The difficult pursuit of Happiness

How do inspirational quotes make you feel? Happy? Elated? Like you can take on the world?

Our modern world is consumed with the notion of happiness – obtaining it, being it, and revelling in it. Often the pursuit of it however, becomes a journey littered with insecurity, frustration, and disappointment.

That is because of this very real and true fact: a full, adventurous and passionate life, will also undoubtedly come with its fair share of trouble and difficulty, challenge and sadness. In many cases, equal to any experiences of ‘happiness.’

We spend so much of our time trying to be happy, that this can often make us more depressed. Suppressing our normal day-to-day feelings and ignoring the root of our dis-ease, can cause us more harm than good, delaying the emotions that will inevitably surface at a later point in time.

I am not saying that trying to be of an optimistic disposition is a quality you shouldn’t try to adhere to and live by. It is certainly a better headspace to be in, and learning to be happy in a very consumeristic world riddled with technological issues and social media problems, old-age tests of character and identity involving family and friends, petty fights, injustices of race and class and sexual orientation and gender… well, finding a simple thing to be grateful for, such as something beautiful your daughter said to you, it can be the one thing that saves you in an otherwise upsetting and disappointing day.

I keep an online gratitude blog. Not to promote my profile, send a false image of myself out into the world, or even to pretend all is right in my life. It is not.

And even though I practice gratitude every day, I am by no means exceptionally skilled or a master of my craft. In the words of Dicky Fox in one of my most favourite of movies, Jerry Maguire…

“I’ve failed as much as I’ve succeeded.”

On that note, back to inspiring quotes. I love to read them, see them, put them up on my walls… hell, I even have a daily calendar that gives me a new quote to ponder every day.

Sometimes they speak to me, and other times they don’t. Today’s one jumped out at me in a very real way:

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And then later on social media, I saw another that triggered some sad tags of my heart.

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Translated from Croatian, it reads

“Don’t give up if it’s hard. Give up if it’s not important.”

Both of these quotes, though uplifting, have a certain degree of realism and ‘life is scary’ knocked into them, enough to keep you humble, yet also lift your head towards the clouds and give you Hope.

Well then, how do those quotes compare to this more positive one?

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How did you feel reading each? Did you feel better reading the cheerier, latter quote? Or did the ones with a real sense of everyday life grab you more? Is it purely based upon experiences and life circumstance, or do you think we are bound to feel better about ourselves when reading a more realistic quote, as opposed to a super-happy one that we feel forced to be like? Something that we are meant to aspire to, even if on that particular day, we may be better off just staring off into the sunset with sadness in our eyes?

Something to consider.

Oh, and because I can…

And that my friends, is a quote that makes me feel GREAT.

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Cancelling Plans

You’re either a person who cancels, or a person who commits and comes through with your pre-spoken words… right? Well, that’s how I saw it for a LONG time. People who cancelled plans, cancelled appointments, made last-minute changes, and didn’t come through on what they had promised were all part of one big category for me – the unreliable and scatterbrained ones were the ‘cancellers.’

It was awfully inefficient to cancel on someone. I didn’t really notice how much it bugged me, but every so often when a fellow friend would say “sorry, my kid is sick,” or a meeting was stuffed up on the other end, or someone arrived at my house an hour past the expected time while I twiddled my thumbs staring at the clock, it kind of grated on my nerves. I mean, I was a Mum. I had a child. I worked, I kept the house (somewhat) clean and in a state of organised mess. I cooked. I saw my parents. I wrote as much as I damn well could. I shopped a fair bit, with caffeine inserted in the blank spaces in-between. So if I could get my shit together and not cancel on someone, and always come through on what I had promised somebody, well what was their excuse?

I wouldn’t get upset or anything. You know the normal “no, that’s ok!” response you do when someone is profusely apologising to you, smiling through your teeth. That’s ok, I love my plans being turned upside down. Mums LOVE unpredictability, it reminds them of how fun it is to have a toddler. (No really, I’m being sarcastic). I’d move on, a bit peeved, but I’d move on. I was not a canceller. I was efficient, and despite some of the hardest of times, I tried my damn-dest to succeed at following through on my plans. You know that quote from Jerry Maguire, where the father of the sports kid that Jerry is chasing to represent, says to Jerry “My word is stronger than oak!” (Before completely doing a 180 on him in a following scene and proving that his word was actually more flimsy like tissue paper). Well that was me. My word was oak. Strong and solid, like the first scene, not the second.

