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You Don’t Need to Be Happy For Me… I can do that for myself.

Growing through the snow

photo courtesy of Steve Hodgson

Sarah:

Last week we published a post about the importance of being selfish. The jist was that we deserve to be happy and to seek personal fulfillment. I mentioned that not everyone in our lives may agree and I’d like to elaborate. Just as we, ourselves, may be rethinking a life of obligation, unfulfilling work, and strained relationships, there are those who do not see a way or a need to change this traditionally accepted view of living. Being happy can be perceived as a personal affront to some people in our lives and downright crazy to others.
You’ve decided to shake things up for yourself but, guess what? In doing so, we shake up everything. There are people in our lives who count on us to be unhappy or, at least, just so happy. What will we talk about if we’re not commiserating about our long hours, horrible bosses, chronic illnesses, or child-rearing issues? Misery does, indeed, love company. Elevating your consciousness to embrace a life of positivity and awareness of possibility also magnifies their negative focus. That doesn’t feel good. The lows feel lower. You’re no longer there to normalize their negative lens and experiences.
What do your decisions say about their life and choices? While you may not (and are probably not) intending to judge by making positive changes that suit your life and family, choosing a new way of doing things or perceiving things (and usually both) is often met with defensiveness and feelings of judgment. Why isn’t the regular way good enough for you? Are you saying you’re better than the rest of us? The way we’ve always done it is comfortable if not fulfilling and choosing something else often brings out latent insecurities in others.
For those without the awareness that it is possible, and even imperative, to make a big change in their focus and intention, your new outlook and actions based on that outlook seem entirely insane. You’ve become eccentric or a hippy or even irresponsible. If happiness is not a possibility from where that person is standing, you are doing the impossible. This often translates into countercultural actions that lead others to question your financial, medical, social, and familial responsibility (to name a few). You’ve quit your stressful, high-paying job to do something fulfilling but lower paying? Irresponsible. You’ve stopped paying for health (illness) or life (death) insurance and opted to use that money for another (and possibly more life- and health-enhancing) purpose? Irresponsible. You’ve decided to keep your kids out of school to live and learn together as a family? Irresponsible.
What do we do? Short answer? Nothing. As I said in that previous post, we are never responsible for the feelings and perceptions of others . Our decisions may jostle that person’s comfort level but we’re not here to keep others in a comfortable state of complacence. We are in charge of our own experience. A life well lived is, well, a life well lived. And that is probably the single most important thing we can give to ourselves and our children.

Barb:
Making radical change in my own life, and witnessing the enormous positive, feel good results that follow, so naturally and simply allows me to flow to the next critical shift. I become more and more comfortable everyday with the authentic and simple act of listening, watching, thinking and changing. Before I know it I feel and act like a real individual and not a drone or a robot or a fearful, whining quasi-participant in my world. The better I feel, the more responsibility I take for my thoughts and actions and the less I am concerned about what anyone thinks!

What’s even greater is that I can now fully respect and honor each person’s journey out there in the real world, never feeling the need to compare myself to them or them to me, never aligning with a desire to judge… anything or anyone. My own experience, my own developing worldview, my own thoughts, desires, wishes and actions keep me busy and focused on the monstrous potential that exists in the world I create. I am free!

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. You are both such clear lenses through which to see. Sarah, you in particular gave words to something that’s not often recognized:

    “Misery does, indeed, love company. Elevating your consciousness to embrace a life of positivity and awareness of possibility also magnifies their negative focus. That doesn’t feel good. The lows feel lower. You’re no longer there to normalize their negative lens and experiences.”

    Thank you for this!

    January 13, 2012
    • Thank you, Laura! It was (and is) important for me to understand the feelings of others but I have learned over time not to take ownership of them. It is liberating for both parties, I think. I free others to live their own lives (which sounds condescending but energetically feels for me like true love) and I, in turn, own my own power and make my choices based on my center. Understanding the initial (and sometimes lasting) external reactions to personal happiness has been important in my journey.

