Sunny day on my toes.
My roomie has a second job where she works with one other person, let’s call him Bob, and the guy is chronically depressed. As they chatted while working, he started talking about how he feels like committing suicide on a regular basis.
Suicide is one of his favourite topics. He gets people to freak out, try to help him, tell him why life is worth living and why he’s such a great guy, and other assorted attention. This has been his process since childhood, and he’s in his late thirties. We have known him for over a decade.
So, Roomie decides not to play anymore. “How would you do it?” she asked, and they embarked on a discussion of ways and means.
Jumping off a building was a choice, and she replied, “Yes, but make sure you don’t land on anyone.” Then she started talking about how cool it would be to go around and find donors for your organs before you kicked off. He blinked at her, like the idea of caring for the health and safety of another was foreign to him. Depressed people can be deeply self-absorbed. i personally think self-involvement is one of the root causes of depression, as it severs our connection to the tribe.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a few things about Bob.
- Bob wants drugs to make him happy. They are anti-depressants, sleeping pills, lithium, whatever may be the drug of the day.
- Bob makes little effort to improve his own life, beyond applying for more free stuff from the government.
- Bob feels that no one in the world has ever suffered as he has. *gurl sneezes and it sounds suspiciously like ‘Auschwitz’*
- Bob feels no responsibility toward the happiness or well being of others, but feels the world owes him everything.
- Bob believes that happiness is an occurrence, and equates it with the absence of pain.
- Bob lives in constant fear.
Happiness is NOT the absence of pain
If bad stuff has happened to you, and if you are chronically unhappy, you may think you would be happy if all that bad stuff hadn’t happened to you.
The most joyful people you will ever find are those who live in war zones. Their senses are sharpened, they are acutely aware of the fleeting nature of life, and they live every day as if it were their last, because it may very well be their last.
Happiness does not come from the absence of bad experiences. Take away the pain and joy will not automatically fill the void.
This is why medication will only take you so far. Yes, if your neuro-chemistry is out of balance, your doctor may give you medication to correct it.
But joy does not come out of a bottle. A happy life cannot be prescribed. Damaged people don’t get fixed by blaming the world for their unhappiness. And the television does not hold the answers you seek.
Happiness Takes Work
If we want to have a happy life, we must first accept the fact that happiness is not an occurrence, but a consequence.
Happiness occurs when we do things that our bodies and brains perceive as Good. Real, honest Good, like eating nourishing food, participating in an activity we’re genuinely passionate about, expending effort toward a worthy purpose, setting goals and meeting them, establishing a solid core value system, learning, growing, connecting with the tribe, building a tribe, challenging ourselves, etc.
Not artificial good, like watching a TV program, bashing politicians, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, criticizing everyone around us, eating junk food, picking apart someone else’s accomplishment, dwelling on bad experiences of the past or any of the other gazillions of self-indulgent things that feel good in the short term but only feed the worst of us.
Do you want to be really, genuinely happy?
Find the best of you. Feed it.
Look around. Forget for a minute about your incessant needs. What do others need? How can you help them?
What is your purpose? Why are you here? Who are you? Roll up your sleeves and dig into these questions with gusto. Without the answers, we are no more than automatons, empty vessels ready to follow like sheep anyone who comes along with an idea that ‘feels okay.’ People like Charles Manson.
It takes a lot of courage to live a happy life, but courage is a muscle. Flex it, and next time it will be stronger. And the time after that, even stronger. And so on.
And one day, seemingly by accident, you will find that you are too busy living your richly satisfying life to dwell on past hurts, insecurities, social anxieties and the like.
There is so much joy in this world. Go find it, bring it home, make love to it and watch your demons fly away.