Twelve days before Christmas I sat with a friend looking out into the bustling throng in a big department store. Some were cheerful; others were sombre as they went about their Christmas shopping. My friend remarked on the self-centeredness of the me-me generation. Without thought I responded with “They’re doing the best they can.” As my remark sank into my own consciousness, a strange thing happened. I could feel the tension leaving my face and shoulders. Fears about deadlines fell away. I felt at peace, even though I was quite aware that most of my plans for that day would go unfulfilled…
I invite you to join me (in spirit) and celebrating 12 years of writing a biweekly column for the Parksville Qualicum News. The editor titled the original column “The hope and happiness business: New columnist to explore the mind and problems big and small.”
The words “Hope and Happiness” became the enduring header for my columns. This is a personal article about where I come from in my writing…
Rituals play an important role in our celebration of important events. The rituals surrounding Christmas and Hanukkah tend to pull like people together and acknowledge that a year has passed. Birthday celebrations similarly mark a passing, albeit in a smaller circle.
Most societies still have rituals around coming-of-age. That’s why they are often called “rites of passage.” In the modern world we celebrate graduations…
I am not a farmer, although I grew up among farmers and worked on farms in my childhood and youth in Ontario. At harvest time, my mind inevitably turns to ‘cycles.’ Life is full of cycles, and harvest is the closing of one of them.
The harvest cycle begins with an intention, the intention to grow a crop, and it ends with the actual harvest. In between there was soil preparation, seeding, watering, weeding, etc. Seeing the cycle through to completion took work and a lot of patience and simply ‘allowing.’ When I was about as old as the boy in the picture, I grew vegetables in our garden and then sold them door to door in our little town…
…Completing or closing cycles is of fundamental psychological and spiritual importance.
Psychologically, keeping a cycle open requires our personal energy. How the cycle will end is not a sure thing. Crops do fail sometimes. There may be worry. There is certainly a consciousness about the open cycle. And that consciousness persists until the harvest is in. Then when the cycle is completed (closed), your emotional energy is freed for other things.
Spiritually, keeping a cycle open requires trust that the universe will deliver what you can’t control. Then at the end of the harvest you celebrate and give thanks. There is even a special day we call Thanksgiving Day.
In sum, the harvest cycle begins with an intention and ends with getting the crop in. The harvest was the final hurdle that had to be overcome to fulfill the original intention. A lot of emotional and spiritual energy is vested in seeing such a major cycle through to completion.
However, there is something even more profound happening as you complete a cycle. The principal byproduct of fulfilling an intention is happiness. You celebrate because you are happy. On the other hand, overwhelm results from keeping too many cycles open.
Think about it: happiness emerges as if by magic as you overcome successive barriers to your intentions. Between the intention to produce a food crop and the final harvest, each barrier to overcome provides an opportunity for happiness.
In thinking about harvests and cycles I realize I’m in the midst of closing a major cycle, a Part B of an even bigger cycle. A number of years ago I saw a need and formed an intention to do something about it. Women had been coming to me forprofessional help with a very difficult problem: they were in marriages with men who abuse alcohol or drugs. They were experiencing abuse or, at the very least, neglect. They were in pain and were bewildered about their lives.
When I discovered that there is abundant self-help information available for alcoholics and drug addicts, but little for their partners, I decided to write a book aimed directly at the women who live with alcoholic men.
I closed that cycle when I published the book, “Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman’s Survival Guide.” It has been selling on Amazon and on my website for a couple of years now. Women with alcoholic partners continue to seek my help, but now the book provides something for those whose circumstances would not allow them to work with a professional.
Then, a year or so ago another cycle opened as Kindle and other electronic readers were growing in popularity: I pondered publishing a Kindle edition.
There have been challenges, but each challenge I pushed through left me feeling exhilarated. I completed that cycle when my book was finally published on Kindle.
I would invite you to look at your own life through the lens of cycles.
Recall times when you have felt overwhelmed. Was your energy being sapped by having too many open cycles and not enough harvests? Are there some cycles open now you could close? Most of us have a few…or a lot.
Now recall the times when you have been the happiest and most grateful. Were you completing a lot of cycles? Were you harvesting? I suspect you were.
“I’ve been to the mountaintop… And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land.” Martin Luther King Jr. April 3, 1968
You and I have experienced people who seem to be stuck in chronic unhappiness. It is as if they had “Victim” tattooed on their foreheads and wore a badge saying, “long-suffering”
There is no question that some of the chronically unhappy people have suffered severe trauma and bad times. But there are other chronically unhappy people who seem to have everything going for them. They may justify their gloom with excuses like, “How can I be happy when some animals are going extinct?”
However, there are many more of us who have had horrible things happen to them, but remain basically happy people.
Those of you who know me, recognize me as a happy person. You also know that I have been through some horrendous experiences, most recently, losing three of my adult children. These losses were by far the worst of the 25 or so relatives, friends, colleagues and clients that have died in the past 10 years. But I’m back.
For most healthy people, their happiness in the moment is influenced by what’s going on in their lives. What is important is that their feelings of happiness and unhappiness act as signals that something is going right or that something is going wrong.
If you find yourself suddenly unhappy, you take it as a signal that something has to change, that something needs fixing. For example, if you have suffered a loss, you grieve so you can face it, accept it, and get back into your life. You pushed through your unhappiness and resumed your life. If you got stuck, you got help, because for you, being stuck in chronic unhappiness was not an option.
Sadly, the chronically unhappy usually refuse help. For one thing most don’t believe that happiness is even a possibility for them. Added to that is often the belief they don’t deserve happiness: “I should have been the one who died.”
The major reason why chronically unhappy people will not seek help is because they are afraid of what might change. They are comfortable in their unhappy state. It serves them to be victims, since victims don’t have to take responsibility and no one blames them.
Think about it: A change from chronic unhappiness to happiness would mean taking responsibility for one’s life and moods. One would have to give up victim-hood. And sadly, going to the mountaintop to take a peek at what’s on the other side is far too terrifying for most chronically unhappy people to consider. It’s safer and easier to believe their condition is terminal.