Sunday, March 20, 2011

Update on Project Happy

I know you’ve heard it all before, so I don’t say it any more, I just stand by and let you fight your secret war. Sometimes I used to wonder why I used to cry ‘til I was dry, still sometimes I get a strange pain inside.
-Concrete Blonde

So, I embraced being happy and I really am. Now what the hell am I going to write about? People love to write about crappy things in their lives, just listen to most song lyrics closely for five minutes and you’ll see they’re mostly about heartbreak. Can I write about being happy and still have it be interesting? “Is any of your writing ever interesting?” you may be mentally asking me. Point taken.

I listen to my clients at work and I find that they love their pain, they love their aches and ills. They say “I’ve probably got the tightest muscles you’ve ever felt.” They are so disappointed when I say no, so I throw them a bone and confirm that, yes, your muscles are remarkably tight, it must be very painful, your life is very difficult, much more so than anyone else’s . . . ever. Then they’re happy, thrilled even. I watch people get a glimpse of hope and healing in their lives only to return to the safe confines of the dark side and addiction . . . to whatever their addiction du jour may be; could be a person, could be a financial situation, could be anything, even something generally thought of as healthy. Remember “Get Him To The Greek”? Aldous Snow is clean and sober for seven years, but he substituted his substance abuse with five hours of yoga a day. His ex says to him “You can turn anything into heroin”. All things in moderation I s’pose.

I’ll tell ya what though, I’ve really found a lot of happiness in the past couple of months. Snowboarding, either alone or with friends; what a beautiful feeling of freedom, and that includes the face plant I did getting off the lift. A day spent face planting off a lift at Copper Mountain is still a day at Copper Mountain. Snowshoeing, hut tripping, yoga, riding my 800 pound bike, reading great books, seeing great bands, and always my cats, and my friends; these things all fill me a deep sense of contentment. I’ve learned that happiness is a practice. You don’t go to Spanish class because you’re already fluent in Spanish, you go to learn and then you practice, always trying to improve and have it come to you more naturally. I’ve learned that it does not come to me naturally, happiness I mean . . . well, Spanish either for that matter. I see people who are naturally happy, who always have kind words to say, who always seem unflappable and I know that I am quite flappable, but it’s ok. I also know that if I take a minute, calm down, and really assess whatever is currently flapping me, I’ll be able to see that everything is ok. The dark side really isn’t so dark, is it Luke?

Here’s what else I’ve learned, and this is a biggie for me. It’s ok to get rid of stuff that makes you decidedly unhappy. Just because you’ve decided to be happy no matter what does NOT mean you have to put on your Captain Happy All The F***ing Time pants and throw yourself in front of a speeding train of woe. You do not have to leap tall buildings of boo hoo-ing in a single bound. Don’t take a bullet if you don’t have to. Some things, some people, some places, and some situations are flat out unavoidable. You’re probably going to have to put up with annoying people at work, with rising gas prices, and with all the yummiest taste treats in the world being full of fat, but for those people, places, and things that are avoidable . . . AVOID THEM! Get rid of the crap in your life. Set boundaries with people, don’t accept what is absolutely not ok if you don’t have to. It’s like anything else in life, don’t set yourself up for failure.

I’ve also noticed I seem to have less tolerance for some situations. Are you thinking “hey, that doesn’t sound very happy”? Maybe that’s not quite correct, maybe tolerance is a poor word choice. Let me back up a bit. I can have an unkind sense of wit. Sometimes I think of something clever to say, at least in my feeble opinion, and toss that barb out like a javelin, straight and true, because it’s quick witted, it’s funny, and I may get a laugh. I’m starting to not really like that kind of humor, especially since I’m seeing it’s not really all that funny. Seriously, what’s so funny about being mean? What’s so funny about pointing out something that could feasibly hurt someone? People do it all the time and since it’s meant as a joke everyone lets it go, but deep inside witty yet cruel comments are heavy on cruel and light on wit. I don’t like being the butt of those jokes and I find that I really don’t even like making them anymore. It’s so much more pleasant to just be nice to people. This is what I’m talking about as avoidable. If I’ve ever hurt any of you with my sarcastic wit, and I probably have, I’m sorry. I really mean it, I’m a fine example of someone that is avoidable, staying away from me is sometimes not the worst idea. But that’s also what I mean with having a lower threshold of what is and is not acceptable. Why hang out with people that hurt you on purpose? We’re all going to hurt each other enough on accident, why waste time giving hurt out purposely? It’s a waste of energy, and the laugh at the zippy comments aren’t nearly as rewarding as just being “with” people. This is another aspect of being happy, no matter what, that I have to practice. Comments come into my mind as fast as lightening sometimes, but if I wait a nano-second, hold my forked tongue, and just say something kind, comforting, empathetic, or just to confirm I’m listening, it feels so much better. Practice though. Practice, practice, practice until it becomes more routine for me.

