Tag Archives: philosophy

The Continued Pursuit of Happiness


A couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend shopping with a friend.  Before that, if anyone had asked, I would have said there was zero chance of finding this man in a store unless it was a tackle shop or Home Depot, and I certainly never would have pictured me along for the ride.  However, the man needed one of life’s necessities, at least one of a middle-aged man’s necessities: The Recliner.  Yes we were shopping for a new recliner and flannel sheets. I believe I gave the man sheet-envy talking about my new flannel sheets (see earlier BLOG post “Comfort and Joy” https://freethetwins.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/comfort-joy/).

I have known almost since the first day we met that this is a man with very simple needs.  All this particular man seems to need to be happy is a comfortable chair, a comfortable bed, a big screen TV and enough hot water to provide him with a long, warm shower after work each night.  Just four simple things are all that is needed to make him perfectly content with life.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this since our shopping trip.  My list of what it takes to make me happy and content in life is quite a bit longer.  I keep wondering if the key to my own happiness lies somewhere in this simple tale.

Most middle -aged men I meet seem to be content whether they have a woman in their life or not.   They have their jobs, their hobbies, add a strong cup of coffee in the morning and they’re good to go.  For instance, nothing would change in this particular man’s life if he didn’t know me.  He would sit in his same comfy chair, watch his same television programs, go to his same job, and sleep comfortably and content in his new flannel sheets.

Women, on the other hand, are searching for someone to share life with.  For the women I know, myself included, it’s about who you’re with not so much what you’re doing.  Perhaps it’s because women are raised to be nurturers and spend a great deal of their adult lives taking care of others and making other people’s lives – children, spouses, parents — more comfortable.  Even if we’re not married a large portion of our self-identity is often derived from who we choose to nurture.

Most of us have been used to taking care of the kids and the shopping and the house cleaning and the dry cleaner and the laundry and had little time left for developing hobbies.  When we had free time we spent it catching up with a good friend over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, sharing experiences and learning from each other.  For instance, my friend’s joy was derived from his new chair, while mine came from sharing time with him.

Now that the kids are grown and many of us live alone again perhaps we should take this opportunity to learn from men how to relax and be content alone. Maybe we should learn to put ourselves first, find a hobby that brings us joy, and stop being concerned about how the rest of the world is doing.  We may find it makes us happier, but will it make the world a better place?


Catholicism May Save Me in the End


By McKenzie James

Some of my friends have been worried about me of late.  I appear to be in a depression that is deeper and has gone on longer than I’ve experienced in the past.  It is true that I’m not my usual optimistic self and that anti-depressants are not working their magic.

Part of the explanation is that things in my life really are at a low point right now.  I have financial difficulties, my best friend in the area is very ill, I am going to have to move again, I’ve been robbed, my heart’s been broken, my job is particularly stressful, winter’s here suck and the holidays bring their usual reminder of just how dysfunctional my family really is.  All of these are things I’ve experienced and gotten through before but never in such abundance at the same time.

I remember a colleague telling me years ago that depression is simply anger turned in on oneself.  I never quite understood it before but lately, thinking about what’s taking place in my life right now, I think I finally get it.  I really am angry at myself for the position I find myself in.  Other than my friend’s illness, and the weather, I can’t seem to find anyone, or anything, to blame any of it on other than myself.

I am the one who made the decisions that got me exactly where I am today.  I chose to move back to Weird Town, I chose to accept my current job, I have obviously not handled my finances very well (which is especially embarrassing for someone whose spent a lifetime working in Finance and Accounting), I am the one who didn’t double-check whether or not the garage door was working when the weather changed (thereby allowing my burglars to walk right in), and although my lover did treat me badly I’m the one who let him come back into my life after breaking my heart the first time and gave him the opportunity to do it again.

All this said, I want to assure all my friends and loved ones who have been calling to check in on me, that no matter how bad life gets I’m grateful for each and every one of you and I would never take my own life (which I know is what you are all really worried about even though you don’t come right out and say it).

It’s simple: regardless of how hellish my life here on earth becomes being raised Catholic has left me with such an insurmountable fear of the afterlife that I will gladly suffer here forever rather than move on.  Intellectually I know that once we die we simply return to the earth and our energy disburses, but emotionally Catholicism has left me with a fear of the burning hell fires that I can’t get over.

Every time I think perhaps life is not all it’s cracked up to be I am reminded of the alternative and I’m fighting to stay alive with a willpower few can surpass.  For I know, having been a hellion and rebel most of my life, that I am not likely to find myself lulling around on a bed of clouds playing harp music and eating chocolates.  Oh no, if I’m wrong about my atheism I will find myself in burning fires being prodded with a pitchfork every few moments to remind myself of just how much fun I had in my youth.  So friends, never fear, I’m here for the duration however long that may be and I’ll be fighting to remain here on this good earth with my last dying breath.


