Nothing last night or the night before but that was purely my doing. I stayed up reading y’all’s blogs until midnight when she was long asleep.
Tomorrow marks our 9th anniversary.
Nine years of wedded bliss…
This marriage business is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I remember thinking in a rather detached fashion around my wedding day that I was ready for the extra growth. I had no idea what the hell I was thinking! But the reality is that I have had to grow in ways I never could have imagined.
Reading Jay’s blog and the comments left there got me to thinking about happiness. Everyone, without exception (including me), expressed the sentiment that he (and everyone else) deserves to be happy. On first blush, this seems to be an undeniable truth. When thinking the thought “I have the right to be happy” I begin disputation with “Is it true?” In fact, it seems to be. I then inquire further by asking, “Can I absolutely know this to be true?” That question usually successfully disputes most faulty thoughts the first one misses. However “I have the right to be happy” is a particarly stubborn belief that has reached an almost religious status in our culture. And this religion is a stubborn one. To further clarify, let’s inquire further…
“I have the right to be happy.” What is the reality? The reality is that there many times when I am not. So the next stage is to ask myself, “When I think ‘I have the right to be happy’ how does this make me feel?”
Here, the lie of this religion is exposed. When I think the thought “I have the right to be happy” I feel a sense of entitlement and thus resentment when I’m unhappy. I actually make myself more unhappy by thinking about my right to happiness and how much that right is being violated by Arwyn, the kids and seemingly everything else in life that stands in my way. If my goal is to be happy, thinking about my right to happiness is inconsistent with my stated goal of being happy and is thus an irrational thought. This mode of thinking is never going to get me to my goal of being happy. Ever. The more I try to assert my right to happiness, the less happy I am going to be.
The next stage of successful disputation is to ask “If I could not think the thought ‘I have the right to be happy’ how would I feel?” The answer is that I might be able to accept unhappiness as a condition of reality. Things are going to happen that interrupt and interfere with my own enjoyment of life. By releasing my right to happiness I might actually be better equipped and able to pursue happiness within the realm of reality. When you argue with reality, you will be wrong. But only 100% of the time.
The final stage of disputation and inquiry is to turn the statement around. Turn “I have a right to be happy” into “I do not have the right to be happy.” Is this as true or more true than my initial thought? It is more true! I have a right to pursue it, but I have no right to actually get it any time I want on whatever terms I want. In fact, true happiness seems to flourish in an environment of sacrifice.
How about this turn-around: “I have the right to be unhappy.” If my first belief was true, this one would be equally true. In fact, this statement is more true because happiness and is an emotional state of being. I can choose one or the other but unhappiness takes a lot less effort. As the entropy of the mind increases, unhappiness becomes easier. Happiness and its pursuit takes work and effort just to maintain it.
So we see that happiness is not a right at all. The pursuit of it is a right, but happiness itself is not, and can not, be guaranteed. There are millionaires who are miserable. Depression seems to flourish in an atmosphere of entitlement. People who are busy trying to scratch for their next meal don’t have the luxury of worrying about being depressed.
I need to think about this a bit more as I take on the flipside of happiness. It does seem like our own thinking betrays us with irrational beliefs. “I have the right to be happy” is an irrational belief that has the potential to seriously derail people’s lives. Jay’s wife Kitti has fallen for this false religion hook, line and sinker and Jay himself is buckling under. Arwyn is has also been seduced by the same lie. Most of us have. I go through periods where I grasp it like a holy alter and refuse to let go. But think about it, folks. Think about how this sense of entitlement is making you feel. The belief that the world and life owes you a happy life is patently false. It is a dangerous thought that leads to every sort of sin. It is the lie that eventually justifies a host of evils and injuries. Murderers, child molesters, terrorists, rapists and every sort of thief and criminal can justify their actions through this religion of “I have a right to be happy.” No, you don’t.
It isn’t a right as much as a choice. Mother Theresa found happiness and joy in holding the hands of dying people in the muddy, filthy streets if Calcutta. Others find happiness in hospitals, garbage dumps, ghettos and other seemingly inhospitable places. Corrie Tenboom found glimpses in a concentration camp at times. Happiness and sadness can exist in the exact same place at the exact same time within two different people. You have the right to look for it and to claim it where you find it. One last truth: you’ll keep it a lot longer if you dedicate yourself to giving it away to other people. As soon as you clutch on to your “right” to be happy for yourself, it will disappear like a vapor.
But what do I know? Try in on and see if it fits.