      January 15, 2012
  2. So true. My father is about the only person left in my life who Truly Doesn’t Get why we live the way we do, and why our goals and priorities are so different from what he and society deems they “should” be. I recognize that he has a very vested interest in feeling this way: If we are right, and our goals/dreams are not only NOT irresponsible but better than the status quo and within reach–then that means that he’s wasted his best years slaving away and missing out on a beautiful life of possibilities. At 73 years old, that’s a horribly painful conclusion, and too much to bear. He needs to believe that we’re wrong and crazy to validate his own disempowered lifestyle. Even in his retirement, he’s afraid to do anything “out of the box”, even things he’s always yearned for like travel, or owning a dog, because “it’s too late now.” (his words) I believe that his continued presence in my life is, among other things, an opportunity for compassion–and a salient reminder of who I don’t want to become.

    January 15, 2012
    • I have some experiences that are similar, Krystal. Perspective is a beautiful thing.

      Have you also gone through times in which you feel sad for or angry at your dad (or others) for their fear? I have experienced some pretty strong reactions, wanting to share and spread the wealth of living from the heart. But I think much of it stemmed from our paths feeling intertwined. When I released the bearing of their feelings on my choices and gave them back (emotionally, psychologically), I freed myself from feeling responsible for theirs as well. Make sense?

      January 15, 2012
      • Oh yes! I used to be furious at my dad, especially. I went from fighting with him and trying in vain to get him to agree with me (or at least validate my viewpoints). I put SO much stock in how he felt about my life, and of course you can’t move forward when you allow another’s judgement to own you like that. Eventually, things came to the point where we didn’t speak–for almost two years. I came to feel that his toxic way-of-being was damaging to my kids, so I cut ties. Sadly, at the time I couldn’t pull away for myself alone, but for my kids’ well-being I did so–and I thought it’d be permanent.
        It has now come full-circle. My father’s still not in favor of the way we live or think, but it’s not a “main topic” anymore, and we have evolved to the point where we now share a home (since my mother’s passing one year ago) quite peacefully. At first I thought that he had “learned to behave”–but interestingly, since *I* have let go of my need to change his feelings toward me, his opinions are more relaxed and no longer an issue. I now see how I was responsible for creating the toxicity that I saw in him. So strange–but so empowering–to see how we create our own realities, even when they seem to be other people’s “doing-to-us”! 🙂

        January 17, 2012
        • Mmm- I have recently taken stock of my responsibility for creating the elephant in the room many times- as if our differences were the only things to focus on. I was so focused on the contrast that I couldn’t see the common ground. It is a much more peaceful and thriving place to feel confident enough in myself and my decisions that they no longer make me ‘foreign’ but just ‘me.’ There are a great many other topics around which to connect with people and, whether I choose to spend large amounts of time with people or not, I am capable of having a warm and interesting conversation with almost anyone.

