Looking for a good movie this weekend? E and I found a quiet gem to rent while the kids were away at camp this summer.  “Hector & The Search for Happiness” is the story of a quirky psychiatrist (Hector) and his journey, through travel and experiences, to seek out the things that make people happy – all so that he can find the joy he’s searching for.   The movie was surprisingly good, and the message is one that resonates (spoiler alert here):  happiness is not the absence of pain or hurt, or solely the presence of joy and satisfaction.  It is the pulsing, chaotic mix of all of it.

During his travels, Hector observes and takes notes about what happiness is, and what it isn’t.  (And the movie ends just like you want it to.)  So here are some of his character’s realizations:

“Happiness is being loved for exactly who you are.”

Sigh.  That’s hard, isn’t it?  To show our flaws and imperfections and our moodiness and know that our nearest and dearest will stick around and love us anyway?  I read a book recently (The Nightingale) where the main character says, “I always thought I wanted to be loved and admired.  Now I think perhaps I’d rather be known.”   Amen, sister.

I’ve written a lot over the past few years about my process of “giving up on perfect” and the beautiful freedom it gives… from the small details (dishes not always done) to the big ones (relationships, work, fitness, etc. etc. etc.).  This “journey” of learning that life is messy and that mistakes and peaks and valleys are part of everyone’s experience has given me the chance to be part of some really messy and real and wonderful relationships.  Relationships with people who really know you is a gift.   It’s an earthly reflection of the love that God has for us – He loves us where we are, right now, as is…. we are enough.  Not just when we get things right, but when we get things wrong, too.

“Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness.”

We’ll all have challenges in life.  We are going to fail.  We are going to be unhappy.  There’s no avoiding it.  With our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends – it never works to tiptoe around the tough stuff and think you’ll be fine just keeping up appearances.   When we avoid conflict or anger or sharing our true feelings, we can deprive our closest relationships of the mix of emotions that make strong connections.

“He took comfort in the rich, random patterns of his life.”

Sigh again.  I don’t take comfort when I’m going through a season that in hindsight will clearly be part of the “rich random pattern of my life” but at the time looks more like a “big brown bucket of muck.”  This is a tough lesson to learn – to have faith that times of trial or suffering or blood/sweat/tears is ultimately forming a rich, unique and beautiful pattern.

Which leads to this last gem – about how we should view ALL our experiences – the joys, the suffering, the good stuff and the tough stuff: with gratitude.

“Happiness is a certain way of seeing things.”  Yesit is.

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