from the farmers market, reading a novel on my turquoise bench, a bike ride on my favorite route after the bridge was finally fixed, writing up a to-do list, watching a storm come in, visiting with my husband, listening to a new playlist on Spotify, inviting friends over for dinner and planning and cooking.
I cultivated small happinesses because I had to. I didn’t know what my happiness style was and didn’t care. Just knew I needed to fight for it. When I finally took the happiness assessment in Lee’s book, my scores were remarkably similar. Four of them differed by only one point, and the leader wasn’t that far ahead of the pack. In short, I had been forced to diversify my happiness.
And guess what? I got happier. Not big, giant Happy but a hundred small happys. Happy enough.
If, like me, you’re late to the dare, no worries. I have a copy to give away! Leave a comment, and I’ll draw a name.