Life is too short to be unhappy. May I offer a counter to that? Life is too short to be an asshole!
My STBX-SIL, Jezebel, had a quote on her Facebook once that read: “If you are trapped between your feelings and what other people think is right, always go for whatever makes you happy. Unless you want everybody to be happy except you.”
I said two years ago and I still say today, “What a load of bullshit!”
CF: Gosh, I feel like Harley will make me happy but other people might think cheating on my wife is wrong.
STBX-SIL: Oh, don’t you worry about that! You need to do what makes YOU happy! You deserve it.
No, he deserves a 2×4 upside his head for being such an asshole! You don’t move your wife and kids across the country and THEN decide your happiness resides with some white trash whore!
Is this really what we want to teach our kids?
“Hey, Junior, I see you found a wallet stuffed full of $100 bills. What do you say we turn this into the lost and found?”
“Hmmm…. nah. That wouldn’t make me happy. I’d rather spend it. You see, I felt really happy finding all this money and thinking about all the video games and iTunes and other teenage crap I might want to buy. The thought of returning it makes me decidedly UNhappy. So, I’m going to keep it. Because if I’m trapped between my feelings and what other people think is right I should always go for what makes me happy.”
“You know, son, that is true. Who can argue with that logic? Who cares if this person probably just cashed his paycheck and this is all the money he has for the next two weeks to pay rent, buy groceries, support his kids, etc. All that matters is that YOU are happy!”
If that’s your reaction then pat yourself on the back for you have done a bang up job as a parent! Not!
We could do this on many topics. Your kid doesn’t like another kid and teasing him or her mercilessly makes your kid happy? Do it! If it makes you happy then it can’t be wrong (and if it is, who cares? Your happiness is the only thing that matters!). If doing homework, or going to school or brushing teeth makes your child/children unhappy then by golly, you just let them follow their bliss to rotten teeth and Fs in school. Far better for them to be happy than well educated with a mouthful of their own teeth. You want to take a cruise or go on some luxury vacation instead of paying your mortgage and buying groceries? Will that make you happy? Then DO IT! You take that mortgage payment and you go have the time of your life for a week or two. You owe it to yourself. Life is too short to forego vacations for pesky things like mortgages and utilities. Your sibling starts up an affair with someone who is married and has children? Who are you to judge? Support them because if they are happy who cares how the betrayed spouse and kids feel! They’ll get their happiness soon enough. Your daughter thinks dancing on a pole at a strip club will make her happy? Buy stock in that club! Support your baby girl’s dreams because, again, if it makes her happy, what could possibly be wrong with it? Your son wants to become a male escort and take middle aged women for all their money? Hey, who are you to say that’s wrong? If he’s HAPPY then you must support him! Do your kids want to do/make/sell drugs? Take a car out for a joyride? Knock off a liquor store for extra cash? Torture kittens and puppies? Kidnap and imprison women for dozens of years? LET THEM! They have a right to be happy! Don’t be so damn judgmental! You are harshing their buzz! It takes a very enlightened person to follow their bliss instead of doing the right thing.
I will once again direct you to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote:
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
I’m going to toot my own horn here. Up until we moved this last time I was very involved in various activities. I was active in my church when we lived in Michigan. I volunteered in the nursery for a while one Sunday a month and as my youngest aged I moved up with him. Eventually I was volunteering in the children’s church every Sunday. I joined the Meal Team and helped prepare the meals whenever there was a big study program. I even became a small group leader. I joined a MOPS group at another church where my daughter went to preschool. I volunteered to be on the Hospitality team and helped provide breakfast twice a month. Eventually I helped to charter a MOPS group at my own church which was a huge undertaking. As far as I know that MOPS group still exists today, some ten years later; I’m not there but it is. I volunteered at my daughter’s school. I volunteered at my son’s preschool and served on the board. And once we moved to Utah I got involved in PTA, serving on 3 different boards at once there towards the end. I volunteered in the kids’ classrooms. I volunteered as team mom for hockey and helped with gymnastics meets. I gave my time. I got involved. I helped. I nurtured. I volunteered. I didn’t look to vacations, pretty jewelry, new cars, fancy gadgets and new love to give my life meaning. I poured my heart and soul into my children, my family, my volunteering; I enjoyed serving others and making their lives easier. There were many times I wondered if this was all there was, but I continued on. I made the best of my circumstances despite my husband’s reluctance to join us. I was, if not happy, then content. I had a purpose. I had a function. To tie it into Emerson’s quote I was useful, compassionate, and made some difference that I lived.
