Happiness is a state of mind for many. Happiness is a contrived perception for others. Happiness is an elusive bitch for those who struggle consistently. Just because we are born onto this planet, not one of us are assured happiness as if it is a contract with the cosmos. The universe did not sign anything in blood to make any one’s life devoid of ills.
I cannot tell you how long I have struggled to make an impact just in my own life. Happiness is something I have had to proactively define, repeatedly. Growing up during an exceptionally challenging childhood, nothing was any more concrete then evaluating life in different terms than the affluent I was privy to observing. It has been a struggle just to reframe my perspective when enduring some shitty situation.
Growing up with an avid animal lover who did not have the right proportions of love for her human child, I found ways to derive happiness by being alone. I found the company of animals soothing. Eventually, I would find that if I seemed on the cusps of being ‘too happy’ or just enjoying life without being consumed with the will to die, that I needed to pull way the hell back. What a weird world anyone must live in to be disproportionately depressed than assessing what could be gleaned as a happy moment.
As a kid, I grew up in the era in which kids were to be seen but not heard, and if you were seen, it better be because your presence was requested. The socializing was torment for a socially awkward kid. What made me awkward? Having limited time to hang out with kids that could tolerate me may have fed into some of that. Being abused as a kid, my mind operated in drastically different modes than my peers.
Finding happiness being around animals, and earning their love, no matter how short it may have been, really helped me reduce some of the stress I endured. I remember, as an adult, in an adult relationship, I was at my significant other’s family get together for Christmas. Gads of people. They spilled out of all the doors of a rather large, renovated barn. I brought my espresso machine and plenty of goods to make it worthwhile to be adopted as a socially acceptable person. After I had made oodles of mixed coffee drinks (sans alcohol, or at least by my own hand) I took leave of the stuffiness of these happy loud people. It was drizzling outside, but it was more fresh air than what was inside the party.
I had noticed the average sized St. Bernard, an outside dog. I waltzed over to this wet as fuck dog and spent at least 15 – 30 minutes enriching its neglected and lonely life in that moment in time. The pooch rubbed up against me, getting my jeans wet, but again, my delicate sensibilities were lowered as I was immersed in reciprocal happiness. I was away from the gaggle of partiers, I was cooling off, alone with a dog, and this animal was genuinely appreciative of my company with him.
I remember when I was around 9 years old, there was a death in the family. My mother’s boyfriend’s dad passed. He was a stoic German that had not forgotten his roots. He had plenty of colorful metaphors for anyone other-than-white. After the funeral, I was admonished to go outside and play. Well, my mom’s Siberian Husky was out there, so that was a suitable play partner. I had inherited an intrepid outdoor black cat, all because he was tolerant of the husky – and thoroughly enjoyed eating some Tuffy’s dog kibble. For those of you that may not know, Tuffy’s dog kibble is small kibble in the shape of T’s — slightly larger than Meow Mix kibble for cats. Since I did not have cat food, this cat was in some sort of heaven.
I played with the dog, as my mom would scold me, inappropriately. The dog was a male and so he enjoyed humping. I was a dipshit kid, so the bird’s and the bee’s conversation had not yet registered with me at that age. As I was playing with the dog, I was trying to wrestle with him – so I would end up on all fours, to imitate him and he would get behind me. While it was a moment of innocence, it was fun, I was happy, my mother’s dog was happy, and the cat even received some attention. I had to be repeatedly told to stop allowing the dog to hump me. At some point later in life, that moment was like a Beavis and Butthead light-bulb moment that turned on many moons after the experience.
I was wallowing in the new pain I had been introduced to; the death of someone I knew well. I was told to go outside. I did what made me suppress the sadness by playing with the dog and the cat. As I was not trusted to go to strangers’ homes. Playing outside with the dog, who was not allowed inside, was a wonderful respite from being locked up in my bedroom.
