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Letting Go of Old Stories

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When I was 14, I made a new friend. I met her at a camp, and she lived in a village about two hours' drive from the one I lived in. In the spring holiday, I visited her and stayed for a couple of days. My parents were picking me up from her place, and we were going to my grandparents' house which was another half hour drive. It was a great sleepover. It was a while since I had a good friend because I didn't fit in with the kids in my village. We made friendship bracelets and stayed up late watching a movie. When my mom came to pick me up, she told me my grandpa died that night. She drove us to my grandparents' house, and there was a funeral followed by a week of mourning.

When I was 18, I was on top of the world. I worked hard and won a place as a guide in the training course where I served in the army, and I was dating the best guy around. Being a guide was challenging, but there were a great atmosphere and a fantastic group of people around me. We were preparing for the course when I got a phone call from my dad. My best friend from high school died in a car accident. They were picking me up in half an hour. I talked to the commander, got my stuff, and drove with my parents and sisters back home for the funeral.

This incident only confirmed what I knew for a fact: whenever I'm happy, really happy, something awful is going to happen. I always thought of it as Hubris, although I know that Hubris is when you think you're better than the Gods. But the idea that you shouldn't allow yourself to be happy because you'll jinx it, or that if you say out loud that you love your life, you will invite some kind of a disaster is a widespread one.

A couple of years ago I was living in London with two beautiful, healthy, smart kids and a fantastic partner. I had finished my PhD, but because I didn't need to work, I was exploring what I wanted to do next. I was thinking about working at a charity, or maybe just write. I loved my life. I loved having time to pick the kids up from school every day. I volunteered with the PTA and was involved with the school in a way I didn't have time for while I was working full time. One day, just after the kids' Christmas concert, my baby sister called. "They took dad to the hospital. We're figuring out what's going on." I waited. I was on the phone with my other sister when she called one of the friends who was hiking with my dad that day, and he told her what happened. We packed up and were on a plane within three hours.

A couple of days ago I was talking to my partner, and we both agreed I have a perfect life. I write and read while the kids are in school. I'm learning a new skill which always makes me happy. I have time to pick the kids up from school and get them to clubs. I volunteer once a week in a great charity, and I feel like I make a difference. This is when my anxiety rises. I worry because I'm happy, and whenever I'm happy, something bad happens.

But I learned something in the last two years. Life is too short for me not to allow myself to be happy. Life is too short for anxiety and worries and What Ifs. I know I sound like a self-help hack but we have a short time on this planet, and it makes absolutely no sense to spend this time worrying and fretting and being unhappy. I love my life. And when the next bad thing happens—and it will, because that's how life works—I know that I'm doing my best to live my life fully in between.


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