Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Comfortable where you are?

This past week has been another tough one - but manageable. My "schedule" has been altered by occasional bouts of throwing up and other "illness related" messes made by the kids. Even though the boys are sick, I've had a lot of time spent at home to reflect.

By the world's yardstick I could be considered failing - a divorced mom of three tiny boys with little more than 2 years at college without a defined skill set to support myself - but I know what I am capable of and the direction I am headed in, and am at peace with where God has me. Deep down, where no one else is looking - I am truly happy. I no longer bow to the court of popular opinion. The tiny amount of wisdom I have learned in my situation is that I do not need the approval of others to be at peace.

Um, what?!?!?

Considering that the approval of others used to RULE my life, this is a very significant and meaningful change for me. Where did it come from? Learning the hard way.

The majority of people who ask, "How are you doing?", do NOT really want to know the answer. The minute you begin to explain how life is going for you, they glance at their watch, yawn, and pretend to be interested, smiling and nodding. People don't want to discuss the "tough" subjects, hear "sad" stories or be "brought down" in any way. Instead of being an encouragement to others, showing kindness, being merciful - they are solely focused on themselves and their own accolades. A compliment is rarely turned away, while a plea for help frequently is. I have learned that the proper answer to this question is, "Great! How about you?" One word. Seriously. Learning that fact has never lets me down. Being more guarded is safer, smarter. For the record, if *I* ask someone that question, I actually want to know.

And, if you *REEEEALLY* want to know what my day goes like... this would be the best way to describe it....

What I hear the most today is that people just want to be "happy". When I hear this phrase, I immediately cringe. For so many people, being "happy" involves abandoning responsibilities and PEOPLE in their lives for the fulfillment of their own immediate pleasure. For others it is living a mediocre, selfish life obsessed with appearance and fashion. For yet others it means drinking and watching football to make the "voices" and bad feelings go away. It makes them HAPPY. But, is chasing THIS happiness inherently wrong?

Webster defines the word "happy" in a way that most people would be surprised by: 1. Characterized by good luck; fortunate. 2.Enjoying, showing, or marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy. 3.Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase. 4.Cheerful; willing: happy to help.

So, essentially - you're either lucky, enjoying something pleasurable or joyous, adaptable, or cheerful and willing to help others. The first half of the definition is fleeting and completely based on current circumstances, riddled with chances for disappointment. It creates the up-and-down rollercoaster effect in our lives. If that is what you focus on - it is a set-up to failure... not all of the time, but at least some of the time. The second is built within a person's heart, which you can keep with you always regardless of whatever tragedy or triumph you face - neat, huh? :)

Now for the BUMMER. If our life depends on happy circumstances, then we are in for supreme disappointment. The fact is, life has good moments, but is overall about hard work, long-suffering, and eventually death. These aren't bad things, it's just the way the world was designed. Our good looks wear out, our energy level declines, our body breaks down, our money is spent, and we lose people we care about.  If our goal is to deal with the difficult things with grace and honesty, then we will be just fine. Even when our circumstances leave a lot to be desired, our hearts remain strong and steadfast in our cause to endure and overcome. Even when we fail, we know that there is something greater out there waiting for us.

The vast majority of folks are going through the motions of their lives, chasing after good feelings ("happiness") and not paying attention to where they are going or how they are getting there. It is truly shocking how much people lie, even on a daily basis. Think about it - an omission, a kind yet insincere phrase to make someone feel better, a glossed over version of the truth... all of these are essentially misrepresentations of the truth. I wonder how often people are completely honest? Simply put - we cannot trust the words or even the actions of others. The only thing we can know for certain is the ongoings of our own hearts, and our own unedited thoughts and feelings that float around in there. The more honest we are with ourselves, the more fulfilled, unburdened and peaceful we can live in our daily lives.

I have changed so significantly from the girl I once was. The things I treasured before: monetary success, education, diplomas, appearance, my marriage, my home.... are all fading in importance.

Scripturally (those of you who aren't believers just tune this part out...) -in Matthew 13:44, Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." - I know just what this man felt like, because I have done the same thing. My eyes are focused on one thing - the wonder of God's creation. The beauty he intends for us to see - INVISIBLE beauty. All that matters to me is what is in that "field". Thankfully, I find my joy in my children, in helping others and in my faith. I like that my heart for others will never abandon me, or grow to be wrinkly and shriveled, and that it is with me always. Matthew 6:21 states, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (NOTE: My faith is something personal to me, and I am in no way trying to "convert" anyone. These are just raw thoughts from a very honest place.)

So, in light of this consideration, how do you define your personal happiness based on the list? It is a great week to take stock in your own heart and consider what is important to you...

1. Characterized by good luck; fortunate?
2.Enjoying, showing, or marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy?
3.Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase?
4.Cheerful; willing: happy to help?

As a result of the changes I made, I feel less burdened and tired now than I did as a teenager, and  my responsibilities have increased 100 fold. I am so thankful I took the time to really consider what life was all about before I made decisions that would rob me of my joy!


  1. Love it! that pic of you is beautiful!!

  2. Well said! I agree completely and wholeheartedly!

  3. Very insightful, Erin! Nice job!!!

  4. Very deep post with regards to happiness. Your "situation"; or should i say experience has definately contributed to your view of the human existance in a positive way.
    I've read a few of your posts now going backwards and find you to be a very brave person in the true sense of the word brave. What i like most though is your thought process.
    It's very refreshing to see a person with some depth to them in "action".

  5. Thank you! I am touched by what you said so deeply. So much of the time I am very afraid, but I continue to lean on God and trust that I am right where he wants me. You really brightened my day - I hope I can only improve with time and maturity as life continues to throw wrenches my way.