Monday, February 4, 2008

Deciding to pursue happiness

Some time ago, after a particularly soul-sucking day at work leading people with few followership skills, I stopped by a discount store to run a fruitless errand as a favor to Mom.

Are you with me? I'm shopping for drapery hooks (how inspiring) for someone else's drapes (I hate drapes to begin with) after a long day at work (a thankless job in which I was not using my strengths or talents) . And the store has no drapery hooks. While in all likelihood it was a great day to be alive... it didn't really look like it to me at the time. I took the opportunity to be a grump.

I'm not sure why at the time this seemed related, because it doesn't follow to me now, but on that particular day, the fruitless errand caused me to notice all the couples in the store. In my aggravated state, I decided to do some unnecessary comparisons. Looking at so many people wandering the store, clearly in couple status, I wondered if I looked hard enough, would I find something in them extraordinarily different from myself.

I saw women taller, shorter, thinner, fatter, same general dimensions, longer hair, shorter hair, prettier, uglier, same degree of attractiveness... women who seemed generally happier (based on appearances only) less happy or equally happy in comparison to myself. It seemed like the only difference was fate. In their individual universes they had met someone with whom they could couple. I asked myself, "how is their universe different? Do they have different criteria for being with someone? Are some of these women, people who have equally high expectations who have still managed to see through all the cultural bullshit and find someone whose company they enjoy, whom they can converse, respect and love? ...someone who also curls their toes?"

If all of that is possible, then what would I have to do to align my universe with a similar outcome? At the time I puzzled over the idea that fate expects us to go on lifeless (perhaps an unfair generalization based on my own dating experiences) dates meeting strange people in order to find someone that you can imagine spending the rest of your life with.

And in my momentary status as a grump, I asked myself what the point of marriage is anyway? I mean, isn't it historically just a business arrangement? Nowhere near any research sources or experts on the matter I mentally extemporized that really, marriage is just a business... matchmaking, dowries, marriage contracts, annulments, prenuptial agreements. It's a simple supply and demand relationship. Historically speaking, (and again, this is from my temporary grump state) I reasoned that men needed someone to take care of their homes and provide them with children a.k.a. free labor and women needed men to give them places to live and food to eat... and of course then they would have more children who would grow up to have their own business agreements with needs to be met... supply and demand.

But it's never really that simple is it? What is the ratio of loveless marriages to happily-wedded couples now. What was the ratio in supposedly simpler times when matchmakers matched, dowries endowed, when couples met on their wedding days? Were things simpler "long ago?" Love is not a newly invented feeling or concept. People find each other all the time, enjoy spending time together, admire each other, share secrets, do kind and generous things. Sometimes this is friendship. Sometimes it is more profound.

Is love or marriage more complex nowadays? Is it simpler or the same as it always was. I have no idea, but when I see matchmaking website ads on TV it makes me wonder if we're going about the process a little backwards. It seems like so many of us have borrowed from "Jerry McGuire" and are making it our zombie-fied primary purpose to find this supposed soul mate, this person who "completes you." And we're not getting the ick-factor of it. When you begin this search for the missing part of you... that person who "completes" you, don't you put your life on hold? It becomes a scavenger hunt for soul mates. And once you find each other you are supposed to make each other happy. After winning the scavenger hunt and finding this person who will complete you and make you happy, THEN you begin your life. Not a fun game, really... because, what if at the end of the scavenger hunt you haven't found anything? You're incomplete and unhappy, not to mention being incomplete and unhappy along the way. Because face it... if you're in the search for these reasons and you haven't found your missing link, you must not be happy... and you clearly are incomplete.

Wouldn't it be more fun, not to mention more fulfilling to live your life following your passions, doing things that interest you meeting people with similar interests and passions. Get to know them and their stories, learn about the world through each other. And while you're doing all that, be a complete person, flaws and strengths, joys, triumphs and sorrows. Share with EVERYONE you love. Be happy. By yourself, with your loved ones, and for yourself. Because happiness and completeness are not gifts someone else gives to you. Happiness is a decision. Completeness... is something that describes a puzzle. A person can be an enigma, but not a puzzle. People don't need to be completed they need to be inspired, fulfilled, loved.

Meanwhile, if your quest is larger... for life and passion, the pursuit of happiness, in the end you have a journey rather than a hunt. Your journey passes through and touches many lives. And all the while you hold onto the belief that by living in search of life and passion, you will be happy, inspired, loved, fulfilled. And living that way, will lead you to all of your soul-mates... not just one. Because if your dearest friends and family are not also your soul-mates how complete is your life's puzzle?

And if leading a life in pursuit of happiness and passion does not lead you to just one soul-mate with whom you have a mutually fulfilling, loving and intimate relationship, then at least you were happy along the way following your passions, feeding your interests, loving your family and friends and hopefully making a positive impact on the world.

How's that for a former grump from the aisles of a discount store? I may not be the Dalai Lama, but I'm sure I'm happy. I made that decision a while ago.

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