If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.
– Abraham Maslow
I find this quote to be potentially quite deceptive, depending on how it’s perceived. It spoke to me in such a positive light when I first read it, but I imagine people possibly interpreting this very differently.
Upon reading this you could easily take it at least two differing ways; 1.) Go that extra mile & push yourself beyond what you’ve been doing if you really want to be happy, OR, paradoxically, 2.) Assess who, what, where you are today, right now, and be prepared to accept that, and you can find true happiness and peace.
To put it another way; 1.) You’re not doing enough to be happy, OR 2.) You’re doing it the right way just as you are.
What’s it going to be?
If only it were that easy to be happy. Some say it is, little reminders such as: Train your brain to look at every situation in a positive way.
Is that even possible? Not in my experience. But it could be taken as more of a goal. Maybe a big part of our problem with happiness is that we take things too literally, and expect and assume advice like that to be unattainable. Maybe we discern happiness, by and large, to be out of our reach.
Are we moving away from gentle reminders and replacing them with guilt complexes perhaps? Too often we accuse ourselves and others of wrong-doing, instead of spreading support and encouragement, outward as well as inward. Then we/they feel bad about ourselves, or our actions, and even lack thereof.
I could tell you about countless times I’ve been unhappy throughout my life. For instance, the time a neighbor from down the road, without any actual proof, accused our dog of attacking and running his sheep down.
It was an outrageous charge, that resulted in our having to find a new home for our beloved mutt, River. And as we didn’t have any proof that he hadn’t done it, when said neighbor threatened to shoot the poor creature if he was seen again on their property, short of fencing in our yard, which we were unable to do, we were left with no choice.
Then there came the crushing heartbreak of going over to a friend’s house where their dog was still happily part of their family. That moment as a child, of not understanding why it happened?
Yet, another instance to utter, “That’s not fair!”
Only to be met with, “Life’s not fair. The sooner you accept that the better.”
It did little to assuage the anguish that the egregious error perpetrated by our so-called neighbor had caused.
We went on to have other pet dogs, not many though, and not one ever lived out a long, peaceful life of leisure. And I never forgot that “mean man who made our dog go away”.
Yet, that is why I chose this particular anecdote, because I was a child when this happened. And yes, I was unhappy twofold like the quote above, but I was able to move past it and recover more easily.
It was as devastating as I could imagine for a brief time.
Why does it seem that as we age, if we let them, life’s’ disappointments seem to chip away at us. Nick by nick we can become more and more cynical. With each mar we can feel more jaded, less willing to be vulnerable, and to put ourselves out there.
I think part of the problem might be that so much of what we think, as in worry about or hang onto, is in our own minds. Not that it is or isn’t happening, but that by focusing on it as if we were putting it under a microscope; we’ve made it into an actual painful ordeal that we then have to deal with…
Ask yourself if what you’re upset about, the root of your unhappiness; is it something that has happened? Is it a real situation that you have been informed of, by another person, a note, the news?
Or is it something you’re afraid might be happening? Does it come from a place of insecurity, or paranoia? Is it possibly stemming from a fragile ego, or a place of shame?
There are many scenarios that can lead us into this line of thinking. And I’m not talking about chemical imbalances and clinical depression, which should be handled by a professional. I mean when we get entangled in a scenario playing out in our head that is weighing us down and making us unhappy.
Can you look at your situation and say definitively that is reality based? Because if we’re not facing reality squarely, exactly as it is then we have a choice to make. We must choose to keep that alive, or not.
There are countless ways to keep ourselves mired in unhappiness. But if we don’t want that then we must rectify the problem(s). As Tina Turner said,
Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything… whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.
Personally I have been struggling with my own unhappiness since I had an aneurysm/stroke twenty one months ago, and have been cruising along on the seemingly endless road to full recovery ever since.
At least that’s where I’ve wanted to be cruising to, but recently I’ve done a lot of soul searching, and I’ve discovered some vitally important issues pertaining to my current situation.
I recently had lunch with one of my closest confidants and upon sitting down she asked me how I am doing? I answered that I am the happiest miserable person that she knows. Of course she looked at me quizzically and asked what that means?
I’m not exactly sure but–
It means that my face has been numb for almost 2 years. I can’t do my hair like I used to anymore. I’m tired of not being able to fold a tee shirt properly…blah blah blah.
BUT, maybe it means that I am ready to own who I am right now for the sake of my own happiness. I haven’t completely done it yet, but I think I have to. I had something happen; an injury – a serious paralysis and the doctors didn’t know from the get-go what I might get back.
So no, maybe it wasn’t all black-and-white (is it ever?), it wasn’t considered permanent, per se, although, some actually might be. I may have to live with that. As it is, it’s imperative that I must know my current limitations for my own safety.
My mother likened my affected arm, which has not fully recovered and is battling hypertonia (like a stiffening of tendons/muscles spasming), to being like a busy child, I have to watch vigilantly in order to keep it out of trouble and harm’s way. Very accurate analogy.
I need to believe that accepting this me, the only me, is not giving up. I need for it to be okay to be however and wherever I am right now, and tomorrow, and next week, and so forth.
The cold hard fact is that there is a place in my brain that was erased. I don’t know precisely how much or what all resulted from this deletion besides my affected left side. Brains are amazing things, no doubt. Mine has obviously already done some incredible healing.
I plan to keep on working my body for the rest of my life and never give up. Never to lose hope. I think I have places to go in my own recovery, places yet to come to fruition.
To my people, my support system, my family & friends:
I would rather hear “I know you’ll never give up Raina!” Than hear, “Don’t give up!” It just seems to imply that you think that I might throw in the towel.
I’d love to reassure you once and for all that I never will. Please, please don’t second-guess me. And please don’t assume. Try not to worry, as I will try not to worry, too.
I got this…most days anyway. Yes, some days I will need a break, or some help, understanding, compassion, etc. I have to be okay with that.
You don’t have to be okay with this, but I hope someday that you will be. The bottom line is that if I’m not okay with me, today, then I’m almost guaranteed to be unhappy.
And I don’t want to live in an unhappy state, day in and day out. Life is too short.
I believe, too, that there are answers to many of the curves that life throws at us, the ones that go on to cause us unhappiness. Some of the fixes are a lot of work. Some of them are very painful and not what we had envisioned for our lives.
I know you’ll never give up the good fight for your own wellbeing…
— Raina K Morton November 4 2014
**You might recognize it from the soundtrack to the Spike Jonze film, based on the Maurice Sendak classic children’s book, “Where the Wild Things Are” – both are excellent!