One of my new readers recently shared this with me:


“My husband is finding it really hard too as he can’t understand, I bring him down as he says “There’s always something wrong, there’s actually nothing wrong, why can’t you just be happy”. I so wish I did feel happy, at the moment I just feel terrible and like I have no one to talk to about it or way out. My whole life I’ve felt different…”


Aaaaaah, if only a new tree would grow every time someone said “why can’t you just be happy,” our rainforests would flourish again.


When I was depressed in my 20s, I heard that quite often. In my early 30s, I learned to slap on a fake smile and pretend everything was wonderful, and people stopped asking me (mostly because they were all pretending too and to bring it up in me, they’d have to face it in themselves, so everyone pretends not to notice so we can all live in our happy pretend world happily ever after).


But I still heard that question nearly every night, because I asked it to myself, in the truthful moments of quiet solitude just before falling asleep.


Why can’t you just be happy?


So I wrote this article, to my old self who asked this question of me, to you who may be asking yourself, and to all those who ask this question of others. May you find some answers within it.


Dear Loved One,


I know you mean well. I know you want me to be happy. I know you see me struggle every day and maybe that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe it makes you feel even helpless at times, that you can’t “make” me happy no matter how hard you try. Or that I can’t figure out how to magically flip on a switch and instantly be happy.


You ask me why I can’t just be happy?


Well, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I WANT to be happy. Dear God do I SO WANT to be happy.


I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know WHY I can’t just be happy and walk around with a smile on my face without a care in the world like everyone else seems to. But I. Just. Can’t.




Maybe because I care deeply. I can’t just “shrug things off.” They mean something to me. This earth, the people on it, the animals, plants, all the living beings…  LIFE… it all means something. We’re not just here bipping along abiding time until we die. We’re here for a reason, for a purpose, for something deeper, more meaningful than collecting material objects, checking things off our To-Do list and getting the best deals on Black Friday.


But I don’t know what that reason is. And that not-knowing festers within me like a thorn in my side. There’s a disconnect somewhere, a discord between what I see out in the world, what people, including myself, do every day and what they say is important, and what I know deep in my being to be true. And it doesn’t connect. The dots don’t align. And I don’t know what to do about it.


Maybe at one time in your life, you felt this misalignment too? Maybe as a young child, you were nudged and poked by an inner knowing that guided you to know right from wrong (not what your parents or the world told you was right or wrong, but what your inner being knew as truth) and over the years, you learned to ignore it or you stopped listening or believing altogether. Or you learned new ways to distract yourself so you wouldn’t have to hear it or feel it.  Or you learned how to be a better pretender. A pretender who on the surface appears like everything is awesome when deep down inside, your gut churns and your bones ache, and you have to pop an Advil everyday for that damn chronic headache.


You ask me why I can’t just be happy?


I don’t know why.


Maybe it’s because there’s a chemical imbalance in my brain.


Or maybe it’s because there’s a kindness imbalance in the world.


I don’t understand how YOU can be happy when right now, somewhere in the world, there’s a little girl being raped, a dog being tortured, a bomb killing innocent children unfortunate enough to be born on the wrong side of the invisible man-made line called a border. HOW can that be OK? HOW? How can I walk around pretending there’s nothing wrong when almost everything seems wrong?


So you tell me not to think about this stuff because it’s too big, it’s too much, and what can one person do anyway. And so I try. I try really hard. I work all morning at it and I finally get to a place of peace and content after meditating and practicing self-love and taking a warm bath with candles. And then I go buy groceries and there’s a massive image of emaciated migrants on a crammed boat stepping over a pile of dead bodies.


Their own friends and family.


I can’t NOT see it. It’s plastered on the front page of the newspaper right in my face as I wait in line to pay for my milk and dog food.


Am I supposed to put on blinders as I navigate through this world in which you say nothing’s wrong?


Is that image not evidence enough for you that there’s something terribly, terribly wrong?


You ask me why I can’t just be happy?


I don’t know why.


Maybe it’s because I don’t know how to let those things go. I don’t know how to NOT care deeply. I don’t know how to pretend. I’m not very good at this acting thing. It feels fake and I feel worse when I do it.


I don’t know how to get that f***ing image of the lone dust-covered boy with the sad eyes and the crumpled shirt who was dug out of the rubble of a bomb-torn building out of my mind. Everyone else sees the image, shakes their head in a moment of disdain. “Sad, very sad” you all say. Then you look away from the front page and something immediately turns off in you as if looking away from the image made the event not happen and the boy not exist. And suddenly it’s no longer sad. Because somehow it no longer exists.


Then you go about your merry day and maybe you get mad at the barista for putting whip cream on your frappucino when you clearly asked for no whip. She should give you a free one for those precious 3 extra minutes you had to wait for another. Can’t believe she didn’t even offer. Starbucks surely doesn’t care about its customers anymore, they’ve totally forgotten their roots and turned into this big heartless corporation. Now that’s sad. Very sad.


Have WE, as a humanity, a society, turned into a big heartless corporation too? Have WE forgotten our roots too? Have we forgotten where we come from? Weren’t we at some point connected to one another? Aren’t we supposed to be kind and loving and help one another? Aren’t we all from the same seed? Aren’t we all, at the core of everything, FAMILY? Doesn’t the same life force that flow through me, flow through everyone too?


Where did our hearts go? What about our soul? Is that dead too?


We are killing, condemning, hating, judging, segregating, hurting, building walls and pushing each other out.


Can you still honestly sit there and tell me NOTHING IS WRONG???


