Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Whatever gets us through the night

It is a beautiful day today, in London, Ontario, Canada. It is neither too hot nor too cold. Soft breezes blow and the sun is shining. What could be better? It is a perfect day to be happy.

I am a pretty happy guy, generally, whatever the weather. Although I am often puzzled, chagrined, frustrated, bemused and amused by what goes on around me, I am nevertheless happy. I don't depend on things or events or people to be happy, I depend on myself.

I love life. Whatever the day brings, I am happy to be alive, happy to have my family, happy to be at peace with myself. If something happens during the day that I don't understand, I accept it as a minor annoyance and carry on. If something happens that promises to be a major annoyance if I don't do something about it, I take steps to fix the problem or to remove myself from the situation, and balance is restored once again.

I believe with all my heart that we, individually, are the sole architects of our state of mind, and that if things get us down and destroy our equilibrium, we have only ourselves to blame. Sometimes, steps we have to take to improve things are major, and the results will be unpleasant and stressful temporarily. After some time, the unpleasantness will pass and things will be better for us. On occasion, we might decide that the cure is worse than the problem, and we might elect to leave things as they are. That might be a perfectly acceptable choice, if we make it ourselves, but we certainly will have no right afterwards to complain or whine about the situation. We will have made our choice and it is up to us to live with it.

One of the things that I can't understand, as I cruise around in the blogosphere and read posts by many fascinating people, is how we each choose to deal with things, unpleasant things in particular. Human beings, pushed to the wall, are pretty resilient and resourceful, and when it comes to 'do or die,' they generally do. Then, having taken some sort of remedial action, things improve. The improvement might not be dramatic, but the new state of affairs will be better than the old.

Many of the blogs I read are written by individuals who have seen considerable trauma in their lives. In most cases, the worst is over and the present situation, while not necessarily perfect, is acceptable. Some individuals recognize that while they might have received emotional and moral support, and help of some sort from friends or family, they themselves had to be in the right frame of mind, have the right attitude, have the perseverance and determination, to succeed. This one very important factor cannot come from outside oneself, it can only come from within. And, absent that factor and the components which drive it, things will not improve, no matter how much help is forthcoming from others.

I have puzzled over why some people will not acknowledge their inner strength and prefer to believe that without everyone else, anyone else, the community at large, whatever, they are doomed to fail. But while I puzzle over it, I don't agonize over it. It is not up to me to mold others to be like me anymore than I would allow them to try and remake me in their image. Live and let live. Laissez-faire.

Or, as John Lennon famously said in a song: "Whatever gets you through the night, it's all right, it's all right."


  1. We are not insular. We are not islands. And I don't believe we are entirely capable of doing everything for ourselves. We don't teach ourselves how to read.. or how to drive.. or how to think about certain things. These are all learned or modeled within a community.

    While I believe we are ultimately responsible for our own choices, I don't believe we learn how to make choices in a vacuum.



  2. What I find really sad, is that not only do they think they are not capable of dealing with difficult situations by themselves, but they will blame themselves for everything bad in their lives, and they will credit God for everything good in their life. So they don't even give themselves a pat in the back when they do something great.

  3. I have puzzled over why some people will not acknowledge their inner strength...

    Some people were not taught this. Which is sad. But true. It's like wondering why women didn't have the vote long before they did or why women stayed with abusive husbands and believed that ought to douche with lysol (true story) to bring their indifferent husbands to their marital beds with warmth. Culture and education. And, while many, if not most, of us have jumped on the self-actualization/self-help bandwagons of the recent present, many of us just haven't been exposed or view these theories and ideas as foreign and unattainable - learned helplessness, as one example.

    It is up to us, individually, absolutely. But, for those of us who have, we need to teach those who haven't, not force, not dictate, but lead.

  4. Well...I don't think there is any more One Way than there is One Person.

    Sometimes, I decide alone. Other times, I seek outside input, still other times, I have to decide with others. It depends.

    I believe in myself but I also recognize I am more because of who I have around me. I would not be the same, nor would my life, were it not for those in my life.

    Yeah there, Chani said it nicely, "While I believe we are ultimately responsible for our own choices, I don't believe we learn how to make choices in a vacuum."

    But to be so independently happy...that's richness.

  5. I agree with Chani that what we become is in part due to influences of family, friends, circumstances, etc. I believe though, that if things don't turn out as they should, we (and only we) have the power to turn things around. It requires a commitment, a frame of mind, a determination, that only we as individuals can provide. Once we have made that intuitive leap and are truly ready, help from others will certainly move things along quicker.

    I maintain that we look outside of ourselves far too much for solutions to our problems and even for happiness itself. Has anyone ever asked you about your spouse: "Does he/she make you happy?" No? Perhaps you have heard it elsewhere. That is the way many of us think: "If only Henry earned more money, or were a better lover, or brought me flowers, I could be happy." No-one can make us happy if we aren't receptive or ready to be happy, or even realistic in our expectations of what it would take to allow ourselves to be happy.

    The best wife/husband/lover can do everything possible to make their partner happy and it may or may not work. It depends on whether the recipient of all this wonderful attention is ready to be happy. The best job, the best children, the best vacations, the biggest car and the grandest house cannot make us happy. Happiness can never be given, it can only be enjoyed by someone who truly understands that it comes from within, not without.

    Sylvain is right. We need to be able to trust ourselves and believe in ourselves and to give ourselves a pat on the back when we do something good.

    Penny is also correct in that people can't be forced to accept responsibility, to gain confidence in themselves, to be their own master. It is something that they have to discover on their own.

    Julie: I read your blog regularly and I know that you must have discovered that part of your own happiness is in what you do and the fact that you are able to touch and influence people, to make them think. That is a gift you have. Happiness is not simply walking around with a silly and vacuous grin on our face, it is how we feel when we feel productive and useful and relevant.

  6. This is an excellent post. And it's so close to what I was thinking and feeling this very morning... Well, what a cowinky-dink eh?

  7. I believe that true happiness, peace of mind and inner strength come from within. Some learn on their own, some with the help of others and some, never.

  8. Well, John Lennon is worth quoting.

    Inner strength and character are learned things. Medicine men and elders and teachers are here to instruct and enlighten.

    One must be open to learning.