Things for me, lately, have been overwhelming. I am going through some stress and, unfortunately, I don’t do stress very well. I have recently learned that I am a Highly Sensitive Person. Actually, this is something that I’ve known about myself all of my life, I am just finding out that there is a name for it. And that I’m not alone (which is great!). But more on this in another blog post. What I want to talk about today is happiness.
I am finding myself lately trying to fit into that box that society calls “normal.” Frankly, I am not really sure what that is. In my head I think it is being happy. Society says that we should be happy. That if we aren’t happy something is wrong with us. I find myself falling easily into this thought groove. Then someone or something comes along and reminds me that happiness isn’t the be all and end all.
There is something very freeing about this thought. I don’t have to always be happy. Wow. That takes a load off. There is a lot of pressure and work in being happy all of the time.
I think for me the best thing is to focus on what is right in front of me at any given moment. I can do that. Sometimes, anything beyond the given moment can be overwhelming. Today is one of those days. Today I need to just focus on what is right in front of me.
I find that when I do that I can be content. Content is good. In many ways I think I’d rather be content than happy.
Ok I’ll admit that I have already failed at being complaint free in the past 24 hours. I have had to start over countless times. I made the unfortunate decision to embark on this adventure the week I did my taxes. So…. yeah.
I am not going to beat myself up. This is all part of the process. Noticing that you are complaining is the important thing.
However, day two of this and I have had some empowering insights on happiness.
I had a conversation with a friend yesterday that led to the realization that we can choose to have a good day. I wondered, “can it really be that easy? Is it as easy as just making a choice? What about our emotions? What about how we are feeling? How do you get over negative feelings?”
As I thought I about this idea I realized that it’s true. It really is that simple. We can choose which path to take.
It’s not like I haven’t had this insight before. I shared my thoughts last summer in this blog post. This idea of choosing love is still a very powerful insight for me. However, when I had this insight last summer I attached feeling with it. I am a very emotional person by nature and I tend to easily get caught up in my emotions and the path that I choose is usually determined by my emotions. This idea that I can ignore my emotional state and just choose to “have a good day” is a new idea for me. It is an idea that empowers me and gives me hope that I can move beyond negativity and, generally, be a happier person.
I am reminded of the story of Buddha when he faces Mara. I am not an expert on Buddhist folklore but when the story was told to me I remembered it something like this: Buddha is sitting still and he is tempted by Mara (kind of the buddhist equivalent of the devil). Mara attacks him with arrows but the arrows are turned into flowers by Buddha and they don’t bother him.
There is more to the story but this part is the one that is very powerful for me and always sticks with me. Buddha changing the arrows into flowers represents the fact that we have a choice. We can choose to be hurt by the arrows or we can choose to not be hurt by the arrows.
Several weeks ago someone on Facebook quoted someone on Twitter. The thought was something like, “Checking Facebook has become the equivalent of opening the refrigerator and staring into the void.”
or something like that. I might have added to that thought.
Have you ever done this? Opened the refrigerator and stared into it trying to find that one thing that will make you happy? You know what you want isn’t in the refrigerator. You finished off the chocolate cake an hour ago, remember?
And relating this to Facebook is brilliant. It’s that compulsive checking of it that I have problems with. As if I am going to find something there that will be the Answer. And it is never there. That one thing is never there. Oh, there are tidbits scattered about. Chocolate cake, if you will. It gets devoured and then what? It’s gone. And you are left wanting more.
This is such a great metaphor for life isn’t it? This is why we write, photograph, drink, etc. Check Facebook. Stare into the void of the refrigerator.
This is why we ache.
The song that accompanies this post is beautiful. I recommend you listen to it with headphones on and turn it up. Don’t do anything else while you are listening. Just listen to it.
Natasha Kmeto is from Portland and she is a musical genius. She makes her music by herself. This is all her. All of this. It’s incredible.
There was once this place called “the real world” where, when you looked up, you would see clouds in a blue sky. Or a vast sea of stars. There was a sea. There were beaches and you could walk barefoot on those beaches and feel the warmth of the sand between your toes. There were forests and trees and brooks and rivers. And mountains. And flowers and bees. And the sound of bees buzzing a beautiful symphony at dusk.
I often think of the idea of “story construction” because of this experience.
After I was taken to the hospital I needed a ride home from the hospital. I can’t remember how it came about that my mom picked me up and why I couldn’t call her myself to ask her. But the next day I was checking my phone messages and she’d left me a message on my phone after she found out that I was hit and in the hospital to tell me she was on her way. She left a message that was not completely hysterical and then something odd happened. She didn’t hang up. She didn’t realize this though. So the rest of her drive to the hospital was her conversation with my step-dad as they drove to the hospital. It was fascinating to listen to. She re-created the whole story in her mind. Reconstructed it into something else. As she imagined what happened her voice became more worried and hysterical.
I think about this a lot when I think about the stories we create everyday about everything. Usually the story we create has nothing to do with reality.