Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happiness is....

Man needs, for his happiness, not only the enjoyment of this or that, but hope and enterprise and change."
~Bertrand Russell

Happiness is ___________.

How would you answer that question? Could you answer that question?

I began to think about this while listening to my daughter talk to her friend about people who are too happy. Apparently those people annoy her to no end. She explained that she personally likes to be happy but with a normal amount of unhappy mixed in (she's 11 by the way).

I guess we all know those people who are always super positive no matter what the circumstance. The Sponge Bob verses Squidward view of the world (did I mention I have an 11-year-old?).

I know my fair share of Squidwards. No matter what the conversation they find a way to turn it into how terrible their lives are. Those that live in an eternal pity party and they want to invite you. I have come to avoid them if possible.

Then I know people who seriously have real reasons to be defeated but remain strong and optimistic. A friend of mine is fighting cancer, moving soon, her daughter scheduled for surgery right when they're moving, but her bright sides are not losing her hair, her amazing family and friends and her great sense of humor.

Another woman I ran into recently dealing with health problems, a terrible divorce and countless other things that one person should not have to deal with in one year. Rather than look defeated she smiles and says it will all be okay because she has faith and great people in her life.

So what makes one person able to stay so strong while another crumbles at the smallest of issues?

What makes us happy?

For most it's not just one thing but a list of happiness requirements. I picked the top quote for that reason. At least when I look at my personal happiness it's a combination of things. Doing things I enjoy, having something to look forward to as well as the possibility of change in areas I'm not happy tend to keep me positive.

But if you truly are not happy at the moment the question needs to be reworded. I'm not happy because _________.

I spent years not happy in my marriage. Not that people would look at me during that time and say I was a miserable person, I've always been outwardly positive, but in a way that once I was free people could see a lightness to me. My kids could see a spark they hadn't seen. It was taking 160 pounds of pure sadness and deciding I couldn't hold it anymore.

Sometimes it is a relationship that makes us happy. My son has his first girlfriend and I feel like I'm in a body snatcher scene; who are you and what have you done with my kid?

My friend just got promoted at work and that makes her happy, combined with hitting personal goals in triathlons.

Vacation, travel or any change in our environment can often help us reboot our joy.

For some, it's a deep faith or religion that brings the peace they need.

Two of my friends would say it's fantastic wool, knitting needles and free time.

I love the quote from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Maggoch:
"Everything will be alright in the end so if it's not alright it is not the end."

I look at that quote to mean if it's not alright then it's not time to give up. The end is when you decide there is nothing left to change or make better.

So find the right question that fits your world at the moment because if it's not alright it's not the end.

"Happiness is an inside job."
~William Arthur Ward

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Throwing Stones

"Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

So little Lancaster County. Known as the home of the Amish. Quiet and peaceful right? Farms, Turkey Hill products and apple butter. What more could you want?

Yeah.

We know our version of horror and drama. Our news is not that different from any other city. So when a five year old was abducted it was horror and drama-as it should be.

But as seen with all horror stories emotions run high.

Let me be clear, the girl was found. In fact it's amazing how she was found. A few students from my alma mater (being the Lancaster City School District who often don't get the respect they deserve) decided that with the police and media surrounding their neighborhood they would do their own search.

What kids do that today? They would have to leave their Xbox and possibly NOT beat the next level!

These amazing boys not only went searching but found this young girl. Knowing the neighborhood well they were able to intimidate the suspect enough for him to set her free. She only asked for her Mommy and held on to her rescuer like he was a super hero. In a way he is, at least to her and her family.

But now I'm shocked and saddened by the amount of people blaming the mother and grandmother for such a terrible tragedy (there were signs the girl had experienced abuse). The media, as always, has helped this matter. They give partial information to paint the picture they want you to see.

But to blatantly blame anyone but the monster who did this is turning a knife that has already been inserted.

I for one have made my share of parenting mistakes. None, thankfully, have lead to anything newsworthy but that may be just the luck of the drawl. I have three children and I admit to being overwhelmed, stressed and possibly less vigilant than I should have been  on occasion when they were little. So who am I to ever pass judgement on someone who had a completely bad card thrown at them.