There’s another facet of the whole avoidance thing though. I pointed out that some people return to their dark sides over and over. I’ve pointed out that some people and situations are avoidable and it’s ok to steer clear. But, what does one do when the person who keeps returning to ways of life that bring about destruction is someone you love? What happens when you watch someone you love continually return to self abuse in the form of bad relationships, drugs, too much food, too little food, too much alcohol, and any other of the litany of abuses life has to offer? What then? You can’t tell someone how to live their life. You can’t tell someone what is right and what is wrong. It’s not only didactic, it’s subjective. What’s wrong for me may be right for you. I’m no one’s moral compass. There have been times in my life, many times in my life, when I have been the moron returning to the same stupid behavior over and over, or if not returning at least talking about some ridiculous situation long after the dead horse has been beaten. I look back on these times and remember some kind soul who said to me, impatiently, “Good God Laura Ellen enough! Shut the hell up about it!” Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants, we need people to let us know when to cut the crap and start back on the path of happiness. BUT, as I said before, this can be didactic and subjective. It’s hard to know how to be a friend when you watch your friends spiral downward. You want to listen, but for how long? When do you say “I’ve had it. Your decisions are affecting how I feel about you”? Does a true friend always listen or does a true friend draw boundaries? I’m really curious to hear what you all think. I love to get your comments and I’m really looking forward to hearing from you all on this, maybe learning a thing or two. In my life, I’ve decided that I have to do what’s best for me and that sometimes means saying “that’s enough, I won’t hear any more of it, I’m done.” It doesn’t have to mean these relationships end, but they have to carry changed boundaries, and that does affect the nature of relationships. I like being happy. I want my friends to be happy, and I’m not super interested in watching the endless loop of misery. Am I judgmental? It seems I am. Am I a bad friend? I don’t know.

Happiness is open to interpretation. Charles Schultz said happiness is a warm puppy while The Beatles proclaim happiness to be a warm gun. Which is it? Both, depending on who you are and how you are at any given moment, although I’m willing to guess Charles Schultz was being literal while The Beatles definition is somewhat more ambiguous. Soldiers in battle may prefer a gun, but what if they all just had warm puppies instead? How much more fun would that be? Think how happy we would all be if we played with warm puppies more.

This happiness thing is throwing lessons at me of which I never dreamed. Seems you (I) don’t just set out to let troubles roll off your back and POOF, there they go like so much water off a ducks butt. There’s much more to it. I’m happy today, and this includes some situations with which I am not entirely comfortable, but I’m happy. I hope you’re all happy today too, no matter what that may look like to you.


  1. The second to last paragraph made me laugh...soldiers with warm puppies. That is quite the visual. I totally agree with your sentiment of being nice instead of mean. And I've seen you be funny without being mean, so you're not a one trick pony! Keep up the writing!

  2. First...trying to post a comment

  3. Secondly, since this will be visible after approval...this is my true comment. You pose an interesting and difficult question. When do you right the person you love's wrongs? When do you speak up? Or, even, do you speak up? I think yes. Yes, you speak up because you love your friend. And with gentle truth and gentle grace, you speak up and say - Your path is destructive and is going to hurt you and maybe, many others. You've decided to live in the light. You've decided to change your ways. Not that others will change - and nor should they - but relationships must be stronger than political correctness. They must reach deeper. They must be more. So yes, you must. And with gentle truth and gentle grace.