I led a very solitary life as an only child. I knew no better, as I had nothing to compare my life experienced to what it could have been. Happiness was derived from acts of solitude. This characteristic has carried forward into my adulthood. I am perfectly fine being alone, avoiding groups of people, and just enjoying life from that angle.
Occasionally a neighbor kid would play with me. Those times were exceedingly rare because of my oppressive parental units. It was either go outside and play or be locked in a bedroom until someone wanted to let me out. Being in my room while my mom and her boyfriend, whom she married a few years later at a church 4 blocks away, gave me reprieve. I knew in the times they left home, I could not possibly get in trouble. The stressors, the preconceived notions of anxiety were temporarily lifted.
I would read a lot. I had a habit of always getting 2 books per night from the library. On the weekends, I could have 3 books. I would normally read about 1.5 books per night. I got along well with the librarian, due to my voracity of reading. This brought me some happiness, as I had a deal with the librarian not many others did. On rare occasion, I could bring 4 books home on a weekend.
Happiness was achieved by seeing beyond my circumstances. While I would have a tough time answering if I were a happy child, I could manufacture one. I would presume it was more akin to being a prisoner. Every little success equals a happy moment, as you are always slated to be in trouble while serving your sentence. Your sheer existences are met with pure disappointment, and you may not have done a damned thing.
When I was 13, I had disappointed my step-dad horribly. After he left for work, while my mother was gone, I stole money from her coin collection can. This was post-foster-home placement. I rode my bike 4 miles into town to buy some pills. Mind you, I was no longer being locked in my bedroom, so I had that freedom. My mother came home after I had ingested the bottle. Her friend wanted to go into the big city to get some Greek food. I was invited along with.
I was not feeling all too well, for obvious reasons. My mother kept asking me if I was ok, and I gave her the regular ole brush-off, ‘yeah, I’m ok.’ By the time we got to the restaurant, I was feeling very bad. My mom asked me again, if I was ok, and that’s when I confided in her of my actions from a couple of hours before. She went into panic mode. Sadly, to me, there was a hospital about 10 blocks away. I was unhappy because I made someone else unhappy. I wasn’t a good person because I disappointed another person, who had control of my well-being.
I can still reflect on what I experienced. Foster-home life helped me recalibrate. The liberation brought happiness. I reflect on my childhood to such a degree that I have determined I was destined to learn vicariously from other people’s fuck-ups. I had this nagging sensation that while I was not wanted, while I was in the midst of this cesspool of a family, that it was not supposed to be like that. It is terribly odd despite what I was brought up under, that I had an inkling of actions that were not valuable or even acceptable. I had a sense of right and wrong. To some people, that would be qualified as the ‘old soul’ that sees beyond a situation.
When I was born, the stars did not declare I was to be happy. I was born in a thunderstorm, late at night. Thunderstorms make me happy. Being alone in the woods with a dog makes me happy. Being on my motorcycle with no one around, makes me happy. Riding my motorcycle with another competent rider on their own bike, enjoying the world, brings me happiness. Being adventurous keeps me happy. Being with my dog, even if she is a fucking cunt of a dog at times, keeps my anxiety low.
Happiness is not determined by how much money you make, though to be happy, if you have no money, there is a higher likelihood you will not be happy. In the USA, where money has its celebrated social strata to achieve, money only appears to bring happiness. Sadly, what we observe is greed takes over, quenching the battle of happiness. Greed, ego, competitiveness fuels that fire, that passion, the abnormal desire for more than what you have or even need.
Being poor in a country where money is celebrated brings people into deep bouts of depression. The churches suggest that being materialistic is a sin. Not all of us can live like a fucking mendicant. Some of us have not sworn the vow of austerity. Many of us cannot afford that now. Living in a society costs money. If the person, seeking resources, does not have any money, the money must be donated by others. Then comes two diverse types of happiness. Happiness to receive, depending on how destitute one is and how long it has been since the last receipt of a gift. Happiness to give, often helps assuage pangs of guilt for having ‘so much’ in comparison to others. I have a tough time believing in absolute altruism.
