Many, many, many years ago, I had a friend who was fanatically seeking after spiritual growth. I met her while I was studying with a Lakota Sioux teacher. She was "ahead" of me on the path, and I came to believe that it was very important to her to STAY ahead of me. We shared many of the same dreams and the same general orientation to the spiritual world. As she worked and toiled to discern her spiritual paht, she never did understand my tendency to meander along that same path, picking up pretty stones and lingering on fallen logs next to singing brooks.
We maintained a push-pull friendship for many years, and then there came a day when I decided that I was no longer interested in "seeking" the way. I had come to understand that I was "on the path;" that everything I did and every choice I made was part of it all. I didn't have to go find the "spirit," I realized. I was "spirit," and everything about my life was a manifestation of that reality. So, I quit chasing the esoteric wisps of expanded consciousness. The day to day, mundane world in which I lived was, I believed, enough. There was no need to search further.
My friend was angry. Furious, in fact. "What are you doing?" she demanded. :What do you think you are going to do, now?"
"I am going to be happy," I told her. She sputtered in exasperation, turned her back, and walked away. We never spoke again. She would not answer the phone, or return my calls. Letters went unanswered. Our once parallel paths never ran in tandem again.
I embarked on a solitary path that day, and that is the first thing that I have learned about being happy. No one in responsible for making me happy. The random events of my days are not the causes of my happiness. I choose to be happy, or not. It is something that each of us does all by ourselves. No one can do it for us.
I think, from the perspective of almost six decades, that most people would say that they want to be happy, but that few ever figure out that they can BE happy. With fifteen some years in the BDSM lifestyle, I have chased after happiness myself, and I've had plenty of company while I did it. I can look back over the years, many of them documented in this blog, and see all that frantic, obsessive, compulsive flailing after the "elusive" happiness I sought. It has been, in some significant degree, the emotional equivalent of a snipe hunt (as described by Wikipedia):
“A snipe hunt, a made up hunt that is also known as a fool’s errand, is a type of practical joke that involves experienced people making fun of credulous newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task. The origin of the term is a practical joke where inexperienced campers are told about a bird or animal called the snipe as well as a usually preposterous method of catching it, such as running around the woods carrying a bag or making strange noises such as banging rocks together.”
I think that one of the important lessons I've learned in these last few years is that I can choose to be happy. I am not at the mercy of people or events. My happiness is not a function of anything that those around me do or do not do, nor is it irretrievably linked to what is going on in the external environment. Things do not have to be perfect for me to be happy. It really is a simple choice -- If you want to be happy, then be that.
So, for example, if I work myself into some big, romantic, the orchestra swells and the fireworks light up the sky, imagined encounter sort of relational expectation ... and what I get is the much more typical, weekend morning hard-on that needs to be attended to, so would you please... deal, I am likely to feel a huge letdown, and then it is pretty easy to get tipped over into feeling unhappy. Rawr, rawr, rawr, rawr...
If on the other hand, I go through my days, happy for the companionship, glad for the supports I do get, aware of the life that I get to live right here and right now, my expectations stay in line with the likely outcomes, and it is a lot easier to be happy.
That is, I suspect, the function that the once popular "gratitude journal" used to serve. Although I never got into that practice that swept the cyber universe a few years back, I can see the value of that discipline. If we look at our lives with the intent to see those things that are good and for which we ought to be grateful, then we do not look outward and compare what we have to others, and begin wishing and longing for some "better" reality. Looking at my good, comfortable home, the meals that get put on my table, the closet full of comfortable clothes, the satisfying work, the loving family that surrounds me, I am better at living for me in this moment.
So... Yeah. It is probably just that easy. Stay in the moment. Enjoy and appreciate what is. Don't compare my life to anyone else's life. Don't try to make someone else responsible for my happiness. Tah Dah!