Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Everything is Fine...and Nobody is Happy

I've been seeing a lot of internet memes lately with statements like "Happiness is a choice" or "If you don't like your circumstances, change them."  And I call complete and total BS, because I've also seen a lot of people struggling lately, present company included.  I don't know, maybe birds of a feather flock together, or haywire magnetic forces in the brain attract like-minded individuals, or the Spidey senses just become more attuned to those also going through shit...but I'm telling you, it's an epidemic, at least in my circles.

Without going into details, because you know, we "dysfunctional" people protect our own, there's rampant dysphoria wreaking havoc on those around us who smile through their days, kick ass at their jobs and hobbies, and raise smiling, healthy children.  And in spite of all of those successes and asskickery, there is still misery to be had, and in some of the most surprising places.  Trust me.

In the last few weeks, I've had the joy of finding kindred spirits and steadfast friends in the least expected of places, and it has had a profound effect on me.  I'm not one to go seeking solace in others or crying on shoulders.  I suck it up, put on a smile, or at the very least, the dreaded Resting Bitch Face, and go about my day.  I didn't purposefully seek out these interactions...but they still happened, completely out of the blue.  And I'm really grateful they did, for several reasons.  One, it's always good to have someone to talk to.  Two, it's reassuring to know that other people have less than perfect lives, no matter what it looks like on Facebook.  (Don't get me started.)  And third...well, there's just strength in numbers, and not in the building-an-army sense.  

But the point is, I don't think happiness is a choice...because why the HELL wouldn't everyone just choose to be happy? It's not a light switch, and if it is, then mine shorted out somewhere along the line and only flickers when it wants to--sometimes, that connection is there...and other's just not.  And I'm not telling secrets's going to come as no surprise to anyone that's known me longer than six days (OK, six MINUTES!) that I'm a moody bitch.  And I'm beyond filters or really caring what people think, other than my kid and a few select others, so, here are my thoughts, in no particular order...

Happiness is temporary.  Enjoy the HELL out of it when it happens, because the memory of it might just get you through a hard time.

You might have to lower your standards and expectations.  Expectations lead to disappointment, and disappointment leads to sadness.  I know, that sounded like Yoda.  He was a smart little dude.  

Do the things that make you happy more often.  If it's sleep, take a nap.  If it's singing, belt it out LOUD!  If it's a huge glass (or TWO) of wine in bed with the dog, drink UP! 

Rarely can you make yourself happy and not rock the boat or make waves or whatever euphemism you choose to use.  If it makes you happy to jump in the water, just jump.  Those that get splashed will dry off and deal with it.  They might be pissed off temporarily, but if they truly care about your happiness, they'll be excited that you jumped.  

Have backup plans.  Stuff falls apart, all the time.  And if you're left holding nothing when it all goes to hell, you're going to be unhappy.  Have a backup plan to cushion the disappointment.  

Don't be afraid to make your happiness out of whatever you choose.  It might not look like someone else's...hell, it might not look like anyone else's.  But that doesn't matter.  Be you.

Be prepared to take your own advice.  Listen to your heart, your gut, your instincts, and don't be a chickenshit.  Fear is more powerful than happiness and only gets in the way.

Exercise.  Even when you don't feel like it...especially then.  And if a donut will help you survive the day, eat the damn thing without kicking yourself later.

Stop comparing yourself.  Stop comparing your body, your house, your car, your family...just stop. You're the only one that cares, and you shouldn't.  They're all screwed up, too, I promise.

Make your list.  Do them.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Trouble with Optimism

I have always considered myself to be a pessimist, a cynic.  I actually work kind of hard at it.  People suck, the world sucks, and shit happens.  I've known that since I was about five, probably a little earlier than most kids figure it out, but oh well.  I did most things way before I should have, truth be known, so that's no surprise.

But I'm rethinking things.  I was told recently by someone who knows me well that he loves that I'm always able to find the bright side of things, that I expect the best outcomes, no matter what.  I do? But, but...that's not possible!  I had the nickname "Neggy" in 8th grade, teased to the point of tears by a cute boy in my science class on whom I had a major crush--the point being that he thought I was negative about everything.  In 8th grade?  The only thing I should have had to be negative about was the cafeteria food and that I hadn't seen Rick Springfield in concert yet.  But apparently 8th grade Me was jaded and weary.  Sounds familiar.

But here's the thing.  Disappointments simply wreck me.  I get upset when things don't go right, when people around me aren't happy, when there's injustice and shittiness in my little world and the bigger world that I have no control over.  And when it's me?  Watch out, devastation alert!  Oh, I cover all of that up with smartass comments and a well-practiced Resting Bitch Face (look that up if you're not sure), so you'll never know, unless I want you to.  Aren't you the privileged one?

I want to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when things pan out.  I think there are people out there who just glide through life like they're coated with Teflon, and it pisses me off that I'm not one of them.  I could sort them out randomly in an anonymous restaurant setting.  Teflon people glance at the menu and just PICK something!  What on earth?  People like me, though...we sit and scour the options to make sure we've seen every page, every insert, every little thing so that we aren't surprised in any way, and then order the exact same thing we always order, just to be safe.  No disappointments.

