Friday, March 14, 2008

Navel-gazing Friday.

It’s often someone else’s blog that starts me thinking about a topic, and in this case it’s Libby’s picture of her beach. It’s a reminder to me about the nature of “happiness,” and the importance of recognizing that feeling happy or positive is completely within our own control. Happiness doesn’t come from external things or circumstances, although certainly events can have a positive or negative effect on one’s mood, and a negative event or state of affairs can cause one’s happiness to take a hit if she lets it. Let’s face it, if the very worst thing I can imagine happened, which is that my husband and child were somehow taken from me, I would be devastated. But it would be up to me to find a way to continue to have an appreciation for my own life and find some happiness or peace with what would remain. Or, of course, kill myself because I’m not sure if anyone could ever really recover from that, but let’s just say I decided to stick around on the planet for the rest of my own preordained earthly tenure.

OK, that’s way grimmer than I wanted to get on this topic. So instead, let’s just backtrack to having an ordinary life and trying to stay happy with that. Life can get pretty boring sometimes and it brings its share of disappointments. I think, though, that with practice we can learn to accept those things a lot more readily and hold fast to the preciousness of the things we do have that fill our days, and find the beauty and occasional sparks of excitement there. Really, this is a lesson I need to learn because I am the kind of person who can get bored with the repetitive nature of my daily existence pretty easily. I’ve had this talk with myself a few times when I’ve noticed I’m getting particularly antsy with the then-current state of my life, but that’s not the best time to try to rein oneself in with arguments of accepting the beauty in the mundane. At those times I had let myself get too far down the path, and was in a position (i.e., alone and responsible only for myself) to change the circumstances of my life. So that’s what I did at those times, rather than take to heart the adage that wherever you go, there you are.

Now, however, I am in a period of naturally occurring happiness, where there is not too much about my life I would like to change. Sure, I’d love to be wealthier and have more control over whether and how I work, how much time I could be with the baby, etc., but that’s pretty much it. It would be a good time to work on improving how I meet the challenge of dealing with boredom or unhappiness the next time it rears its ugly little head. The $64,000 question, then, is how do I do this? It seems like the kind of thing that can only be learned through some sort of spiritual practice, which is an odd jumping off point for someone like me who dislikes religion and who is prone to panic attacks from too much rumination on the nature of existence. We’ve talked about looking into Buddhism for our household; that could be a place to start, but it ought to be easier than that. Maybe it’s just a matter of making a habit out of recognizing the beauty or potential for contentment in every moment, and even announcing it out loud to myself to reinforce the habit? I could put myself on an hourly schedule; set a reminder on my Outlook calendar.


Becca said...

Great post. It has interesting points regarding
panic attacks. I've finally learnt how to control it from useful. Any opinions?

Libby said...

I've been doing quite a bit of navel-gazing myself these days. I think you hit the nail on the head, Kate. Perhaps it's not so much about putting into place a contingency plan for dealing with boredom or unhappiness but rather taking the time to ensure we recognize and appreciate the good (or potential good) that surrounds us. Overly simplistic? Perhaps. But as you pointed out, a perfect starting point.

I've been thinking a lot about personal attitude lately, too. Realizing that I have full responsibility for my own attitude has only sort of recently dawned on me. It relates to your post in that I have come to believe that attitude is key in achieving some level of inner peace.