It never gets any easier.
One of the things about life is that it never really gets any easier. Moments of bliss might come by more frequently at one stage or another but happiness gets harder to attain (and crucially to maintain) the more life you live. The more you know, the more complicated life gets, the trickier it is to keep everything in balance, all the while keeping up your personal growth.
All the more reason however to keep on trying to get happy and stay happy! Whatever you do, never get complacent that now you’ve got it made, because that’s exactly when our bad old habits come back to haunt us. Life is a constant struggle – with contingent situations, with loved ones, with not so loved ones and most of all with ourselves.
Reading the chapter ‘June. Make time for friends’ in Gretchen Rubin’s ‘The Happiness Project’ was what stirred me to get something down into writing in the hope that some small morsel of the truth that she has distilled will remain in my thick skull. Rubin’s project was to stick to a year-long plan in which every month she would add new resolutions that she had devised at the start of the year with the intention of upping her overall happiness quotient. They constitute very varied and personal goals including Boost Energy, Remember Love, Contemplate the Heavens, Buy Some Happiness, Pay Attention and Lighten Up but we can all take something from them. They each contain complex prescriptive modes of behaviour and thinking that Rubin hoped to incorporate into her daily way of being. They elicited varying degrees of success but what is so cheering is that she undertook each of her own diktats with an open and willing heart.
She also devised many great ‘secrets of adulthood’ which are too good to share only a few here, and her Twelve Commandments. Many of the commandments struck a chord with me as some are truths I’d uncovered myself particularly from a CBT perspective. For example ‘Act the way I want to feel’, ‘Do what ought to be done’ and ‘Enjoy the process’. The best one I think covers all of them, is her twelfth commandment: ‘There is only love’.
Rubin covers small things and large and it’s hard for me not to get caught up in the many positive outcomes she describes and to want them all for myself and my partner J right now. As I read this book I find myself with a lot in common with Rubin in our implicit natures including desiring order and tidiness in the home, being good organisers of social and work events, and preferring the homely lifestyle over going to those ‘jazz clubs’ – that seem to sum up everything that we think we should be enjoying immensely, but in reality don’t at all.
As tempting as it is to forge on blindly without strategising properly, I should not get ahead of myself. My nature is still somewhat childish and it is very tempting for me to stamp my feet when I don’t get what I want because it seems incredibly obvious to me how that state, goal or object should be attained. My partner is going through some dark nights of the soul at the minute and I don’t know how or whether I should broach the subject or do anything to help. Chapter 6 showed me a way…
Just being a support is a huge help. Too often I have thought that saying encouraging words and giving my time to my partner is great but so trivial when surely what he really needs is grand gestures and material gifts or financial support. I must understand that this isn’t what I can do very well and it isn’t what would help. To contribute in the way I can is how I can lend my support. To listen patiently without getting angry is how I can help. To take time off from criticising and nagging would be a positive change. And of course, the best way of making myself happy is to make J happy. And to make him and others happy, I should be happy myself.
Too often I have kept tabs on unloving ideas of ‘fairness’. I’d pick him up for not doing the washing up because I was sure I’d done it the last three times. I’d have a go at him for coming to bed too late and messing up the following day’s routine. I would point out that surely more than a bottle of wine is enough and he should stop now.
But by picking up on these things – in my mind totally justified – I was diminishing his sense of self and making him feel bad. Perhaps I had overlooked the many bigger tasks that he has applied his brain to rather than doing trivial tasks around the house. Perhaps there were important matters that I wasn’t even aware of that he needed to use the wee hours to think through without me on his case. Perhaps there were stresses and strains, not to mention many complicated physical ailments, such as insomnia and terrible back pain, that alcohol helps with. I don’t have any of these matters in my life and nor do I drink alcohol anymore, so it’s very easy to pretend, somewhat naively, that his life is as simple as mine.
Very slowly and calmly I must find a way to proceed in life and forge my own path with understanding and forgiveness. If only I could trust in my own rightness, not in a bolshy way but with gentle self-assurance, then life in the now would truly be worth living again.