Friday, February 2, 2018

Why is happiness so elusive?

I have everything modern society has promised us short of a flying car. I have a strong, conscious marriage, a healthy child who has access to ideas and mentors, clean air, technology to reduce labors and increase entertainment. I'm well-educated and free to move about, and express my opinions. We have plenty of income, few debts, no crippling diseases or unfortunate habits. I have skills that are valuable and no significant moral dilemmas.

But a cloud remains. I can't seem to shake these persistent demons that simply ruin everything.

The source of un-happiness seems to come packed in four main boxes.

  1. >>My hidden talents will soon be discovered. And implicitly, those talents will emerge fully formed, wow all witnesses and catapult me to a new level of greatness. This is a childhood fantasy that I still have to actively tamp down. I recall skateboarding one day, bored, ignored, out of place, and imagining that I would be discovered for my natural skateboard talent. 
    • This collection of talents are so hidden, that I am not even aware of them!
    • That always set me up for disappointment because instead of being in the moment skateboarding, and getting better or discovering something else I liked more I was just waiting. Waiting for someone else to come in like deux ex macina and pull me out of my dreary life. 
    • Walter Mitty-like, I was daydreaming to avoid a sense of rejection or displacement that came with being alone at that time. 
    • This lack of ownership of my skills is also noteworthy. I had no idea what was valuable in the world so anything could be deemed valuable by some third party. What I valued  wasn't only NOT part of my equation, it wasn't even considered. 
  2. >>I'm going to be the best ever at... whatever random thing is immediately in front of me. 
  3. The Cutie Mark Crusaders try every possible
    activity they can think of to earn their
    cutie marks in, while being oblivious
    to their natural talents.
    • I have countless memories of being frustrated that I wasn't good at stuff. But before I recognized that, a little voice in my head said gleefully "I'm going to be the best kayaker there has ever been! This kayaking is my destiny!"
    • But I hardly gave myself a chance. There was no practicing, no knuckling down in associated memories. I could ONLY fail if my modus operandi was "try it once to see if I'm great at it." Only a few years ago I heard about the 10,000-hour rule from K. Anders Erickson's research. Of course, there is much nuance to that idea, but basically, if you spend several hundred hours working on a skill, you're much more likely to get good than if you don't spend time working on it. 
    • The resulting disappointment or disillusionment set me back, created a completely unnecessary sense of failure. Embarrassment took over, which prompted me to pull away from people. And that probably had plenty of other impacts on casual relationships, which would have been a good cushion otherwise. 
    • Examples of things I have gotten good at, each with 100's to over several 1000's of hours of practice:
        • driving
        • graphic design
        • writing commercials
        • photography
        • spelling
        • sentence structure
        • analytical writing
        • cooking meat
        • painting
        • typing
        • mommying
    • Equally persistent has been this idea that I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had no matrix of other successes to build upon for a new skill or a framework for progressing from A to Z. I remember being jealous when other kids knew they wanted to be a vet or played music or were defined by the sport they played. I'd try a thing and set it down seeing that I wasn't as good as the others around me. Soccer, cards, board games, algebra, CSS, German, jogging, crossfit, dieting, creative writing, stand-ups, anchoring, voiceovers. 
    • It has cast a pall over all my endeavors, made transitions excruciating and ultimately I took the path of least resistance. I took jobs that were beneath my potential because I couldn't tolerate the beginnings, the growing phases. 
      • I have been beating myself up for decades that I walked away from news. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. It was a good challenge, it wasn't in an office, there was autonomy and room for curiosity and even recognition. But I blinked and took another path that didn't require audition tapes, without much discussion. Audition tapes. My audition tape sounded terrible to me. I'd gotten three rejections. And I remember thinking "these are expensive to make" without ever actually looking at the cost. 
      • I had a science teacher in 9th grade who told us about grains of sand in our buckets. "Don't throw out the grains of sand you learn here in this class because you think you won't need chemistry. Everything we go on to do in our lives fits in with everything we have done before. These little grains add up if you keep them to become a full bucket of knowledge."

  4. >>Oh no! I'm missing out! On an otherwise calm, recuperative evening, I come across a Facebook post of casual acquaintances out together. Without me. Why did they not include me? I'm crushed.
    • Unnecessary sea of emotions flood in. 
    • I tend to read that as a personal judgement that I'm not good enough to include. When they might just have not thought of me, or didn't know my number, or didn't realize I wanted to go or wasn't part of the original planning committee, or possibly because they didn't like me. 
    • But that last one, objectively is probably pretty low on the list because everyone is so wrapped up in their own insecurities to really focus on your shortcomings. 
    • When I have gone out, my experience is far more tedious and superficial than the photos suggest. They are not out discussing philosophy or discovering the cure to cancer around the cocktail table in absurdly short dresses. 
    • I generally like introverts because we can share ideas, discuss something in detail, get to feelings or motivations, have an experience together like going to paint or do a bird walk or a cooking class. They don't go out and photograph it as much. The people I'm more happy with, aren't the ones who are out. 
    • There are situations I've left people out. Because I forgot or because they're awkward in a situation or something about their behavior or opinions makes me feel uncomfortable, or in a few recently, I wanted to curate the personalities involved. I've hurt people's feelings. 
    • Shut up, don't buy the hype, and appreciate what you have.
  5. >>If only... is the beginning of a potentially reasonable critique and inevitable disappointment. 
    • The sentiment is intended to optimize my situation. If only I had a softer chair or a thing to do while I waited or a second Lisa to go finish that unfinished business making me guilty while I did this other thing. All logical. But also all wishful thinking. 
    • In this mode, I'm spending my energy imagining rather than being
    • The issue isn't the thought process because it does hold the seeds for improvement. As the habit gets out of control, I start to pick apart everything in my life: if only I were smarter or taller or closer to a big city or weren't so lazy or weren't so hyper or didn't give up on my dreams of being a news reporter... I would be happier. The focus becomes on how I am not happy.  The habit digs a prison for seeing only what I lack and feeling sorry for myself. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting on Please read our other posts and share your thoughts.