Even among those like myself, the ones who self-identify as empaths or light workers or healers or peace-lovers or sensitive souls…. Even WE hurt each other. Someone who claimed to be loving called me an a**hole. Someone else shamed another for not being a “true empath”. These are people who themselves have been judged, shamed, criticized and ousted their entire lives and know exactly how it feels. Yet they turn around and do the same to others. And in the next breath they earnestly ask why people can’t be kinder in this world but they have forgotten the act of unkindness they just did. Because they are justified. They are right. To them, that act was warranted because of the other person’s actions.


Do you not see the insane cycle of this and how it will never stop?


These are people who are desperately searching for belonging and connection. Like me. Like you. Like all of us. Some more consciously than others. And yet, in our search for inclusivity and belonging and connection and love and kindness, we shut others out, judge them, criticize them and treat them without the very love and kindness we long for.


And we wonder why we can’t just be happy.


We wonder what’s wrong with the world.


And so you ask me why I can’t just be happy?


This is why. All of this. Everything above.


And more.


Here’s another reason: What kind of God can allow a 2 year old building a sand castle on the beach with his family to be snatched by an alligator? What kind of God can allow ANY of the horrid brutal things that happen in this world? I ask God to help me out of a traffic jam and suddenly it clears up, but He couldn’t help the boy? Really??


I love God but WTF?!?!


WTF, seriously.


I don’t know how to find harmony in that. I don’t know how to settle the utter discord I feel in how absolutely WRONG things appear when deep down in my being, there’s an inner voice whispering that all that appears is not all that is. My heart tells me there is something terribly wrong with the atrocities. My soul tells me there’s a deeper meaning to all of it. My brain tells me WTF. And all the meanwhile, my emotions are in turmoil and chaos.


And so you ask me why I can’t just be happy?


I can’t be happy because the world in which I’m a part of is not happy. 


I can’t be happy because the harder I try to be happy, the worse I feel about myself.


I can’t be happy because there’s something very wrong, very upside down about the way things currently are, and no one seems to want to talk about it or admit it or do anything about it because it’s too damn hard, too damn futile, too overwhelming.


I can’t be happy because I’ve never, in this lifetime, ever voted for a president I truly believe in and instead it’s become my practice to vote for the lesser of two evils who I think will do the least damage. And somehow that seems acceptable in our society.


But it’s really not.


It really, really is NOT acceptable to me. Yet, I do it anyway. Because I feel that I have no other choice.


I can’t be happy because I have too many choices and no real viable options.


I can’t be happy because every time I eat an animal, I feel guilty. And every time I eat a plant, I feel guilty. Who says plants don’t have the right to live too? Who says they don’t have feelings? As far as I know, every time I put the palm of my hand on a tree, I feel its life force and personality flow through me. So what am I supposed to eat then?


I don’t know the answers. I don’t even know why I can’t be happy.


I just know that I’m not.


In my best moments, the times when I am most deeply connected… Usually it’s when I’m meditating, sitting alone, quietly reflecting or walking through a cool stream on a warm day or hiking in the forest surrounded by trees or gazing freely into the sky, watching the clouds float by… in those moments, I am happy.


There is a lot of beauty and love in this world. And in the moments I’m connected to that grace, I’ve transcended the worldly problems and I feel a sense of serene surrender. And all becomes right with the world. 


All is right with me. I know this, I feel this. I AM THIS. I sense the perfection of all the imperfection, the order of all the chaos, and even the justice of all the injustice. I know that all really is well.

And I’m not pretending anymore. I’m real. I’m me. I’m home.


Not home on earth. Not home in my house.


Just home. My soul’s home, where my mind, body and spirit come together in total union and harmony and agree with one another.  


But I can’t stay home forever. I have to get up. Make a living. Interact with people. Pay the bills. Buy groceries. Hear people bicker over parking spots and expired coupons and oh my god did you see how she looks without makeup?


And then I’m transported out of this HOME feeling. I don’t know how to carry this HOME with me outside into the world, every where I go, all the time. And so I become unsettled and you say to me, “why can’t you just be happy?” and I look at you and I wish I could say, “if only you knew what true happiness is…. If only you knew what HOME really is…. If only… then you wouldn’t ask me that annoying question anymore. You wouldn’t demand that I be happy in a place where true happiness doesn’t exist, on the surface, in the pretend, upside down world where happiness means tight abs and tighter clothes.


And so you ask me why I can’t just be happy? Because I don’t want that kind of happy.


I want HOME happy. The real happy. The truth happy.


But I feel trapped in this other place that demands a different kind of happy. This upside down place.


And I don’t know how to get out.


And sometimes, just sometimes…. I catch a glimpse of the beauty in the brutality.


And I know that there’s more for me to learn, more for me to lean into, more for me to understand.


So I’m working on that.


I’m coming along.


I’m learning.


I’m starting to have more glimpses. I’m starting to see peace and love underneath the pain and discord.


I’m starting to open my intuitive eyes more and see with those instead of the physical eyes.


I’m getting there.


Slowly. One present, mindful moment at a time.


I’m returning home more and more throughout the day.


But I’m just a child in all this. Please have patience with me. 


Let me be unhappy while I explore and experiment and evolve.


Let me take the time I need to find this HOME kind of happiness, to uncover it and become it and truly KNOW it. Please don’t rush me. Please don’t judge me. And please don’t shame me for not getting there sooner.


Simply, just let me be.


And I shall do the same for you.


Because that’s where true happiness exists. In total acceptance and unconditional love for ourselves and one another, no matter where we are along our journey, happy or not happy.


Because THIS is where we find HOME HAPPY.


Right here, inside us.


Buried underneath all the unhappy crap.