My life has not been a long streak of happiness and I’m betting yours hasn’t either. In fact, I’ve gone through several long periods where life didn’t feel good. At. All. The months following getting a B on my thesis (the death knell for an academic career) a string of promising relationships that weren’t so promising after all (the most recent resulting in over a year of utter grief), and the painful discovery over the years that life probably wouldn’t meet my expectations of it…
Somewhere along the way, I stopped chasing happiness.
And you know that cliche about happiness finding you when you stop chasing it, like a pretty butterfly? It ain’t true.
Furthermore, somewhere along the way, I stopped chasing an uber-life. Whether or not life meets my expectations is increasingly irrelevant to me.
Now I’ll boldly put this out there: I think I’m better off for it, and so is the world around me.
Something about letting go of the quest for a really great life is freeing. It allows me to set aside questions of personal satisfaction in favour of getting to know this gorgeous globe of people. It allows me to say “screw off” to powers that previously had me in their grip, because they represented something I wanted. It allows me to choose solidarity with the discarded people in my neighbourhood (not that I do it very well. I’m a newbie at this) instead of joining in with the ‘clean up those junkies’ crowd.
Am I happy? I honestly don’t know. I’m certainly not miserable, although I cry a lot more than I used to (if you saw an act of kindness to a junkie, you would too)
Am I free? More and more.
Does my life has meaning? I like to think so. It sure feels like it.
As I learn to deepen my roots in this soil, the continual barrage of messages insisting that “you can you the life you want” sound increasingly shrill and fake.
I wonder. If we all tuned out those messages, and just got on with inhabiting this planet, taking due note of it, of deeply respecting our lives (which is different than insisting they be wonderful), of deeply respecting the lives of others, what would the world look like?
If your life isn’t shiny and nice, you have a friend in me. And if you want to meet a couple other people who I suspect don’t have shiny lives, but I’m quite sure have a passion for life itself, here’s a start:
Sean Orr, a young man who’s done more to take the wind out of mainstream media headlines than anyone I’ve known, and has much stronger critical thinking skills than I did in my 20’s, (heads up: he’s not for the faint of heart)
Blackbird, a photographer who captures the humanity of my ‘hood like no one else.
Oh. what does all this have to do with money? I’ll leave that one to you ….
Update: Isabella wrote this poem partly as her response to this post. Thanks, Isabella – it’s often nearly impossible to believe in a god – any god – who cares. Somehow, i still do, which i suppose is a miracle in itself.
care to pull together your heart,
your caring heart, pull it together and pull it apart
open it up, make it an abode
of the godless, the heartless, the ones without eyes,
care to break open your heart
and let the blood flow
out on the streets
into the gutter
sits and smokes a pipe
with the likes of you and me?
care to rip up your heart
take it out onto the highway
see the road rage, see the tired truckers,
see the dead dog, the one that tried to cross
where once was a yard –
care to lay down your heart
at the feet
of a god