Letters to Asher (Letter 2)


-A-

I wish there were a literary equivalent of a dramatic unveiling. Some gesture that could be captured in the curve of a ‘V’ to illuminate the way a hand can swoop down, grab a curtain, and then swoop up again to reveal a grand truth. Humans seem to be cursed with this endless pursuit of truth, of knowledge. We have created an entire field around it, with such precision of the word being granted to having a sliding scale, from theory to fact. It gives us a strange sense of superiority to know something, when in reality we are simple little dolls, thrumming to the beat of music we refuse to listen to. Day in and day out I am concerned with the mundane aspect of my own existence. Convinced that whatever psychological turmoil is seizing my heart at that moment is of such brilliant importance that it is vital that I write it down, capture it in some way. Even in my egotistical rages, some semblance of me can appreciate the irony of wanting to capture these fleeting moments in the belief that they are eternal.

Tonight you spoke of cowardice. You used a slightly more vernacular vocabulary, but I’m sure it will quirk your smile a little bit to see me wrap it in the pretty bow of eloquence. Life, in this little ones humble opinion, is simply too short to not use as many words as possible. Smarter creatures than I uttered ‘you will find poetry nowhere if you do not carry some of it with you’.  Are you bemused by this idea? I am so curious about you. We are all cursed with chasing after anything that is difficult. I found myself fiercely defending a person not telling the truth about their emotions because for so long I was that figure, the joker thinking it was their pretty words that made people laugh and not their very existence. Siddharta explained that you must go through life with the conviction that everyone around you has achieved perfect enlightenment, and that any behavior towards you is done in order to help you achieve it as well. I try to hold on to this thought when frustrated, angry, or sad. Breathing in and out and learning to practice patience, to smile when I am angry, to control my emotions and outbursts to the point of knowing how they shape me, instead of waking up one day, twenty years down the line, and realizing that I have no idea how I got there.

If I were to assume that you were perfectly enlightened then, what would I learn from you? I would learn to never shy away from how I am feeling, you saw my cowardice for what it was and held it up in ugly light. It is hardest to see your faults held in hands that you find completely perfect, there is nowhere else to look. You forced me to recognize my own worth, my own brilliance. It was the cruelest line you wrote to me in that letter, those compulsory days of solitude which we failed at so miserably. So much of that letter made me taste bitterness, realization that I had unfairly condemned you and worse off, reduced myself to this pathetic figure that I had always despised. My biggest fear is to realize that I am not brave, that in reality I am mundane, a person so castrated by trepidation that I lose out on anything worthwhile. Cowardice may not be honorable, but it is certainly safe. You always know where cowardice will take you. I was a coward when it came to love before because I was so fearful of being found out. If you forever hold people at arms length, all they see is a mystery and not a scared little girl begging for an excuse to just breathe the way she wants to. The former is much easier to maintain, albeit lonelier. I want a brave love, a person that is mine, that is proud of me and cannot wait to hold my hand. I refuse, however, to give to this love in any way. I tip toe around the ugly parts, soothe tempers and bite my tongue when upset. I must be easy, I must be simple, I must be perfect for whomever is laying next to me at the time. Once the first flowers fade I am already finding excuses to leave, discovering cracks in what I had painted to be a perfect picture, pitfalls that I do not even consider attacking. The only celebration we have, however, is that moment when we realize that we can no longer live in constant fear, that the darkness is suffocating, not soothing, and that with our hair a mess, and our eyes still sleepy, we grab whatever weapon we can and charge forward. I have found this lesson in you as well, because if you are lost, then the ground will shake and split open and I will fall in. So I will give you everything I have, I have no other option.

Finally, in you I learn what it means to rise to a challenge, confront demons. Force myself to stand up in the back of the truck and scream into the wind because I demand to be heard.

I love you madly, in that way that begs of you not love in return but rather, your scorn and your anger. I wish with fervent necessity to have that which is most base about you, if it is simply thrown at me with little regard to where it lands is fine. I demand you, every time I wrap thin fingers around yours it is with the childish hope that I will be able to capture some part of your essence that I swear is hiding from me. If I could have you in your weakest moments, when you are angry and out of control, when your perversions have captured you and you are enraged and engorged by things you cannot comprehend I will be happy. When you bend over me, naked and sullied with the dirty interactions of two people laughing at the cosmos with desperate desire and your eyes intensify while you look at me, give me that in all its completion. Give me that, and I will stop wreaking havoc on your perfect plans (I swear). I want to drag you outside in the rain and the mud, I don’t want to taste your lips in sweet kisses but rather tear at your skin until you bleed, broken and despondent. I want you, all your stupidity and imperfections, your anger, your repressed need to feel sanctioned and approved, your disastrous belief that you will find immortality through beauty.

Give me every dark corner of yourself and I swear I will be happy

I love you today.

Matilda


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