Many of my single friends are driven to obsession with finding a mate—whether again or for the first time. Yet, despite my widowhood, I wake up happy and rarely feel lonely. Sure, there are times I would love to turn over at night and hug my partner in bed. But mostly, I’m sleeping peacefully these days and waking up in joy.

Yet this has not always been the case for me…

As a young woman, I did not know how to experience my own company without feeling an underlying sense of anxiety, and I marveled at how Richard could go to the sea for days and feel such joy from his writing and solitude. I thought it was because he was a true introvert. But recently, I’ve discovered something deeper than that. When a person feels peace—true contentment that longs for nothing more—then keeping company with oneself simply deepens one’s commitment to being present.

It is in your ability to stay present to your experience, and not a slave to your longing, that you are free from the shackles of desire—or the expectation that life be something other than what it is moment to moment.

Joy as a feeling grows in the present moment experience. And, this my friend is a key principle of happiness.

I can finally say, I am truly happy on my own, and it’s been a journey of self discovery.

And, I can say I’m not alone.

Sitting at a bar one evening, eating my favorite shaved brussel sprout salad with bacon bits, salty onions, and a poached egg, I enjoyed a conversation with a man who sat himself next to me to watch the Warriors game. As we chatted, he began to say that we are living in very unhappy times. I’m sure as a banker he was referring to the rise in interest rates and the uncertain stock market. He also made reference to the President.

Amid the conversation, I found my mind filling with thoughts about the evidence of unhappiness. If our happiness is reliant on external things and societal conditions, then joy is only a fleeting experience—a boost of excitement when something “good” happens, and a bump of malaise when things don’t happen the way we want. And that, my friend, is not the truest joy.

Herein lies the dilemma that we face when our circumstances impact our well being in this way. Categorizing the world into boxes of “good things” and boxes of “bad things” simply deepens the limiting belief that we need our external conditions to be a certain way in order to feel good. We subconsciously prepare our hearts to delight only in the “good” and to mourn all else. And that fickleness, my friends, is not living presently. That’s simply feeding an addiction to having what we want—rather than embracing what is..

The present moment will always be full of worry and concern if you allow your mind to walk down that path. You might as well have a ball and chain around your ankles, forever making your steps heavy and difficult. You and I, dear friends, are not meant to journey like that, for we are far more buoyant. You are born to experience what is—and to breathe it in like the waves that come to the shore and go out again, in all its fullness. Yes, your experiences will include any number of possible unpleasantries. But those to will pass and become something else.

In every moment, there is a vast opportunity to be open to any number of explosions of joy. The more engaged I am, the more joy I feel, and the more I realize that my conditions are nothing but beliefs and concerns that my mind has latched onto. Acknowledging that brings immense freedom.

(I’m sure this was not the conversation this man expected from the blonde perched at the bar, and I was surprised when he asked for my number!)

But this is the key to being happy no matter what.

Whether you are partnered or single is irrelevant. What matters is living engaged and enlivened in the present moment—wherever you are. If you carry desires in life, find healthy ways to express them, but don’t get stuck there. You are the only one responsible for your happiness. Don’t let your own perceived “lack” steal your natural positive good feelings.

Remember that joy is a function of squeezing out all the juice from the lemons and making the most yummy lemonade of your experience. As you release your expectations, understand your underlying beliefs, and let go of wishing things were different, you will be well on your way to living your most vibrant life. It turns out, your ability to stay present is the greatest gift you can give yourself.