Samantha’s Happiness Journey: Beyond Looking Happy

I always assumed Samantha was happy. She was that girl, the one who always has a smile and a kind word to offer, the one who never complains and bows out of gossip. The first couple months I knew her I described her as “my Christian friend”, which wasn’t to say that she was my only Christian friend, but that it was one of her most dominant characteristics – in a good way.

It never occurred to me that Samantha would choose to embark on her own happiness journey, and certainly not that it would be prompted by an inner pain.

When we were still coworkers in Florida, she confided in me that she had started seeing a counselor. She was going through a sort of awakening, and I was honored that she felt she could talk to me. But, I confess, I figured my beautiful friend would have a pretty short road trip to happiness – she already was so bubbly and light.

She posted a picture on Facebook recently of her husband and daughter. The caption she added read, “Learning a lot about joy, the fight for it and such, and this pic just screams joy!!!”

Learning about joy? Fighting for it? That didn’t sound like the easily conquered road to happiness I’d imagined for Sam.

So, naturally, I asked her about it. And when she trusted me once again with her story, I asked her if I could share it with you guys. Because she is clearly more gracious than I, she agreed.

In her own words…

Samantha’s Happiness Journey

samanthaI perfected the looking happy long ago. It’s the being happy I’m learning about. ;)

I read this book called Waking the Dead by John Eldredge that really spoke to me and revealed a bit more about how shut down I’ve been. Like, really, really shut down. I’d been stuffing so much pain, trying to please everybody, while inside I’ve been hurting for a long, long time.

The last three years or so have been pretty intense ones. Lots of counseling, lots of realizing some of the results of stuffed pain, all that. And then I read this book that talks about the importance of taking care of your heart. Well, taking care of myself is still a newer concept for me. I’m honestly learning for the first time what I like, what I don’t like, what I can do to rest.

For example, I love reading a good book in the bath. It brings me immense pleasure. I mean, it just totally refreshes me. A few days ago, Jon came home from work and it had been a long Charlotte day. She’d been having a hard time for a lot of the day, and try as I may, it’s still difficult for me not to “catch” her feelings. Because she’d had several fits that day, I felt like I had as well. Anyway, I was emotionally/physically/spiritually/just in every way WORN OUT. Normally, I would have stuffed that and tried my best to go on as normal. (My natural instinct is to stuff any “negative” emotion.) But, instead, I told Jon how I was feeling and asked if he could take care of Charlotte until she went to bed. He said yes, and I climbed into the bath with my book (at 5:30 in the evening, no less!) but after my bath I felt so refreshed, so freaking revived. So, bottom line, I’m realizing that I have to make choices toward joy.

I’ve lived so much of my life so passively, and I’m realizing that I’m not called to that kind of life. I make choices and it’s okay, no, CRITICAL, that I take care of my heart.

What encouraged you to start making changes or looking for new solutions?

A few years ago I was dealing with some relational struggles, so I saw a counselor. She gave me a list of “feeling” words and told me to write down a feeling word, every hour of the day, that best described me in that moment. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. But I was sort of desperate for something to change, so I did the exercise. And, hour after hour, one “feeling” word kept emerging—afraid. I was going around with this huge smile on my face while I was actually terrified. That was by far the biggest sign that all was not well.

Relational struggles just pushed me to the tipping point. I couldn’t sustain the façade anymore. It’s so hard—being the always-happy girl, the one you can count on for everything. I was outwardly compliant and inwardly so, so angry. I was doing things I hated because I believed that’s what a giving-super-happy person did. It was exhausting and awful. I could only sustain that sort of tension for so long before snapping.

What really encouraged me to look for new solutions was meeting my friend, Rosie. She was already on this path towards joy/happiness/life—even in the midst of some incredibly painful times. Her transparency with me during those times (and still today) has made all the difference. I’m beginning to see that I’m loved just for being, not for doing or striving. I’m learning how to receive, how to rest, how to have deeper, connecting relationships. It’s still new, and there is still struggle, but I can honestly say that, overall, I am feeling much more consistent, daily joy. And that’s a huge gift.

What are some ways you act and/or think differently now?

Well, I’m feeling a lot more.

For example, this morning I woke up feeling off. In the past, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that something was wrong. I probably would have noticed that I felt tired physically, that my attention span was shorter, and that my anger came a lot quicker than normal. But I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that I was having a hard time. I didn’t allow myself to have hard times. Now, I do.

So, going back to today, I woke up feeling off. I didn’t have much time to process this, though, as my daughter woke up shortly after I did. The morning passed in a whirl, and I sensed that I was really struggling inside, though I couldn’t tell you what was up specifically. Then, just now, I was able to journal—which is where a lot of healing happens for me.

Since I didn’t allow myself to feel “bad” emotions (sorrow, anger, discouragement, etc.) for years, I really need help unearthing that stuff. Writing helps me do that. It unlocks parts of my brain that are closed when I don’t have a pen in my hand. So, when I journaled just now, I realized that I was mourning the loss of a relationship. Something happened last night that triggered this, but I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t stopped to write things out. I let myself grieve that loss instead of stuffing it, which makes for way lighter living.

So, in answer to your question (paragraphs later), I take a lot more rest time than I did a few years ago. I have to rest—to stop all my doings—in order to journal, and that has become such a huge part of my life.

I also think differently about myself because of journaling. I used to see myself as such an outsider, someone who was so alone and less than. But I don’t think like that anymore—most of the time. On a good day, I see myself as someone deeply loved and loveable. That perspective is bringing all sorts of new into my life.

Samantha Bennett


Can you relate to any part of Samantha’s story? Do you ever look happier than you feel?

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  1. Geri Appel says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Sam. I wish I knew you better. We’d love to see you if you’re in Wichita again.

    Geri Anne

  2. Tracie says:

    Transparency. Contentedness. Honesty (especially with ourselves). Feeling the feelings. Self Care.

    All things I have struggled to find in my life – some of them are still a struggle, others have become a part of me – all things that lead to happiness.

    I’m glad you have been able to really pour yourself into this journey, Samantha. Thank you for sharing your story.

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