I find myself stuck ruminating over this philosophy of ethics theory, psychological egoism. Generally speaking, it explains how people act in such a way to derive pleasure for themselves. It scrutinizes people’s reason for doing things, figuring out why someone gives away something. The focus is primarily on motivating factors for giving of oneself.
As an example of how this could be used, let’s say you are fueling up, or just walking into a convenience store. There is a homeless person with a sign who isn’t being aggressive, but the sign says something to the effect of: Hungry, anything will help. You go in, grab a snack, grab a sandwich, a bag of chips, and some 7-Up. You walk up to the till, pay for your goods, exit the building, and then hand the person the loot you got for them. Imagine someone is polling your dopamine output at the time you commit this perceived act of generosity. Would you derive pleasure for helping someone else? Did you do this for them or really for yourself?
When one brings into account that motivating factors can deride acts of giving, and suggests it may be selfish, this tends to rip apart some of the universe. Rethinking your own giving — or even receiving from other givers should come with some pause. ‘What’s in it for them?’ Happiness can be vanquished with this type of thought process. If we do things only to be happy, are we doing it for the right reasons?
I come from a school of thought insomuch as I want to help prepare people for things in an arena of which I am well skilled. The adage: give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach him to fish, he can eat for the rest of his life, is precisely where I fit. I believe in empowering people to be better versions of themselves. I do not get immediate satisfaction from such acts, because I am looking into the future for results. This helps prevent me from seeking the dopamine release that makes me happy in the moment.
The last paragraph hearkens to my first of my most recent blog posts (Don’t Be Assholes) about doing the right thing. If one can see that in their present standing, they can effectuate change for the future. Just the acceptance of that fact should help give a person purpose without always pursuing the need to be happy. Happiness is not contractual. Happiness is not assured. Appreciate happiness when the moments appear, but do not push yourself so hard that when you do not achieve happiness, that you become bitter.
It feels like some people are so sad because they are simply not happy. They seem to have set an unrealistic expectation that they should be. Our society drills the point home, in a multitude of ways, to only do that which makes you happy, be happy with who you are, be the happy you want to feel. Again, this mentality sets many people up for an overwhelming amount of disaster.
Because of the shit I endured as a kid, I knew straightaway that the world I was being trained to live in, was absolutely fucked. Does that alone certify me to propagate negativity? Absolutely not. Despite what I dealt with, most of it taught me something unbelievably valuable. The dilemma there is, I became receptive to those life lessons. Yes, the pain was definitely internalized, and has skewed my trajectory of my future, but I have had the luxury of hindsight. This mature hindsight helped me decide that I’ve dealt with so much unfairness, despotic people in control of my life, and that I was tremendously weird.
I’ve come to terms, mostly, with this. It still hurts. Using my history as a pattern detector, I pay attention to my present foot placement in a desperate attempt to stop repeating the shitty cycles. I have always been painfully aware that happiness was never assured to me. With each relationship with any human being or even an animal, there unequivocally must be some down times to recognize the good, the place where happiness can creep through. Those shitty times help us balance out the current station of bad versus good.
In the strongest possible way for me to voice this, do not give up on things because there is some difficulty. It should be noted that people who overcame the difficulties, tended to come out much stronger. As long as they were receptive about how to avoid the same situation again, they were destined to win that battle in their future. Be receptive to what is going on around you. Do not expect to be happy. Allow happiness to flow through you. Do not let other people dictate your happiness, or lack thereof.
As always, I welcome any constructive criticism, or complementary theories, analogies, anecdotes. I would love to hear if you find these edicts of challenge useful or utter horseshit. Similar to the 90’s when the catchphrase, ‘Be Kind, Rewind’ was hailed as marketing genius. I need to come up with one that invites you to either subscribe, via WordPress or via email, like posts, or even comment on posts. The immediate feedback is useful for anyone. Thank you very much for reading through all of this drivel. Be well, stay safe, AND stay sane!