Posted by: Shanie Matthews | January 22, 2010

Paradigm Shift Towards Happiness by Dawn Weinberger

As a new feature on Exercising Happiness, I am hosting others to write and share their own “happy path”…this is our first story (which, by the way, brought tears to my eyes)…

Paradigm Shift

I thought I was facing an unbearable trial. Turns out, I was actually on a journey toward happiness…

By Dawn Weinberger

A few years ago, I was not a happy person. Sure, I had a great life — a sweet, funny and loyal husband (Carl), a satisfying career, plenty of creature comforts. Good friends, good health, etc, etc. Aside from the occasional work-related issue or social dilemma, I really had nothing, absolutely nothing, to complain about. But still, I was not happy. I was just … indifferent.

I now know why. I viewed happiness as a feeling, rather than a state of mind. Something spectacular had to happen in order for me to experience happiness. If I landed a cool writing assignment, I was happy. If my husband got a raise, I was happy. If I got to see my best friend, I was happy (she lives several hours away). When the spectacular-something ran its course, so did my feeling of happiness.

I thought this, um, “approach to life” was an OK one. It worked. I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t miserable either. I got by, and I still had fun now and then. Besides, chronically happy people annoyed me. I felt better knowing I was not one of them.

But then, in 2007, life got stormy. Carl’s doctor told us he needed a liver transplant. He had a chronic autoimmune disease, and a transplant was his only hope for survival. We were both dumbfounded.

It took a while for the initial shock to wear off, but once it did, I realized that I wasn’t doing Carl any favors by going around with a gloom-and-doom attitude. I had to find a way to cheer up. But how? My husband was sick and might die. How could I be happy under these circumstances?

And then one day, something clicked. While sitting in church (half listening, half freaking-out over my husband’s unfortunate lot in life) I heard our pastor mention three verses from the Bible that I had heard countless time before but, until that moment, had never really resonated with me.

Consider it all joy when you encounter various trails …

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial …

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances …

Huh? So happiness is a choice? And I should be happy in spite of my circumstances, not because of them? Oh, and this difficult time I am going through is actually going to benefit me in the long run?

Wow. OK.

It wasn’t instantaneous time, but over the course of a couple of weeks, as I remembered these three verses, things started to shift. I started to view things in a more positive light. Instead of constant worry and fear, I was saying things to myself like “even if our time together is cut short, I’ve had several fabulous years with him,” and “miracles happen” and “maybe we can touch another life in a good way through this situation.” The storm was still raging, but it was OK. I smiled. A lot. And I had peace.

Admittedly, I had my moments. Things came up that made me grouchy, frustrated and fearful. But I no longer let those feelings take over. Instead, I took them captive. I had no space in my brain, or my life, for that stuff.

I think Carl was at home recovering from his life-saving transplant before it dawned on me that I had made such a profound transition. He may have been the one to go under the knife, but God had performed a bit of surgery on me, too. And both surgeries were extremely successful — two-and-a-half years later, Carl is the picture of health and I am still smiling. Happiness, to me, is no longer a feeling. It’s a choice. One I choose to make every day. Even when life gets rough.



  1. Very cool. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks Andy! And thanks as well for your visits. They are very much appreciated. (:

  2. […] Children by Dawn Weinberger Dawn Weinberger, a Portland, Oregon freelance writer and guest author on Exercising Happiness, broaches the subject of being happy without having […]

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