Finding A Happy Medium


After your brain has been subjected to extreme lows and stratospheric highs, it’s difficult to live in the in-between zone.  It’s not that I would prefer to dwell in the dismal land of depression, or be in the exhausting world of racing thoughts and exhibitionistic behavior. No way!  I’m just finding it unfamiliar and unnerving to remain between the extremes.  I want to become more comfortable with hovering at a healthy halfway point as much as I possibly can.

Long ago the in-between was my norm, but now it feels like a novelty.

The in-between zone, as author Jeff Goins discusses in his book “The In-Between”, is about “embracing the tension between now and the next big thing”.  I haven’t read Goins’ book yet, although I’m curious about it from his intriguing title.  Moreover, a talented author/mental health advocate friend of mine (Jennifer Killi Marshall of and the “This Is My Brave” show) speaks highly of his writing.  She is even embarking on his eight-week-long Tribe Writers workshop.  (I’m eager to learn what she thinks of his philosophy after she completes it!)

I like to call hanging out in the in-between state of existence my happy medium.  The official definition of “happy medium” is a course of action or condition that is between two extremes.  However, my first exposure to this terminology was a totally different interpretation.  Over thirty years ago I read Madeleine L’Engle’s classic book “A Wrinkle In Time”.  L’Engle named one of her characters the “Happy Medium”, an otherworldly being who shows a crystal ball to the protagonist Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe.  (These children happen to be on a different planet than Earth…it’s a long, but very highly recommended story!  Those of you who have read this blog know it’s one of my favorite books.)  The Happy Medium’s primary purpose is to use this ball to dramatically show the children how an evil entity is taking over stars.  It is a chilling scene.

While L’Engle used the phrase “happy medium” in a literal sense, the expression stayed with me from that point on because I loved her book so much.  But as the years passed, half of that phrase lost all its meaning for me.  That word was “happy”.  Happy was a million miles away from my reality, and I never thought any happiness would come back into my life.  It did, thank God – of course I wasn’t happy all the time (few people are that way, right?) but these bright moments slowly began making a daily appearance in one way or another.  As a new combination of meds, steady exercise, doctor appointments and therapy started to finally work, my happy moments were more frequent. Happiness (and its counterpart hope) were a consistent part of my life again and I was more grateful than anyone could imagine.

Last week, while I had an hour to spend by myself, I watched a documentary that was highly recommended to me by one of my closest friends: “Happy” directed by Roko Belic. This film was released in 2011, so it has been around for a while, but I had no idea it existed until my friend raved about it.  This is one of those movies that stays with you.  The production crew traveled the world to interview a diverse array of cultures, meeting with authentically happy people.  Of course the crew also interviewed happiness “experts” who taught in the positive psychology field, but the gist of the film consisted of one-on-one interviews with truly happy people.  I don’t want to give away what is revealed, although you can probably guess some of it.  (hint: “Money doesn’t buy you happiness.”)  But concrete reasons were given for why people found lasting happiness in life.

These people had found their happy medium in all ways, shapes and forms.  I totally loved their philosophies.  The film wasn’t all wine and roses and lah-dee-dah hippie lifestyles. Some of the profiles showed very sobering circumstances; these situations were surprising in that one would not expect happiness to play any part in them.  Those cases were the ones that were the most fascinating to me: how people in our world found joy in the most unlikely places.

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So I’ll end here on a, ahem, happy note!  Why not?  If I can do it, I most certainly will.  I’d like to believe that those of us who have experienced the darkest of times can appreciate happiness in the most extraordinary way.  I will continue my pursuit of the happy medium as much as I can, and I’ll share whatever helps me with my quest here, in “Birth of a New Brain”.   Until then, have a happy day!     🙂