Being miserable is safe. It’s predictable. And it sucks. I truly believe that our deep desire to be happy is constantly nagging at our waking mind (as best it can considering that it’s ignored for more mundane, convenient thoughts). This fleeting feeling of something missing, something that could be – that should be – that we just can’t seem to grasp or motivate ourselves to understand can become unbearable. But that’s not what causes the depression or anxiety; it’s our failure to acknowledge it that does. It says a lot about human nature that we’re so afraid of change and uncertainty that we settle for not being the person – not that we could be – but that deep down we know we are. Our true identity is struggling to exist, in the place of illusions and fear. This ridiculous image we adopt every day, this layer we superimpose on ourselves that convinces us that we are our job or the brand of clothing or fragrance we wear, or the types of friends we have, or the restaurants we dine in. It’s safer, isn’t it, to just be like everyone else and not have to live. Or is it? No wonder so many people feel lost and unfulfilled. We purposefully (even if subconsciously) stop ourselves from being happy. Is there honestly anything more ridiculous? What the hell is wrong with us?
When I speak of happiness, I’m not talking about the emotions we derive from living in a beautiful home, scoring a great partner, or going on vacation. Those things give us contentment, satisfaction and comfort. Happiness, as I’ve discussed here before, is a state of being. And in order to be happy, we need to understand what happiness is, and that what stands between it and us is our clinging to an illusion of security and safety. Life by its very nature is neither secure nor safe. It changes all the time; it’s anything but fixed or permanent. Things happen in life (we tend to think they happen to us) in order to remind us of this again and again, cosmically screaming at us: GET OVER IT. But we can’t – at least, that’s what we tell ourselves. There we go again thinking about what we can and can’t do, rather than what is.
Our resistance to reality is the cause of many personal and social problems. This is one huge reason why I think parents need to be very mindful of not assuaging all of their children’s fears. We need to teach our children that it’s not only okay to not always get what we want – it’s healthy. Because it’s realistic. This doesn’t entail deprivation. It means producing human beings who don’t feel entitled and disenfranchised for no damn good reason. Producing people who aren’t selfish and following any shallow thought or activity that makes them feel good. The earlier we accept that we will have difficult, painful experiences the better. That’s how we grow. The fact that we’re capable of love and compassion in the most horrific situations is what makes life so beautiful. So many people are obsessed with wanting. They point at something, they envision something and say, “I want that”. And they go after it. But if you seek happiness, you’ll never come to know it. If you live true to yourself, happiness is inevitable.
How do we do that? Think about this for a minute. The only thing we have is the present. If we base our lives on the past, which no longer exists, our life is based on nothing. If we base our lives on the future (which itself isn’t guaranteed let alone any particular event we might hope for) and also doesn’t exist, our life is nothing more than a void of anticipation. If we choose to live in a situation in which we’re not happy, but we think we could be or will be, to me that’s a form of self-torture. Because if you find yourself saying you could get out of an undesirable situation if you really wanted to, then why don’t you just do it now? Fear. So it’s not at all relevant whether you could or can do this or that. Yoda was right:
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
If we wait for someone to change, something to happen, we’re just lying to ourselves. I was recently speaking to a friend who got back together with her ex, a little while after finally plucking up the courage to leave him (for very good reasons). I’m not foreign to the experience. He promised to change. He has, a bit. But when you’re with someone for who they could be or who you want and need them to be, your commitment isn’t actually to the person you’re, uh… ‘committed’ to. The person you’re sticking it out for doesn’t even exist. And if you’re not committed to their true self – or yourself, more importantly – what exactly is the point? I’m not saying we should give up on people. But if we’re not happy, we’re not happy. And that’s not good enough. Eventually, we’ll realize that, but not before allowing a whole bunch of pain and confusion to happen in and around us – which, interestingly enough, is what we’re trying to avoid in rationalizing all of the bullshit in the first place.
If we’re existing on some plane of potentiality, whether it’s anchored in the past or floating in the foggy future, we might as well just give up right now. None of us wants to do that. We can be so set in our ways and trapped in our habits that it scares us. This reminds me of the Fool card in the Tarot deck. He looks like a bumbling idiot, careening toward the cliff. But what this card actually represents is the unknown, curiosity and the openness to be a little naive, to take risks and see where life takes you. At some point, something is going to throw our lives upside down (again), and we can use that opportunity to connect with ourselves like never before. As screwed up as we may be, we’re the ones who decide how and when to change. That’s awesome.