The trouble with optimism, then, is that it leads to continual disappointment when things, people, don't meet expectations.  A pessimist would just settle, accept that things are suckish, no matter what, because that's how things are supposed to be.  A cheery little optimist like me, though?  She thinks she shouldn't settle for just tolerable, and she's not content with mediocre or ordinary, no matter how much she wants to be.  She thinks, maybe unrealistically, that she is capable of more, worth more, has more to give and contribute.   And maybe, just maybe, that a little bit of joy is better than a whole lot of "ehhhhhhh."  Maybe a better title would be "The Trouble with Perfectionism," as it's taken me longer to write these last two sentences than it did the entire rest of the post, and it's still not good, disappointing, even.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mid-Summer Rant

I don't often use this blog for my feelings on political issues.  I have enough personal issues, typically, to fill it up, and I've pretty much come to accept that most people's minds can not be changed about things that they believe in, however misinformed and misguided those things may be.  But as I read through the news and my various social media accounts this morning, while my son watches a movie from the comfort of his own living room over a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, I have some things on my mind.  Read on from here at the risk of being offended.

Local news has not been good here in this small town the last few days.  A young local boy, just a few months older than my own son, died tragically when a large toolbox being used as a dresser tipped over on him.  A graduate of my alma mater, a young mother of small children, was murdered by her husband.  A local "kid" is headed back to prison after trying to run over a cop--he's engaged to a former student of mine and will leave a young daughter behind (maybe to her benefit) when he's convicted. My Facebook newsfeed is awash with people decrying the plight of all of the children involved in these incidents, and rightly so.  

So how is it that some of these very same people, or even groups of people (at the risk of making generalizations) who are so terribly concerned for the tragedies in these children's lives can be so heartless and unsympathetic to the fate of other children, namely the thousands of immigrant children in the national news?  In case you're unaware, thousands of children from Central American countries are fleeing their homelands and ending up here, in the good ol' U. S. of A.  Many of these children travel alone and endure more than you and I could tolerate on their journeys here, which should tell you a LOT about what they're leaving behind.  And they're KIDS.  I won't let my own son cross a street without holding my hand, much to his macho chagrin, and these kids are hanging on to the tops of trains over thousands of miles to make it here--the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Oh yeah, and apparently, the land of the concerned-only-about-our-own.  

I'll be the first to agree that there are immigration issues that need to be faced, readdressed, fixed, what-have-you.  I don't have those answers, and I confess to mixed emotions on that topic.  As the grandchild of an immigrant, and as a human being...hell, maybe even as a woman, I fall prey to my sympathies.  They're looking for something better, the American dream, a life for their children.  Unfortunately, maybe some of them are looking for handouts and "entitlements," because God knows enough of our own people are trying to milk that system.  But those are the adults, and how we handle that issue is different from this one.  Or it should be, because these are KIDS.  If they fled on their own, or were sent on their own, you can bet your ass they're leaving things that we would leave too, as we sit here fat, dumb, and happy and bitch and moan about how terrible the fireworks were this year.  If they were brought here by a parent or guardian, they had no choice in the matter.  It all amounts to the same thing, though.  They.  Are.  Children.  And we should take care of them.  Period.  

I'm not big on organized religion.  I don't go to church, I don't read the Bible, and I don't post scripture on my Facebook.  That doesn't mean that I don't believe in some of the tenets of the church and the teachings of Jesus, or for that matter, Muhammad, who said, "Do not turn away a poor man...even if all you can give is half a date..." (Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376). However, I do love the current Pope, and I embrace many of the statements he has made during his brief tenure. He's exactly right on this count when he says, "This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected..." (The Huffington Post).

I don't have the solution. If I did, I wouldn't be sitting here in my living room with my laptop. But what I do have is a heart, and I'm sorry--if the words "Send them back!" have occurred to you, you do not, and you have no business posting scripture or bragging about your mission trips or pretending to be good church-going folks. To the towns refusing to give these babies shelter while a solution is found--shame on you. To those bitching about diseases these children might carry, let's treat and vaccinate them instead of panicking--because you know your kids have had the chickenpox vaccine and have access to medical care. To those afraid--ask yourselves what you're afraid of, really. And really, with apologies for the trite saying and the theft of the slogan, it comes down to "What would Jesus do?"

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Mournings

I wish I could write every day, or at least on some sort of a schedule.  But the inspiration's gotta hit, so I wait for it.  I silently acknowledged my grandmother's birthday last week (she would have been 108!) and Mother's Day yesterday, so maybe that's where this comes from.  Maybe it's just from sitting still and quiet for a few minutes, which I don't do often enough.  Regardless, here's some Monday night poetry.

"Monday Mournings"

In the room where my grandmother died,
the quiet and the still
are much like they were that morning
as I waited with her for them.
Tonight the piano keys were just silenced,
the ivories ringing true with
"Petite Minuet" and "Yankee Doodle;"
And I sit on the sofa remembering,
as in the other rooms, the water runs,
the toy guns fire, the TV blares.
Outside, the birds and the highway--
that part remains here still.
This is my room, my quiet, as the sun begins to set.
Shadows of days gone past appear,
but I smile, knowing I hear the same
things she heard as she took her final breaths.
And for that reason, she is with me still.