          January 19, 2012
  3. Steen #

    This article by far is my favorite that you ladies have written. It’s very personal for me. Ironically it came at a time where I had just decided to end certain friendships that required to much work and effort. To let go of the people who cannot and will not try to understand who I am today. As if me evolving was something that was a personal attack on them, their life or is and was too emotional for them. They had a hard time letting go of the person I was instead of embracing who I am today. As if they had lost a person who they once could relate to rather than stay with the person (me) and learn and grow from. My means to happiness was far different than theirs therefore it created a divide.
    Less than five years ago, if you asked me what was important to me and I might have said that latest Coach bag, a piece of Tiffany jewelry or the Mercedes Benz I was driving. Today what’s important to me most is me and my family’s health, living simply, creating memories, and learning.
    It took me taking inventory around my house to actually realize all this stuff is just “stuff”!! And I sat a desk and worked for hours to pay for it, insure it, repair it, etc. That’s not happiness. I felt liberated once I got rid of all of it. I downsized, I sold it until I felt the weight completely life off of me. My focus turned to comfort….to freedom. My energy went to be healthy, working out, cooking, taking more pictures, relaxing, getting back to basics. Nothing required money, status, acceptance. It was awesome! In fact conversation sparked everywhere we went about the changes we had made over several years, i.e. going holistic, eating organic, being green, renting our home vs owning, not sending our kids to school. This all certainly sparked debate amongst family & friends. And even though we are not conventional or follow the traditional path, over time, our family & friends have come forward and said “you might be right!”
    I do sometimes wonder about those failed friendships, what exactly was the turning point for them? Which life decision did I make for ME made THEM disconnect? OR did they never truly care and was it all superficial? I am leaning towards the latter. I sense that those friendships were only thriving on materialism and superficial energy. I ask myself this because there are friends that I have had 10, 15, 20 years who are still my closest and best friends and have never even threatened our friendship even with our differences. So how could these other “friends” mind so much that I was changing, or had changed?
    I am truly happier a than I have ever been, and this sense of freedom is empowering….even if that means letting of people that can’t accept it or see it🙂

    January 18, 2012
    • Thanks for your comment, Steen! I think it’s important to recognize the part we play in these disconnections. I just replied to Krystal about this. Often when we are making big changes, we are so focused on all of the new things that we are seeing and doing differently that we disconnect ourselves or at least play a big part in it. That may or may not be the issue or a positive thing. We can never know what the ‘straw’ is for another person because their perspective on the world and every situation is based on their own individual framework- built on their upbringing and life experience. And yes, letting people go is sometimes part of the process as we head in a new direction.

      January 19, 2012
  4. Patricia #

    I’ve read through a few of your posts and am curious to hear from your children. Are they happy? Do they feel fulfilled having been brought up they were brought up with these specific philosophies? Are they pursuing a life that is purely selfish or are they giving back in any way? Your version of selfish living sounds ideal but how realistic is it when everyone is being selfish? Where does kindness/togetherness/caring come into play?

    I am interested in your parenting/life theories, but also find some of your explanations of the rest of society to be grossly generalized statements. For example, not everyone who was brought up with “consistency” is in an unfulfilling job or spiritual life or relations that they do not want. And (moving on to another post) being a compassionate person does not mean telling your friend it was OK that they spanked their child….that seems like a silly example of compassionate caring. It’s about carefully caring for others, caring about others, empathizing and understanding, and then Doing as well when it is necessary/possible/wanted. Sometimes just having a compassionate friend in a time of need is all that is necessary to feel better/do better/be better. IS this not true?

    And doing what YOU want all the time isn’t always fair to the children who you are raising. Is there room in this life philosophy for selflessness? For helping others? For caring for the collective “We” rather then just the “Me” and still being happy? I have so many questions…

    February 21, 2012
    • barblundgren #

      If selfish is ideal, why would they NOT be “giving back”? The central focus of my whole life is based on GIVING and yet I consider myself to evolved to a thoroughly selfish lifestyle. See, the way it works is when I (my children too, in this case) are provided an environment in which they can be the masters of their own lives (and therefore being selfish – without ever really using that word), I (they) are always moving toward the thoughts and actions that feel strongest, most empowered to me (us). When I (they) live in such an self created world, joy is the natural result. With genuine joy comes a natural desire to want it for everyone else. Empathy, respect, genuine caring and giving are just some of the positive results.

      If you are feeling less than joyful in your engagement with your children (feeling put out or sacrificing, for example), it’s challenging of course, but in order to break free of such feelings you must find ways to meet your own desires and dreams. After all, you chose to have children, right? They are here to teach us. They are very demanding and challenging at times, but that is part of our learning experience. I know this paragraph sounds very general and it is, because I don’t know your experience.

      I welcome your question however and am ready to have a real conversation about this… and whatever else is on your mind!

      February 25, 2012

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