Friday, March 29, 2013

Are You Happy?

 Are you happy?  What dictates your happiness?
Last night a friend of mine said "I read your posts and wish I could be as happy as you."  Well, thanks to this magic potion I traded my cow for, I have unending happiness - ahahahahaha!!!  But seriously folks: turns out, my happiness, and my suffering, is self inflicted.  And it's been a slow learning process!!  

The funny thing is I don't think I'm any happier than when I was a young mom living in a 1-bedroom apartment, sustaining life paycheck to paycheck.  My life now isn't all sunshine and lollipops.  I have conflicts with my kids, I argue with my husband, I witness daily travesties and injustices on varying scales; I encounter angry people, sad people, unpleasant people just as much as the next person.  I tried for years to change my circumstances.  If I could get my husband to see things this way, get my kids to do that instead of this; avoid all the negative people or show what they have to be thankful for!!  If I could just control my environment, I would be exponentially happy!!  
Then, one day I heard a quote that struck me:
"Nothing has changed except my attitude.  And that is everything!" .Anthony DeMello 

What does that mean??  I started to look at things in a new way.  It's not what others do but the way I see it.  This was a huge shift as I suddenly saw life as in a way that all responsibility fell on my shoulders.  This was a little overwhelming!  But I so wanted to change my attitude because if I saw things in a new way, I would have more peace?  Be happier, right?  And so it began: if my kids were misbehaving, it was because I wasn't dealing with the situation effectively.  If my husband and I were arguing, it was because I wasn't communicating effectively.  If I was angry at another driver for almost hitting me, I wasn't processing the information effectively.  It was exhausting!!  While I was trying to change my environment, I was still trying to control my environment by putting myself in the martyr seat.  So in taking on this HUGE responsibility of it all being the way I look at it, I was becoming passive aggressive, without even realizing it!!  Out of the frying pan and into the proverbial frickin' fire!  I was still making it all about me!

So, one day I'm at the pediatrician and I'm trying to explain to my son where to find the bathroom down the hall: "The door on the opposite wall.  Across the hall.  There's only one door on that wall!  Where are you looking???  Ben!!  OPPOSITE wall!  Why are you looking at the ceiling?!!"  I felt I was once again failing in my communication skills and not effectively dealing with the situation.  When the doctor came in, it seemed to me that I had made a small scene in the process and I went into a lengthy apology: "I'm so sorry for that; I was trying to communicate the needs and it wasn't coming out effectively and I didn't handle the situation well."  (Look at me being all responsible for my own actions!)  To this the doctor replies: "Well, all I can say is...get over it!  So what's happening with Ben today...."  I was so hyper-focused on my behavior, I had lost sight of my behavior! 

Now, I'm not saying this process was all for not; this actually got me through a heavy door called "ego".  

Here are some definitions of ego (

noun, plural e·gos.
the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.
Psychoanalysis . the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.
egotism; conceit; self-importance: Her ego becomes more unbearable each day.
self-esteem or self-image; feelings: Your criticism wounded his ego.
often initial capital letter  ) Philosophy .
the enduring and conscious element that knows experience.
Scholasticism. the complete person comprising both body and soul.

The recurring theme here is the self as a separate being from others: me vs. you.  So, this process of transitioning from thinking in a "me vs. you" way to a "we" way reminding me of learning to drive.  Everything in the beginning has be very deliberate and well thought out: "Turn on my signal, look in my mirror, shoulder check, slowly advance out in to traffic..." and so on.  Who does that now?  We do it but do we actually THINK about it?  No.  So now I had a solid idea of how my ego (me-me-me) plays into my life.  And, let's face it; ego has a place but it doesn't play well with global peace!  But that's another conversation for another time.

A while back I was using my friends restroom and she had the Serenity Prayer hung beside the sink.  I’ve read that prayer a million times.  As I was driving along, a few days after my doctor-reality-smack, for some reason it popped into my head:

My happiness or suffering doesn't lie in the hands of others.  It is in my own hands.  If I don't like something.  Do something about it.  How I influence any situation is up to me.  Will I solve the problem?  Will I bend the actions of others to do my bidding?  Will I change anything?  I don't know.  All I can do is put it out there.  Accept that I have done everything I can to have a positive influence on the outcome.  It may not get me where I was thinking I wanted to go but peace comes not from outside actions but from within.
I had not come to peace when I was "taking responsibility" for my own actions.  I was still trying to change everything around me by convincing myself I was responsible for what happens.  How very important I am, thought I in a very self-important way!  

Where I am now, on this ongoing journey of discovery, is that I have a choice how to see things.  And the filter I am conditioning myself to apply to any situation is one of compassion, understanding, and peaceful solutions.  Does it always work?  Nope.  I still have an ego!  I still don't understand why people think one way rather than my way, but I'm trying to take it to the next level.  
In researching items to fill in the holes in this essay, I found this:

“Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves.” ~Gandhi

The amount of peace and suffering we experience daily is an inside job.  If you are at peace with yourself, it matters not what happens around you.  With peace inside you can see that other's suffering has nothing to do with you.  I mean this not in an insensitive way; but when someone else is suffering, and we make it about us, about our suffering, that's the ego doing the translating.  

The ego is a powerful thing!  Don't get me started on religion and world wars and so on, and so on.  The ego is a BIG figure here!  

So, am I happy?  Sure!  Am I happier than you?  I doubt it.  I'm just working on developing the gift we've all been given; to see what I have as opposed to what I have not.  It's never-ending, this process.  But it's making this life journey so much more enjoyable!  And putting joy out there, makes me happy too.  Potentially a win-win!  I hope you find your happy today.

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