Is Life Too Short for Anything but Happiness?

“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”

This quote from José N. Harris’s book Mi Vida: A Story of Faith, Hope and Love, that’s posted all over Facebook, is really making me think what life is all about.

leapWe want to be happy of course, but Harris makes it seem as if anything but happiness has no real place in life. But . . . When someone dies, is that supposed to make us happy? When we have a painful or fatal disease, is that supposed to make us happy? When people all around us are suffering torments about which we can only guess, is that supposed to make us happy?

Are we supposed to walk away from children who don’t make us happy or throw them out of the house and force them walk away from us? Are we supposed to abandon an aged parent that doesn’t make us happy? Age changes people, and seldom for the better. In many cases, the elderly get mean and demanding and selfish, putting unbearable burdens on their caretaking children, but is that a reason to abandon them?

Are we supposed to walk away from people who need us because we can’t handle their suffering? This happens all too often to people whose mates are dying, especially if it’s a slow death, and it happened to me. At first, people were concerned and supportive, but as the dying continued for months and then years, people faded away because they couldn’t handle my suffering. I couldn’t walk away because I was tied to the pain and agony through love and caring for my dying mate, and that unhappiness became intensified when I found myself alone with no one to talk to because everyone else was concerned only with happiness. In fact, there was a note of disdain to those who walked away, as if somehow I brought the disaster on myself.

Perhaps it is understandable, this abandonment of people who are unhappy, but it’s not very kind. It’s not as if we chose to be unhappy — we had our trauma thrust upon us. We did the best we could to survive under appalling circumstances. Those who abandoned us couldn’t deal with our unhappiness for the duration of a phone call, yet we had to deal with it every minute of every day. Was I supposed to be happy my life mate/soul mate was dying? Was I supposed to act as if my life were fun and games? I did what I could to find peace during those times, did what I could to separate my feelings from his. He was the one dying, after all. I only had to live.

It’s ironic, actually, all this demand for happiness from Christians, for isn’t the whole point of Christ that he suffered for us? He didn’t come to Earth to be happy for us, but to suffer for us. So why our insistence on being happy?

I do think we need a certain amount of happiness, and it’s our responsibility to be as happy as possible, but to just walk away from those who, through no fault of their own, cause us unhappiness seems a bit too self-centered to me. I do understand that we shouldn’t have to deal with abusive situations or situations that destroy us, but a little unhappiness never hurt anyone.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Today Is a Good Day and I Am Feeling Fine

On the advice of a friend, I have been doing a daily affirmation, telling myself I am happy, but it doesn’t work for me because I’m not sure I want to be happy. Un-unhappy, yes. Unsad, yes. Contented, of course. At peace, for sure. But happy? It’s not a state I’ve ever aspired to. I’ve always believed other things are much more important, things such as love, truth, purpose, freedom, kindness, integrity. Happiness means many different things to many people, but to me, happiness has an element of giddiness, of being glad to be alive, of effervescence, maybe. I prefer being centered, not tipping toward happiness or sadness, but unafraid of my tomorrows, satisfied with my yesterdays, at peace with my todays.

To that end, I have changed my daily affirmation to “This is a good day and I am feeling fine.” This affirmation was gift from my yoga instructor, a short meditation to help us get through the holidays. She suggested we sit quietly, breathe in thinking “This is a good day,” and exhale thinking “I am feeling fine.” And it works for me. Of course, it helps that my days now are good, no real traumas, no sock-to-the stomach bouts of grief, just a slow gentle roll into sadness now and again, and a slow gentle roll back to center. The few tears, when they come, seem more nostalgic than debilitating.

The past couple of days have been especially good — lovely weather, clear skies, warm sun, breezes no stronger than a breath. And I am feeling fine. No overwhelming aches and pains, no worry or stress to weigh down my shoulders. I’m standing tall, breathing deep, opening myself up the world and the future.

I’m still not sure where I am going, what I am looking for, what I expect to find. For now, it’s enough that I am continuing to open myself to possibilities, continuing to believe that today is a good day and I am feeling fine.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

Getting a Life

When I mentioned to a new acquaintance that I often walk two hours a day, she gave a snide little laugh and said, “You have no life.”

Getting a life seems to be a common concern in recent years, but what is a life? And where do you get one? Lifes R Us?

I don’t know how that odious terminology came into being or what it means. Often, especially in movies, “Getting a life,” refers to dating and looking for a mate, but since the woman who accused me of having no life had also recently lost her mate, that couldn’t be what she meant. Does having a life mean having a job? I’m in a transitional stage right now where I don’t have a job, and am not currently looking. And anyway, I’ve never found working for others to be particularly satisfying, so a job can’t be categorized as a “life.” Could “a life” refer to emotions, to feeling? Well, recently I’ve had enough emotions to fill an oil tanker, so that can’t be what she meant, either. Could “having a life” mean having fun? But that takes us into a whole other discussion: what is fun? Most of what people do for fun seems torturous to me, so I’ll stick to walking.

I’m only being a bit facetious here. The truth is, if you are alive, you have a life. It might not be satisfying — it might even be painful — but it is a life. Life is experiences, both good and bad. Life is waking and sleeping. Life is being with friends and being alone. Life is reading and writing. Life is eating and dieting. Life is success and failure. Life is tears and laughter. Life is everything we are and everything we wish to be. Life is. 

Get a life? I have a life. And so do you.