Misery, complacency and happiness

This morning I saw a meme that I’ve seen many, many times on social media (and am sure most people using social media have at some point or another) but today I actually took some time to THINK about it.  We don’t really do that much, or at least I don’t.  They’re just meme’s, emotional social media hand grenades.  They’re mostly there to stimulate a quick reaction: laugh, cry, be momentarily inspired, occasionally incite anger, and then dissipate.  This meme in particular simply said “Do what makes you happy”.  Seems like childish advice at first, somewhat laughable even.  Sure, do what makes me happy, when I have the time to squeeze it in I guess.  Almost too simplistic to give any more thought to.  We should do the things we want to do that make us happy whatever is going on around us.  “Sorry boss, this meeting is stressing me out, I’m going to walk out and go on a quick hike to clear my head” or “I know you have immediate needs to be fulfilled child, but I need to take a step back and focus on me for a while.”

I initially interpreted this as working in to my schedule those things that bring me joy such as writing, reading, working on cars, being outdoors, playing with my children or spending time with my best friend.  As long as those things didn’t interfere with my daily routine or cause friction in my somewhat rigid timelines at work then I could give myself permission to do just that.

Our lives are so inundated with technology, work, family or other social responsibilities that most of us have forgotten how to do what makes us happy.  I find myself at most points during the day thinking, “I should take just this moment to {insert happy thing here} yet the very next moment my mind says, “no idiot, you have tasks to handle” or “you can’t do that right now, the kids need to be fed, bathed, etc.” or even the dreaded “How can you be so selfish?”

But what if “do what makes you happy” means not only pursuing those hobbies you love so much, but also living intentionally IN THE MOMENT and ACTIVELY remembering the good aspects of those things you have that you manifested for yourself?  Sure we allow ourselves to be absolutely overwhelmed with the lives we’ve built, but do we take time to remember exactly WHY we built the lives we did.  Most of what I have in my life is intentional.  I married a woman I knew for many years before hand and was aware that we would occasionally struggle but would form an indestructible bond and live in bliss.  We made the conscious decision to start a family and have children, yet those children can and do overwhelm everything.  But when they overwhelm us, my immediate reaction tends to be something along the lines of, “Fuck this, I’m miserable”.  I can remember several times throughout the course of my adult life when I’ve thought, “why the fuck do I have to deal with all of this shit?  I wish I could just take a moment to myself and breathe?”  But isn’t all of this exactly what I wanted when I made the decisions I made at each point?  Isn’t this perceived stress and wrongdoing of my own accord?  When did we, as a society or species, start blaming others for our misery?  Shouldn’t those moments of insane stress be alleviated by the thought, “this is exactly what I wanted”?  Take that moment you wish for, take that breath and reconnect with yourself, but do it while you work with the stressors you are experiencing.  Do what makes you happy, but do it while spending time doing what you’re currently doing by reminding yourself that for the most part, you’re doing exactly what you chose to do.

I’ll be honest.  I’ve grown insanely disenchanted with my current profession.  I feel like I’ve been stepped on, beaten down, bloodied and shit on by many a superior throughout the course of my thus far 15 year career.  But why let that continually make me miserable?  I chose this life for myself, and I chose multiple times to sign contracts requiring me to continue.  I find myself occasionally getting caught up in pity parties for myself.  I spiral in to thinking about how unfair this life can be, how hard I work and how frustrating most of what I do actually is.  I’ll catch myself thinking, “If I could just throw this shit in my rearview and never look back, I would be so much happier.”  This is unrealistic thinking for many reasons, the main unavoidable one being I’m contractually obligated to continue.  So why keep kicking myself for decisions I’ve made, why force myself to only think of why I’m miserable?  I’ve also had many amazing times: I’ve visited or worked in more than half of the continental united states, I’ve made friends whom I don’t always continuously see, but if I needed them I know I could rely on them, sometimes in the drop of a hat.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and matured beyond measure, all thanks to the career I’ve chosen.  But when I’m unhappy with something I need to do at work (which I’ll be honest, seems to happen a lot more often than not lately), my immediate reaction is to fight it, tell myself how much it sucks and perpetuate the sense or feeling of having been wronged somehow.  Why not choose instead to think of the life I’m able to provide for my family, the opportunities we’re blessed with, or even find something pleasing, however miniscule, particular to the task at hand.

Why not “Do what makes me happy” in the moment rather than tell myself I’m miserable and there’s nothing I can do about it?  We all have the internal fortitude to choose to see the positives in almost any situation we’re facing yet we have grown intimately comfortable with the negativity bias.  It is so much easier to self-berate and negatively judge that most of us just choose to do that.  We seem preprogrammed to vigorously grasp ahold of the downsides of life and think only of what we can’t control and why that makes us upset.

I’m in no way trying to say shirk responsibilities.  I believe strongly in holding to commitments, even if those commitments turn out to be something completely different than what I thought they were originally.  I’m merely saying that instead of grabbing the reins of the negative stream of thoughts which may accompany set-backs and letting them jar you along a miserable path, let that shit go.  Do what needs to be done, but quit telling yourself every thirty seconds that you fucking hate it.  Find at least one thing from which you can extract happiness and grab that mother fucker by the horns.

I’m also not saying don’t involve yourself in hobbies.  I’m doing it write (J) now.  We need time to decompress and unplug ourselves from the chaotic lives we lead.  We owe that to ourselves; however, we also owe it to ourselves to be happy regardless of the circumstances.  If your way to unplug is sitting in a Jon boat on a river or lake somewhere, thinking about absolutely nothing while you patiently wait for a fish to snag itself on your line, then goddamnit do it.  If you hike, swim, run, play sports, fabricate, fix cars, skydive, knit, sew, papier mache, scrapbook, collect ants or stamps, draw, color, do puzzles, whatever.  DO IT, but don’t tell yourself those are the only times you can be happy.  I believe all human beings have the capacity to be happy people, we just have to want it and acknowledge that happiness is attainable wherever and whenever we are.

So let me take a brief moment to acknowledge that things do tend to happen to us that we have absolutely no control over, some form of trauma is experienced by millions, possibly billions (hell I don’t know exactly) every year.  Some people on this planet are absolutely terrible (and maybe even confused, miserable and scared in their own right) and therefore attempt to bestow their misery on others.  I’m not saying just forget the terrible things which may or may not have happened to you.  While we all have the capacity to be happy, the brain and psyche also have an amazing capacity to heal.  So maybe in this case, “Do what makes you happy” means seeking that healing.  Don’t wallow in circumstances or injustices acted up on you in the past.  Choose to take the reins once again and work on it.  Allow yourself time to grieve, be angry, be sad, be confused or feel like you’ve been abandoned to armor up and become a silent warrior facing a nightmarish barrage of “invisible” devils.  Then, when you feel as though you can’t take any more of the torment, pick up your fucking sword and swing it mightily at that which agonizes you.  “Do what makes you happy” by choosing to acknowledge that you’re in pain, you can’t go at this alone, you want the anguish to cease and you know you need others (friends, doctors, religious figures, therapists) to help you see that.  *My disclaimer here will be that I know it’s easier said than done.*  I feel like I could sit here all day and write about what should be done to alleviate the pain and misery of slight to massive traumas, be them physical or spiritual, but until you actually experience horrible things, you don’t know how your mind is capable of interpreting or holding on to it.

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