Saturday, January 29, 2011

Looking for Answers

When things don’t make sense most of us try to seek answers. The way in which we seek these answers varies. Some people turn to drink or drugs- others to God and church and just about everything in between. 

I started studying astrology books when I was about 14, then psychology; occasionally I reverted to my Catholic upbringing, seeking answers in a book I didn’t understand and for the most part didn’t believe. I wrote in journals, smoked and drank and still the answers I was seeking never revealed themselves.

By the time I was 19 years old, I had already experienced many things that did not make sense, but then the worst thing happened. My best friend’s four-year-old nephew, a boy the same age as my little niece, died. 

Grief surrounded the family, my other family, and changed everyone forever.  I remember writing in my tear stained journal, hoping I could write a great story someday and dedicate it to Baby Warren, because I knew I would never forget him. I never have.

Baby Warren’s funeral was the first I ever attended. His tiny coffin in the chapel was just the saddest thing I had ever seen.  Every face there was tear-stained and hopeless, angry and sad. Everyone wondered why.

Since then I have attended so many funerals I can’t really count anymore. None as young as Warren; but many were too young to leave this earth; just barely touching the ground. 

Earlier this month my son’s 53 year - old father died suddenly after returning home from a day of work.  Some of us- the left behinds are wondering why. Why so soon? Why now? Why?

The first person to call me and make sure I was okay was that same best friend whose nephew died forty years earlier.

I always wonder if there is some lesson in it for us left behinds. And, of course there are several. I say it all the time. Life is short. Yet still I’m always shocked when someone’s life is cut short.  

The other lessons seem so obvious but we forget them all the time. Love your family and friends. Be there when they need you. Enjoy the little things like an ice cream cone on a sunny day and the big things like the Grand Canyon. Understand your significance in the grand scheme and in the moment.

The Japanese Buddhist have an annual event called Obon. It is believed that each year during Obon the spirits of ancestors and loved ones return to this world to visit their relatives. This Japanese Buddhist custom is to honor the souls of one's ancestors and is celebrated as a reminder of the gratefulness one should feel toward one's ancestors and loved ones.  I will attend Obon this year- and gratefully remember all my loved ones and ancestors that have left this material world.

With the passing of my son’s dad, Jon, I went once again looking for answers. This time I have found something I am willing to accept, as well as some peace of mind. I dug out my old book “The Teaching of Buddha” that I bought at the Buddhist Bazaar 15 years ago. I read it then- but now I understand.

If we are lucky, we will be remembered forty years after we are gone. Someone will think about us and remember the love, the hugs, the silly smile, the belly laugh, and the wise eyes.

If we are lucky, we will be loved long after we are gone because that is what helps those who are left behind.

I took a lovely walk with my son today and we remembered a fun time with his dad at the same park. We laughed remembering his dad manning the paddle boat while I gave up  and smoked a cigarette and Nick said “Faster daddy, faster!” 

There is a way to let them go and hang on at the same time.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

How Happy Are You?

Katie and Linda

My best advice, my big words of wisdom; not unique in any form, which I often share are: “Life is too short to be miserable. Sometimes I change the words a bit.  “Life is too short to be unhappy.” “Life is too short to waste it on some asshole, bitch or moron (fill in your word). All variations of the same theme. Life is short- be happy.

Now I am the first to tell you, people who are happy all the time are annoying at best. Life has some horrible shit going on… and if you are anything more than a carrot-you must feel some of the misery in the world.  So we have to find the happy (no pun intended) medium. It’s okay to be occasionally unhappy but try to not be depressed. It’s okay to be pissed off but not crazy. It’s okay to be happy but don’t go overboard.

On New Years Day I blogged about how much I like the New Year- the fresh start, and I do. But it also made me wonder why everyone doesn’t take advantage of the new year to clean house- take inventory and figure out if you are happy or not- and if not- why and is it easily fixed or will it entail attorneys fees, transplantation, amputation or just a simple vacation?

They say money can’t buy happiness, but most of the people I know right now would be happier with some money or are miserable without it. I know people with no jobs that would be happy if they could get a job but not so happy if the job cost them more to get to than they would make.

I know people in relationships that are not happy- some  have forgotten what happy is, or happy has lowered its standards to make them content. Content- in my book is not happy. Content is eh…  it’s copasetic, it’s beige. Others are just plain miserable.

Happy is excited. Excited to wake up, to see the clouds in the sky, and hear the birds chirping; listen to a baby giggle, watch the sunset and gaze at the stars. Happy is savoring life with all your senses. Happy is a soft, warm home baked cookie - content is a hard, cold store bought cookie.

I was not a happy baby or for much of my adult life either- until my late 30’s. My older sister looked in the sky and saw rainbows and I saw dark clouds. We were raised in the same house. I was always good at sizing up a situation though and understood at a very early age- maybe as early as three years old, that my parents were not one bit happy with each other.  Of course, the fighting was a huge clue.

Life always gives us huge clues- but we obstinately ignore them until they suit our needs. Or we tell ourselves we have to compromise. Now I am single, but if you’re a couple I do understand that occasionally you have to see a movie you don’t really want to see or eat at a restaurant you’re not crazy about. But how much of your core values should you have to compromise?   Should you give up friends, family, animals? For anyone? Ever?  No-  I don’t think so. I think if someone is asking any of those things of you- you have a big – no a giant clue- that things are not right. Fixable? Maybe. But generally speaking – I have met a million people in my life and selfish does not usually get better.

Happy- I suppose is relative for some. I am happy to be alive but I don’t really shout it from the roof top due to a fear of heights and a natural inclination to downplay things.  I wonder sometimes if I would be happier with a life partner- some guys to cook for and play scrabble with or cuddle and watch a movie with too. But the truth of it is- I would only be happier if I didn’t have to change me at all. That’s probably not very fair of me- but it’s the truth. I’m happy with myself – and it took me so long to get here- it’s just not up for compromise.

Misery is extreme unhappiness. It’s what unchecked unhappiness leads to. It starts in the morning when you don’t want to get up – when the chirping birds piss you off and you want to kick the dog that is barking hello. It goes to the grocery store with you when you bitch about the price of something and gripe because the clerk is too slow. When you get to work you bring your headache, your ass ache your negative bullshit and make everyone around you listen to your sniveling all day. Then you go home, ignore the dog, say mean things to your family, bitch about everyone at work, and wonder why no one wants to be around you. Misery is a horrible cancer- a blight on humanity. If you have it- stay away from me.

So my question to all of you tonight is how happy are you? Are you happy or content? Miserable?  If you could change your life would you?