Several weeks ago, I panicked and took down my blog, citing a family matter. I’m reactivating my blog today for several reasons: First of all, my tumor has made this year eventful so far. I’ve spent more of 2018 in the hospital than out and I’d like a way to easily update people on what’s going on. The main reason, however, is that I enjoy blogging and find it therapeutic. I’m not going to let anyone try to stifle something that brings me even a small measure of happiness.
There are people who would try to steal your joy. They will take things away from you. They will take away material possessions and money—and even try to turn people against you—but they can’t actually take away your happiness. They can make you sad for a little while and they can leave you disappointed and betrayed. Yet money or whatever they’ve taken won’t make them happy, and often, when they see that you are still happy or happy once again, they decide they need more from you. They clearly didn’t take enough the first time.
Once happiness isn’t achieved, they become frustrated. They see happiness as a kind of pie, and there is a finite amount. To them, it’s a tangible, quantifiable thing that they can possess and steal. They are taking what they believe is owed to them.
I want to explain to these people—to the people who made me panic and take down my blog—that they don’t understand happiness. They’re going about it wrong. (No matter what I say, they would get defensive and wouldn’t listen, so it goes here, along with my other random thoughts.)
I think of happiness as more of a candle or a living thing—it needs air and nourishment to breathe and continue. I’m rolling my eyes at myself here, but it needs kindness and love. The people who try to take it from others take what they can, but the flame goes out. The living creature dies. They’re left holding an empty vessel, and they’re angry. They think they haven’t taken enough. Meanwhile, the other person, after some sadness—mostly not even over the missing or stolen thing, but about the betrayal—cultivates happiness once more. This is infuriating to the would-be happiness thief. It’s not fair! Why are they not getting what they so richly deserve?
They don’t understand that happiness begets happiness; kindnesses produce kindnesses in turn. It’s often fairly easy to find just a small measure of happiness. Be kind to someone and it can come back to you. Instead, there’s often meanness, cruelty, deception, and pettiness. Nice people who want to see the good in others give people more chances than are deserved, but happiness will continue to elude those who always opt for the taking route instead of the giving one.
I don’t consider myself a particularly happy person or very cheerful. I was goth in high school and college. I’m not particularly Zen or spiritual. I often get giggles during yoga meditation. I’m cynical. I can take public transportation for only a few minutes before I wish ill upon fellow commuters committing egregious acts. I often find myself thinking that I don’t like people all that much.
I think it’s odd when people here say I’m really nice, because I think I’m probably one of the least friendly Midwesterners you’ll ever meet. I was surprised when one of my hospital roommates remarked that I am a happy person. I’m not an expert on loving kindness.
Yet I think that to be happy, you have to be sincerely willing to make others happy. Not in a people-pleasing/drive-yourself-crazy kind of way, but I think it helps if you genuinely want to be nice to people. Lately, there’s been a blatant and pervasive selfishness in our culture, and as someone who won’t be able to deduct medical costs from taxes but gladly will pay for education of other people’s kids, I don’t understand how people can argue so vehemently to make it harder for me to get healthcare. I read a column called “I Don’t Know How to Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People” and realized it is what I have been trying to say to some people for years. I’m not even that nice. I don’t even like people very much, but as a general whole, I think it’s basically a good idea to try to be nice when possible.
Sometimes it will be thrown away on people who just keep taking, and that’s when you have to check to see if they are taking advantage. Sometimes you will suspect the worst of people and you will be right. Sometimes, someone will spread lies or half-truths to perpetuate the own narrative they have created to justify their actions, and you’ll want to shout from the rooftops, “That’s not what happened!”
Often, though, a small act will make someone feel good, and it will be worth it. One of my friends, who also posts daily gratitudes, really takes the time to give sincere compliments, making people break into warm smiles about their eye makeup or accessories or a skill, and I see how faces light up. I’m too shy to do that, and I’m sure I would come across as sarcastic, but I do what I can. I’m trying to take the time to thank people and let them know how much I appreciate them. I’m trying to make more time for people who care about me and trying to spend less time and energy on people who try to make me feel bad about myself so they can feel better—another technique that I’ve known does not make anyone any happier.
Life is short. Mine is probably going to be much shorter than I want. My tumor has been making me pretty miserable, but I’d like to take control of what I can and seize up as much happiness as I can while bringing joy to others. There’s enough for all.