Cancelling isn’t only annoying when plans don’t go ahead… it’s an inconvenience. I am so busy, and not only that, I’m in a regular routine especially with a toddler in tow who also depends heavily on it, that it takes much effort and faith to just schedule time in for someone, and then to have that person go ahead and make other plans last second. Even if they are sick, a little part of me is thinking ‘hypochondriac… toughen up.’

A little while back, (not my last cold but a previous cold) all of a sudden, out of the blue, I got sick. Not runny nose, sore throat, sneezing like Snow White’s dwarf sick. I woke up and vomited. And then vomited. And vomited. And not much was being kept down. I had camomile tea, I had black coffee, and I had plain bread. And I still vomited. It was like the deepest depths of my stomach were being unearthed to unseen archaeologists digging away at it, throwing up bits of food as they went.

And what happened? I became the ‘canceller.’

I hated it. I called one person to cancel an appointment I’d had for baby girl. It was literally an hour before I had to go, and I cancelled on her, practically last second. Then the following day, when I was still getting over my stomach heaving, and getting used to that constant feeling of intense nausea, I had a friend message me:

“Still good for lunch today?”

Crap. We were meant to be meeting for lunch at work, and here I was at home, feeling sorry for myself on the couch.

Toughen up, hypochondriac.

Oh God, not another one. With remorse I messaged her back telling her I was sick and was actually at home. She replied this:

“Oh sweetheart. That’s terrible. Hope you feel better soon.”

She went on to say what other days suited her for a lunch date, but those first few lines stayed in my head. What she had written had shocked me. They shocked me, because I had felt them to be genuine. For all I know she could have been doing the typical “oh no! That’s ok!” line I used to do, but I didn’t believe it to be so. This felt real, and all I remember thinking is ‘She cares about me, more than our plans.’

That realisation really hit me. I had been so concerned about life and things running to schedule, that I’d forgotten that life often throws us things and puts us off track. It can sometimes take a while to jump back on. But with the help and support of loved ones, it’s often done faster than if you have people jeering you from the sidelines calling you a hypochondriac. I was also touched by how Hubbie took over and did everything for baby girl and I in those days that I was incapacitated. Hypochondriac, I know. But I’m always doing EVERYTHING, so for me to just lie there and whisper repeatedly “I can’t,” he knew something serious was up. He came through for us all and had me saying “thank you” like a very broken record.

I had a great opportunity to test my new found realisation of ‘shit happens, people matter more than plans’ discovery very soon after. The following night, Hubbie grew increasingly ill and took to the couch complaining of nausea, 3 hours before we were meant to go out for my bestie’s birthday. He had caught what I’d had.

Now the old me, would have been a little shitty. The old me would have been like ‘are you sure you’re sick? Come on, put on this shirt.’ The old me would have been upset at the sight of Hubbie lying on the couch while I imagined all my friends together at a rooftop bar. The old me would have been, slightly resentful, just at the situation, and how shit the timing was.

Bu I’d had a few days to think. Going through my head were these thoughts:

1. Remember, people are more important than plans.

2. Hubbie looked after me days ago.

3. He’s only sick because he caught what I had.

I was soon running off to the pharmacy for late night medications and messaging bestie a ‘sorry’ message on the way.

Being sick had taught me many things.

We’re all human.

Shit happens.

People are more important.

Don’t lose sight of that.

I used to fight against reality, pretend to be superhuman, and get upset when other people didn’t try to be a superhero too. But, we aren’t in an episode of Angel (unfortunately). I can’t stay up fighting demons all night and then expect to be cheery the next day and ready to tackle my Mum duties with a hop, skip and a jump.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t become a ‘canceller’ over this, and I will be slightly wary whenever anyone changes plans on me… but I will be softer about it, and when I say “no, that’s ok,” I might just half mean it.