Putting the Happy in the New Year
Recently I had the thought that maybe I couldn’t really be happy or satisfied in my marriage for the simple reason that, if truth be told, I had little idea how to be happy or satisfied – in my life - period. This realization shocked me.
What a great insight Brian. Yes, strangely, being happy or satisfied is one of the greatest challenges in a relationship - perhaps in life.
Our sense of satisfaction is something each of us must personally look after. For the simple reason - no one else will - and further, no one else really can. Have you noticed? Our own sense of real personal happiness is truly up to each one of us.
So how are we doing in this regard?
For many, we seem to be “surviving” or wrestling in a contest with life, or “braving on” in some way. Frequently exhausted and stressed, we have lost touch with our inner joy, our ease, our freedom to be. Life appears a daily battlefield. We have forgotten how to be happy.
How has this happened?
Lost in roles, responsibilities, doingness
Consider there was a time as children when we looked out at the adults around us and wondered – do we really wanted to grow up (like them )? In so many ways life as an adult looked tough, difficult, appeared a drag.
Because no one seemed to just let go and play anymore.
Then we “grew up” and became one of them ( adult ). Life came to be about achieving, surviving, striving, being good, doing it right - all the things we “had to do”, our “responsibilities”.
We stopped thinking about what really nurtured us, touched our soul, gave us joy or satisfaction. What made a day magical. This was just part of “growing up” and became our state of mind.
Certainly, it wasn’t always that way. Can you recall?
I remember when I was 9 years old I would jump out of bed, my feet would hit the floor, and I knew ….“I am going to play today !” I didn’t know where, how, or with whom. But I knew, as sure as I was alive, that I was going to play. That was my job. My life was for play. Life invited play.
Lost in wanting, and waiting
Another sure way to be unhappy in life is “wanting and waiting”. Wanting and waiting for circumstances to be different than they are now.
“When I finish school, then I’ll be happy”
“When I find that new job then I’ll be happy”
“When I leave this job then I’ll be happy”
“When I lose twenty-five pounds then Ill be happy”.
And notice this happiness we are waiting for often doesn’t really arrive and even when it does, doesn’t last long.
Wanting and waiting is an old game we learned as children. We discovered the thought “When I have”… then I’ll be really happy.” It began with the new pair of NIKE sneakers we had to have, our driver’s license, our own cel phone.
At first the list for things we needed to be happy wasn’t much, yet as we got older we added to the pile. We increased and elevated the emotion backed demands. We added scads to the list of material requirements. Now I need: to be popular, to be thinner, to be more confident, to be approved of, to feel secure, to be listened to, to be appreciated, to be understood etc.
“Someday… then ..” becomes a state of mind. Basically it means that we want the future. We don’t want the present. We don’t want what we have and we want something we haven’t got. We are wanting and waiting. This life, that we have now - THIS one right here, right now – this isn’t it.
As you can see, there are many patterns of thinking we’ve learned that make ourselves unhappy.
Yet I believe that every one of us, somewhere in our hearts, really knows that life is this beautiful, amazing gift - full of delight and wonder. Being with my wife and two precious granddaughters Sunday as we strolled upon the bridge on Swan Lake together was a powerful reminder of this. Wow. This is it ! This moment is it.
It is clearly a challenge for us all to let go of the habitual list of things to do - the race, the striving, the obligations, the distractions - to settle or quiet ourselves. Yet when we do, we step off the wheel and wake up to the simple things in the present moment. It’s here ( and now ) we find our life.
The cold taste of your glass of orange juice, the light as it’s hitting the glass in your hand, the smell of the toast, the child sitting right on your lap, the pile of dishes waiting to be washed, the sound of the rain on the porch, the voice of your friend on the phone.
Nothing is wrong or needs to be improved. Just taking part in life is sweet. And the question becomes - can I surrender this constant effort to do and to control to meet it?
So, for sure Brian, being happy is a special kind of challenge and practice. Definitely a practice that makes a very big difference in relationship.
,i>Paul Beckow is an individual, marriage, and family therapist on the West Shore and can be contacted at Paul Beckow Counselling 250 721 2477 or his web site www.paulbeckow.com
For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.