I don’t think STBX or anyone in his family understands that. It’s all about the elusive happiness. If you’re not happy with one person then move onto the next for surely you will be happy then. My STBX-SIL is incredibly happy with her life right now. It’s all about trips and adventures and new love and what everyone in her life is buying for her. It’s about her new husband showering her with gifts and attention. It’s about reinventing herself once again. But you rarely hear about her doing anything for him or those in her orbit. It’s all about her. Look how much everybody loves me and thinks I’m wonderful! Look at everything they do for me! Even the one thing that she does, which is singing, is more about her and the attention she receives, than serving anyone else. That’s why, when her father-in-law whom she had known for all of approximately 2 years at the time, was in the hospital she was able to go be with him for two weeks. He lives in a state she loves to visit. She has snowed her in-laws and they shower her with trinkets and tickets and lots of fun stuff. When her brother, whom she has known for over forty years, was hospitalized, she couldn’t manage to find time to come visit him. If you could see me, you would see that this is my shocked face! We don’t live in a state she loves to visit, and since she had been begging him to leave me the chances that I would be trying to win her over with trips, trinkets, and toys was nil.
CF, I’m sure, is doing the rounds of, “I hadn’t been happy in years.” What did he ever do to try to make himself happy? Locking yourself in your bedroom and watching television all night long is not going to bring about any huge change in your life. You’re not full of purpose. Meanwhile, I did everything I could to make him happy but it was never enough. I knew years ago that I could never make him happy; it has to come from within and he just doesn’t have that ability. He told me once that he’s afraid to let himself be too happy because nothing has ever gone right in his life and he’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Oh, sure, he thinks he’s happy now. He’s got his shiny new whore and her four kids who pay homage to him. He’s the king! He’s bringing shiny, new toys into their lives and making sure they want for nothing. But at some point he’ll start looking around, waiting for that shoe to fall. According to my source, while the kids tell him to his face how wonderful he is they talk crap about him behind his back. And Harley? Well, rumor has it she’s still sleeping with her husband. The funniest part of all of this? Those people have never seen him at his worse. She’s cheating on the good version of him! They haven’t had to deal with his moods, his “issues”, his reluctance to do anything as a family. No, he’s on his best behavior. He’s throwing money around and acting like Father (and Husband) of the Year. As an added bonus, since he’s not with them every day it’s fairly easy, I would imagine, to keep that mask in place.
I came across an article in The Atlantic online, entitled, “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy”. It’s from January 9, 2013 and it centers around Viktor Frankl, who was a concentration camp survivor and who wrote the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, and a new study which was coming out in the Journal of Positive Psychology, later that year (2013). The study was regarding people who were asked if they thought their lives were meaningful and/or happy, and examining the factors that led to their happiness and/or meaningful lives.
It was a very interesting article and I couldn’t help but think of CF and his family when I read it. Frankl’s viewpoint is this: It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.
This makes perfect sense if you think about the quest for happiness as a drug. We search for that elusive happiness, that trinket, that relationship, that experience, that is supposed to make us happy. And it does. For a while. And then we crave more. That’s why they say happiness is fleeting. In another article I read almost a year ago that dealt with gratitude a researcher talked about how we all like newness. Same deal as with happiness. This new thing makes us happy. But positive emotions wear off quickly so we need more newness. By actually being GRATEFUL for what you have you keep those feelings of newness alive. Gratitude was found to enhance positive emotions. But too many people are focused on being happy instead of being grateful. Or doing the right thing. Or living a meaningful life.
Even more interesting was what the psychologists found regarding a happy life versus a meaningful one. Leading a happy life is associated with being a “taker” while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a “giver”. Is anyone surprised? The psychologists go on to say, “Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided.” Bingo! Happiness is all about the good times. Keep anything difficult or unpleasant out of the equation because then you might not be happy. We need happiness at any cost.
Also not surprising is the fact that they found that happiness is all about feeling good. Happy people tend to think that life is easy, they are in good physical health, they are able to buy the things they need and want. They found that the lack of money decreases how happy and meaningful people rated their lives, and they also found that lack of money had a much greater impact on happiness. Color me surprised!
Probably the most important thing they discovered is that the pursuit of happiness is associated with selfish behavior. Ah yes, that taker vs. giver issue.
One of the authors of the study put it this way: Happy people get a lot of joy from receiving benefits from others while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others. Ah, so that explains why it is that cheaters are so damn selfish while proclaiming their “happiness”. They are receiving benefits from other people. They are taking. They wouldn’t recognize profound and meaningful if it slapped them upside their meaty little heads.
Basically, what this article concludes is that this pursuit of happiness is bullshit. Happiness is fleeting. It can change on a dime. It’s a hamster wheel. Run, Forrest, run! A meaningful life endures. Happiness is the dessert- delicious and full of empty calories. A meaningful life is the main course- substantive and full of the protein and fat that will get you through to the next meal