Saturday, October 24, 2009

Having Fun? Come Now, It Can't Be That Simple?! Really!?

We've all met a person or two that was insanely happy to be alive. You know the ones I'm talking about. Those odd ducks that love life, have passion in their work, and possess a positive energy so palpable that it is infectious to all those around them. I, for one, have always found these sorts of people to be a bit of an anomaly...freaks of nature if you will. I've heard some speculate that there is an actual "happy gene" that you either possess or do not possess, a precursor to whether you will be generally happy or disgruntled with life. That's just plain depressing, particularly for me, since I have spent most of my life believing I could be much happier and that's been a common theme for me...the pursuit of happiness. Last week I had one of those moments where you see things clearly in new ways that change your life. I call my new found knowledge "dancing with my passion drummer." I have not felt this level of sustained happiness ever before in my adult life. It's been a week, and I'm still just as excited about the revelation I've had. I want to share it with others, in hopes that others can find this inner peace that I now share with those "freaks of nature" that I'd never understood before. I understand them now. The problem is that I seemed to have crossed a chasm between two worlds, the old world that I lived in where I was searching for something that was missing in my life, and the new world where I'm genuinely happy and content, and now that I'm over here, I see how difficult it is to explain to those still on the other side how to cross that chasm themselves. The really frustrating thing is that it is so easy. The other really frustrating thing is that everything I want to say is stuff I heard from others that had made the transition but from the other side, it never really made sense, I never really "got it." So I sit here now trying to figure out how to explain what has just happened to me, how I found happiness, and how to provide those on the other side trying to get over here the information they need on how to do it. I wish that were as easy as it was to find this place, once I finally got it.

Shortly after I came to my discovery of how to be happy, how to dance with my passion drummer, I had several deeply profound discussions with my non-husband, Jason. He, being one of those freaks of nature (always happy about life), had tried for years to help me find my passion drummer. During those talks he told me that he honestly thought I didn't care to find happiness, that I actually LIKED the spinning around in circles that I've described in earlier blog posts. That isn't true of course and he knew it, but he couldn't find any other explanation for why I wasn't doing it. Looking back, I guess I just never bought into the whole idea. I thought it too simple and too shallow to actually hold any value. I thought I was already on the right road (to happiness) and that I just needed to try a bit harder. I guess, in a way, I thought I was smarter than to follow the freaks of nature...that I had it all figured out already and "knew better." I see that sort of thing in others now, in those on the other side. It's hard for me to see that in them, because I know how self-defeating that type of thought process is, and I know it's never going to get them where they want to be. It can't. It never will. But the good news is that it is a choice. A simple choice, deceptively simple in fact.

During my discussions with Jason, I discovered something that is a prime difference between the freaks of nature and the rest of us still in the pursuit of happiness. I remember a time when my high school creative writing instructor, Mr. Rowe, stopped me in the hallway and asked why I wasn't enrolled in any of his writing classes my junior year. I told him I didn't have room for his electives because I needed to take the new computer classes that were being offered. In my mind, I was making a "smart" choice, because I knew that a career in computer science would be lucrative and frankly I was tired of growing up poor. Mr. Rowe looked at me in disbelief that quickly turned to anger. He said, "As far as I'm concerned, you're flushing a perfectly good talent down the tubes." He slapped his notebook and portfolio together in a definitive crack and walked off. Until that moment, I didn't really know Mr. Rowe found talent in my writing. I got A's in his class, but I got A's in all my classes. I never talked to Mr Rowe again and I didn't continue writing, even though I loved it and still do. The moral of the story is: I gave up a passion for writing, to pursue a goal of financial security. I asked Jason during our talks if he would ever consider giving up what he enjoyed, to reach a goal. He said, without pause, "absolutely not." That is the prime difference between us. Happy people do not sacrifice happiness to reach a goal. If the goal isn't in line with their happiness, they don't have that goal. It's that simple.

There is no mathematical formula here linking happiness with success. All people that are happy are not successful (in traditional terms of success...think: "the starving artist") and not all people that are successful in traditional terms of wealth and power are happy (think: "millionaire commits suicide, news at 11"). What I'm trying to say is that you don't have to be rich to be happy and you don't have to be happy to be rich. But the people we aspire to be are those that are rich AND happy. From my observations, I don't think one is dependent upon the other. I also believe you can attain them in either order (success first or happiness first). The problem with this is the apparent goals to become rich are often in direct conflict with those of being happy. This is where most of us check out when the freaks of nature tell us to just be happy, to enjoy life and to stop trying so hard. We can't fathom doing that because we have goals, I tell you and we're not giving up on them!! What I'm telling you is that these people that are happy and rich do not sacrifice happiness to obtain success. They are just having fun and in the process of playing with their passion, dancing to their passion drummer, the universe has seen fit to provide them with what they need. Feels like a gamble? It did to me too. But now that I'm here, looking across the chasm to the other side, I can see there really is no other way to be happy.

I was recently in a workshop in which the instructor, a full-time artist, told me that when she followed her passion to create what she loved, she found success in the material sense, but as soon as she tried to create for the masses (to please others instead of herself) she found that success quickly died. It's not a particularly intuitive thing for us goal-oriented sorts, but it is one of the key secrets of the universe as I've come to understand it. So just have fun. If you meet someone and you have fun around them, if you enjoy their company, be their friend. And if you meet someone and afterward you "feel the ugly," don't be their friend (even if your goal-oriented mind tells you this is the type of person you should be networking with, or a valuable contact to get your foot in the door somewhere). If it doesn't feel good, don't pursue it. Do the same with job opportunities. With hobbies. With studies. With goal setting. Yes, you will give up opportunities. And they may feel like the "right" opportunities. But by leaving your plate open instead of filling it with those unhappy experiences, with those seemingly right opportunities, you leave yourself open for other experiences of your choosing, that make you happy, and opportunities that are truly meant for you. In the end, you end up following your dreams, without ever having set a goal, and you will be happy before the goal is reached not just afterwards. Now add to that, actually setting goals that are in alignment with what you enjoy and just imagine the possibilities. This is not rocket science. But I tell you that I know with every fiber of my being that this knowledge and acting (via choices) on that knowledge has changed my life. Yes, it really is that simple.

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