I'm sure they are feeling every ounce of pain and guilt on their own without having the media or random people also condemning them.

So I ask you, have you been a perfect parent or person? Can you look back on your life and not see times when you thought "that could have been so much worse, I really lucked out."

If you can, well, you either have a selective memory or you're 12 ( and even that is questionable).

As with the Sandy Hook massacre, the Amish school house shooting or any other horrific crime that leaves behind external victims, let them heal.

Let them face their demons and heartbreak without additional pain thrust at them for no other reason than a need to point fingers and raise emotions.

I beg of you. Let them heal.

"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."
John 8:7




Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Compromise

"You may either win your piece or buy it: win it, by resistance to evil; buy it, by compromise with evil."
~John Ruskin~

Greetings from Amsterdam. I'm here for approximately the 10th (if not more) time in the last four years. It has become a home away from home since my boyfriend (now fiance) lives here.

He is trying very hard to find a position in the U.S. so we can create a more normal life. I've compromised the fact that I'd be willing to relocate as long as it's logistically possible from a children's shared custody perspective.

It's a difficult compromise for both of us but only in relation to our ideas and expectations of the future.

While here we were told by a friend that he may have to do business with an organization that has been less than upstanding and moral in the past. Business is business and often in our jobs we have to compromise to help sustain our lives, feed our families and save our dreams.

But what do we lose in compromising our integrity or morality? Is it a bit of a sell out or selling of ourselves?

Maybe.

And in a place like Amsterdam it's easy to make that comparison when walking through the Red Light District or smelling the distinct aroma of marijuana wafting from the Coffee Shops. The Netherlands has been struggling with the idea of shutting down such practices for over 100 years but compromises to save the tourism and economy by simply containing it in a small area.

Most of these prostitutes are from other countries just trying to survive and most of their clients are tourists (as in the coffee shops) just here for the experience. A quiet little street can have a sex shop two doors down from the cutest little bakery or centuries old church.

Of course Amsterdam is so much more than pot and prostitutes. It's amazing architecture, history, art, culture and the beauty of a city intertwined with canals and stories. The part many find immoral is only a tiny aspect of an overall amazing place.

Isn't that every one of us? We can live our lives in the best, most morally upstanding way possible but every so often, since we're human, we'll have to challenge, test, bend or even ignore something in our fundamentals either because we have to or simply because we make a mistake.

We compromise ourselves.

We compromise ourselves countless times in life; with friends, children, co-workers, customers, spouses or even strangers on occasion. We bend from our wants or beliefs because it's an end to a mean. It can quiet an unhappy child, keep peace in a marriage, or bring about a boost in a failing business.

So can good and evil share the same space through compromise? It does in each and every one of us really. No one is 100 % good. We all have our faults, mistakes, vices or issues and anyone that says otherwise is delusional.

It's a matter of going into such tricky negotiations desperately holding onto what values we have, with eyes wide open to our own self preservation.

When I think about doing business with the devil sort of speak I think of my grandfather's experience with Donald Trump.

My grandfather built up a very prosperous roofing company. A man with a third grade education who built ships during the war created a business that thrived and employed many in Southern New Jersey. He was hired by Mr. Trump to do work on his casinos many years ago. Unfortunately it was shortly before Mr. Trump declared bankruptcy therefore leaving my grandfather with millions in revenue he would never be paid.

Of course Mr. Trump is wealthier than ever but he'll never have to honor those debts. And many good companies and people will do business with him and benefit. In fact I'm certain Mr. Trump does many good things for organizations that need it. Is that the devil trying to ease his conscious or is he simply so conflicted morally he doesn't always see right from wrong?

The dichotomy in most of us is never so pronounced as Two-Face in the comic books but we always have to recognize the complexity that is every person. We may not understand or even agree but until we know every detail of what that person stands for, lives with or struggles through we cannot judge any compromise that seems, to them, in their best interest.

What have you compromised on today, this week, this month, this year? If you think back the answers might surprise you.

"They say it is better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable, but how about a compromise like moderately rich and just moody?"
~Princess Diana~