Six years ago, I sat in an old Buick with the boy I liked as we ate Taco Bell and listened to Jack Johnson Pandora. We’d been seeing each other a little over a month at this point, but that month was intense. It was full of obvious attraction, long walks, and dances under a streetlight.
Despite all of this, I wasn’t ready for that question asked casually between bites of a spicy potato taco.
“What are we?” I could feel his eyes on me as he waited for my response.
My mind raced through all the potential answers. There was the obvious, after all, we’d seen each other every single night for the past month and a half. There was also the feminist answer, because what strong independent woman gets tied down during her first year of college?
And then there was my answer- the perfect compromise.
“Happy,” I responded, knowing just how true that statement was in the moment. After all, who isn’t happy when eating dollar menu taco bell? But beyond that, I realized that I really was so happy. I had been ever since he asked me on that line dancing date earlier in the semester.
I was happier than I had been in a long time. So that was my answer, and it still is today.
That man has become a lot more to me over the years. He has taken on quite a few more titles: my boyfriend, my love, my rock, my fiancé, my Beyoncé, my creative manager, my husband, and my doggy daddy. But through it all, we have always been rooted in happy.
At this early time in our journey, I had no clue what the road looked like ahead. I had no clue that in less than a year that same Buick would hit a patch of black ice, spin off the road, and we’d end up whipped lashed and around a tree.
I had no clue that in another two and half years, we’d hit a more figurative patch of black ice, skid off our own road, and end up whipped lashed and wrapped in the arms of demons, both spiritually and physically.
I had no clue that after the hardest year of our life, this man would fly down to Alabama, get down on one knee, and ask me to marry him.
See, I didn’t know the hard stuff ahead, but I also didn’t know the good.
I had no clue that we would meet up with these other things, the happiest moments in the darkest days. I had no clue that we would eat southern BBQ and Chicago pizza with all of our favorite people in an Indiana barn.
I had no clue that we would adopt the sweetest and spunkiest Aussie pup and come learn so much about ourselves as a team.
I had no clue that together we’d buy a house in Indianapolis and slowly make this city, once so foreign to us, our own little place in the world.
I had no clue that one day I’d know this guy in the old Buick better than I knew myself.
I had no clue that through it all, we would always come back to that place, that happy.
For a long time, I lost sight of that. For a long time, I pushed, and I clawed my way through these hard days looking for any glimpse of the light, because no one ever told me that I could be both happy and hurting.
No one ever told me that happiness exists just as much in hard times as it does in easy. The two things, happy and hard, are not mutually exclusive, they’re actually an incredible kinship.
It just takes searching a little harder, loving a little deeper, and risking a little more.
Some of these chapters are so hard, so draining.
These harder days that life throws at us, they can stretch on, and you can feel like you’re being held below water, and the pockets for air are so short and they don’t ever fill you enough before you have to go back under. These chapters, the bad diagnoses, the failures, the losses of the future you had all planned out, they can be absolutely debilitating, draining, heartbreaking, excruciating, and happy.
Because happiness can exist in the hard.
Happiness can be found in the moments of being wide awake at two in the morning watching late night sitcoms.
Happiness can exist in between high doses of chemotherapy or higher doses of reality.
Happiness can exists in such small motions in such hard times, in the moments that he spots you across a crowded room and lifts just one cheek into a crooked smile to remind you that you’re still here, he’s still here, you both still breathing, and everything is okay.
Sometimes these glimpses of happy are the only things that can get us through.
Happiness can exist in relationships, despite circumstance. Happiness can exist in yourself, despite trials.
Happiness can exist in the hard.
And once you grasp that, you are invincible.
Once you grasp that, hurt loses all control.
Six years ago, I asked the boy that I liked to be my happy- and we have been ever since.