CHANGES & HAPPINESS?
February 24, 1998
I began writing an editorial for this month, which described a recent unpleasant sequence of events which occurred on a professional mailing list during the month of February. Then, instead, I remembered what I read in Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... And It's All Small Stuff, a great book by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. (which I highly recommend!). "Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?" Well, happiness is more important to me than being right. And since bringing up all the stuff which I went through on that particular mailing list (which certainly ended up curtailing my desire to contribute anymore to that group) would just make me unhappy (and probably make others unhappy too), I'm dropping it. I'll let others be "right" this month. Because I need a little happiness in my life...
My fiancee and I called it quits, just a few months before our wedding. Why? Incompatibility. Lack of communication. Denial of long-standing problems and issues we never sorted out. In a rare turn of events, it was a mutual break-up and she just moved out of the house. It has made me pretty sad, nonetheless, and made it difficult to function some days (more than others). So if I've been especially cranky toward you, or you never received a response to some e-mail you sent me, I apologize. I've had a great deal on my mind.
So what is this thing happiness? Do people spend too much time nagging one another about truly unimportant items in their life? Does such nagging interfere with our ability to be happy?
I think that's a part of it. Happiness is found in peace, in acceptance, in learning that we have a place in this world. It's not a big place, it's not a small place. It is just a place. Acceptance is important, too. How often have we tried changing things we have no control over, worrying about a problem we can't solve? Daily, for many of us. Peace is found through a combination of acceptance and learning to appreciate the small luxuries in life. Can you move both your hands? Be joyous, because many people can not. Can you talk, listen, see? Millions can not. Do you have food every day? Millions more do not. This isn't about guilt. This is about learning that we take so many very important things for granted, because they are there everyday. Stepping back, taking inventory of all that we have, and all that we've obtained in our lives (education, a family, friends, a steady job, etc.) can be helpful.
Nagging is a symptom of not accepting other people for the way they are. I'm guilty of doing this, too. It's a hard habit to break. But I encourage you to at least try. Give it a chance. Next time you make a snide comment, or want to bring up your favorite nag with your loved one, resist. Go hug them instead. They'll be pleasantly surprised and you will have successfully resisted the urge for the first time. Each subsequent time becomes a little bit easier.
I'm a firm believer that you must be comfortable with who you are -- everything that makes you, you -- before you can get into an equal, long-term relationship. Being comfortable doesn't mean being happy with every aspect of yourself. It just means you know your strengths, you're aware of your limitations, and you're okay with all of it. If you still aren't at that stage, I think a relationship is an added burden. We often find ourselves expecting the other person to fulfill some missing piece of ourselves we haven't yet found. But nobody can fill that void -- that is entirely up to you.
If this editorial is more random than usual, my apologies. But that's it for this time. I wish you happiness, in whatever forms you may find it.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jan 2007
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