Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pursuit of Happiness, or how to be okay right now

This is my deck, on days like today it makes me happy, not just the corner you see here, but the spot just beside me where my cat is curled up in a low box that recently housed my now planted herbs, the spot just out of the left side of the frame that has my lounge chair and table with various potted plants, the spot behind the ladder where my dog is running with his tongue flapping somewhere around his ear, and the sound of the fountain my kids gave me for Mother's Day.

All this is lovely, but there's a wee problem, as lovely as this place is to me, it can't make me happy, only I can do that. Theoretically speaking, neither chocolate or coffee or money can make happy either, but they do help quite a bit - no I am not the Dalai Lama or Gandhi today folks. Which is slightly depressing, but quite a relief when you really look at it. Happiness is an inside job, so 'they' say, and I grudgingly admit this seems to be the case. For several hours before I took this photo I was exceptionally irritated at the world, my job, my in-laws and mother, in general, and my teenaged children, specifically, for not behaving in a manner I would like. About an hour after taking this shot I was grabbing my Hapkido bag, all set to go get a good work out when instead I found myself heading to the local Marine's Recruiting Office to sit for almost 2hours with my 17year old son as he worked towards enlisting himself.

So here I am, the Peace Mongering Canadian now with a half enlisted son in the United States Marine Corps. Half enlisted because he still has paperwork to finish, still needs a military medical and physical test, and since he has a year of high school left, that he has to do well at, and attend their drill sessions once a week. Not the path I would have chosen for  him. I liked the path where he always did well in school, excelled in something athletic, was socially successful and becomes a brilliant and well paid writer, photographer after a successful college degree, oh, and meet a nice girl/woman who I get along with brilliantly. Mom dreams, what can you do? The problem is my dreams became expectations and when things didn't go according to 'my plan' - ie life happened, as life is apt to do - I was disappointed. I had to grieve the future that would never be, and the son I never had. Somewhere along the way, and being knocked down a few thousand times, I learned to be okay with people, even my own children making their own life choices and learning from them, instead of just swallowing all my years of accumulated wisdom. Of course, I had never been able to learn much from other people's mistakes, but I still thought I could somehow how insulate my own children from making their own mistakes and learning from them.

Life, however, is not like that.

I am not in this life, on this planet etc,  to be entertained, taken care of, coddled, and otherwise indulged; sadly true, because I would have loved an easier life.

But, it's not about me - another bitter pill and blow to my ego, alas!

Life is what goes on with or without me, if I died today there would be a shift in some peoples lives, but the world would continue to spin, and their lives would go on.  The best I can do is work on not becoming too attached to things, thoughts, outcomes, and simply do my best with what is front of me at any particular moment.

I am here to be of service to those I can help, that's it.

The world is not here for my entertainment, rather I'm here to help take care of it, its people, flora and fauna. I am not the very important individual I once dreamed I was, or would be, but instead I get to be part of something that is much bigger, and ultimately more important. For me, that's what life is about. I'm still shallow enough to wish that my life was easier, that I had more money, different parents, a happy marriage, in general, what I wanted. In one way its a drag the world is not here for my personal enjoyment, but I think if I had got everything I wanted in life, I would have become a vain, selfish person who thought things were more important than people, that what I wanted came first and that 'other' people were there to do things for me, entertain, feed, clean up after, and pay for me.

Learning life lessons is not easy for me, possibly because I'm pig-headed, stubborn, and, given the slightest provocation, gloriously self centered. I've only learned a little bit, but the more things change the more open to change I become and the less attached I am to what I think should happen.

That vain, bitchy princess is still in there - my infantile ego - and she still likes to think she's Queen of Fucking Everything, but generally the most she gets is an occasional hands-on the-hips-foot-stomp-with-a-heavy-sigh moment.

So, my back deck. Yes, I feel happy when I stop to smell its flowers, I can just as easily feel rotten if I've let the Princess out, or have let someone else into my head. There are places in my brain where I simply do not go anymore. Patterns of thought that will make me crazy if I indulge them, so as much as I can I try to, as the Buddha said "be awake" and be present for whatever and whomever comes my way.

I love this poem, and really you could have skipped this whole blog and just read Rumi's poem to grasp what I'm babbling on about:

The Guest House - Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


Tracey said...

We are in similar places of reckoning and discovery, sharing in the less than exuberant, "Ahas!" of life. Glad to know I'm in such excellent company. ~tp~

Ruth Elliott said...

seriously! every time I think I've developed enough character, thank you very much", some new "bloody growth opportunity" comes along, and I get to adapt again. I'd like to say "okay, I get it" but obviously I don't always because situations in life continue to frustrate me - I'm not the Dali Lama today either... alas, maybe tomorrow ;-)

daily llama said...

just following your battle. Courage...

Ruth Elliott said...

thank you Patrick. I like the photo ;-)