February 1, 2010

The days are just flying by! 

I’m reminded once again how fleeting time is.  Every heartbeat is a moment lived, and it’s how you spend those heartbeats that matters.  Hearts can stop beating, without warning, it’s important to remember that. 

We are constantly bombarded with messages about living life to its fullest, living life-like each day is your last, never going to bed angry because that might be the last experience you have with someone and would you want that to be their last experience of you; using the ‘good stuff’ instead of saving it and never getting around to using it at all and what a sad, sad waste that is, etc., etc., etc.  I am always drawn to these messages, especially the ones that come attached to breathtaking photography.  They make me question whether I’m living my life to the best of my abilities, and whether I’m doing justice to the life I’ve been granted.

I know I’m not the only sap who’s emotions and thoughts are manipulated by these kinds of messages, they tend to resonate — deeply — with lots of other people.  Lately, I’ve begun to wonder how much stress this adds to our lives.  It seems that this is a fairy-tale standard of goodness against which we are constantly having to measure ourselves. 

Anger, frustration, fear, sadness, depression — all these are feelings and states of being which we are told are undesirable and which, if we only focus on love and positive thoughts, can be banished from our lives.  I’m beginning to wonder if that’s really all that wise.

Most great change comes about because of negative feelings.  Persecution, discrimination, and human rights violations tends to lead people to demonstrate and protest which then leads to conflict or war, political change, and new laws protecting the rights and freedoms of people and other living beings.  The desire for something better is the driving force, the motivation for attaining feelings that can/should be positive.

This is true even in our personal relationships.  Someone in an abusive relationship is going to have a hard time seeing what’s good in their life when their reality is a nightmare of fear, grief and depression.  Those same dark feelings, however, can be the catalyst that inspires someone to claw their way out of darkness into light. 

But, being told–constantly–that feeling angry instead of forgiving, envious instead of satisfied, oppressed instead of valued, bitter instead of grateful, is bad, is just as harmful as believing that you deserve only what you have.  Everyone deserves to be happy, that’s true, but living with your head in a cloud, thinking warm fuzzy thoughts isn’t going to get you there. 

I believe that all this motivational ‘stuff’ floating around out there is causing an epidemic of societal anxiety.  It’s leading people to constantly question the validity of their lives and to find them constantly lacking. 

It’s forcing people to go in to debt as they strive for ‘meaningful’ experiences like trips to exotic lands in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, or, an authentic cappuccino.  It causes husbands and wives to walk away from marriages and families because they’re not feeling ‘valued’ or ‘appreciated’ instead of trying to work out their problems — because, you know, why should you have to spend even one moment being sad or unhappy, when the ‘perfect’ relationship is out there just waiting for you? 

It leads parents to spoil their children by giving them everything instead of making them work for what they want.  What if, for instance, the last thought little Johnny or little Janey ever had of you was that you’d said no to their request for a new Nintendo DS or to their demand that they be allowed to stay out partying with their friends?  How sad would that be? 

This guilt being heaped on us, be it through the internet, television, radio, books and seminars is debilitating.  A perfect example of this is the story that surfaced about the kids on a cruise just after the disaster in Haiti.  These kids had probably planned and saved and worked hard for that trip (well some of them were probably sent by over-indulgent parents dealing with guilt issues, but, anyway. . .) and, through no fault of their own, their cruise path led them past Haiti. 

So, they did what kids on a cruise would do — they enjoyed themselves.  All of a sudden the media gets wind of it and suddenly these kids and the cruise line are painted as unfeeling, thoughtless, selfish, arrogant, every negative adjective that could be used to describe them, was. 

How, I ask is that right?  Should the cruise line stop sailing past Haiti because the island was devasted by earthquakes?  After all, it’s still there.  Putting blinders on or changing sea routes isn’t going to change that.  And, it’s not like nothing has been done to help Haiti.  $6 billion dollars worth of aid, so far, has made it to the island, but asking or expecting the entire rest of the world to wear black and go in to mourning is plainly ludicrous. 

Another good example of how this whole morality wave has turned into a tsunami is the Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien issue.  Personally, I say: who cares?  But, a large proportion of the North American population, including Oprah, thinks this is something somehow definitive to our culture.  What a load of crap!  I don’t care why Jay Leno did what he did, and I don’t care how Conan O’Brien feels about it.  Both of them make obscene amounts of money and live lives none of us could even hope to imagine.  Are they good people?  Are they deserving of what they have?  Only they can answer that, and really why should it matter to me, or anyone else?

It’s not surprising that since the Tiger Woods scandal, the attempted bombing of an airplane over Christmas, and all the other tragedies and travesties that have happened in the past month that there has been a proliferation of ‘feel good, live your life for the moment’ type of messages flooding my inbox. 

I appreciate the sentiment, just not the guilt that seems to follow.  I think from now on, I’m just going to listen to my heart and stop paying attention to all the pretty messages that somehow make me feel like my life is not good enough.  Because, believe me, I enjoy every heartbeat of it.

5 thoughts on “February 1, 2010

  1. I have mixed feelings about your post.
    I’d agree that negative feelings have their place in our lives and can cause positive action. I find though that a lot of times, folks get “stuck” in them and become immobile because of their grief,resentment or anger. My experience has been that positive emotions tend to help us move into better lives.
    In addition, it’s been found that prolonged negative emotions have negative physical effects on us. Ex: long term stress or rage can lead to higher blood pressure and strokes or heart attacks.
    I think many times folks live greyish half lives because they don’t realize that they can do more to learn, grow, rejoice,enjoy. I don’t think this has to mean driving yourself into debt if you apply a little common sense-much of the best stuff is about “being” more than “having” more, and that doesn’t have to be financially irresponsible.
    I think guilt can be appropriate( when it keeps you from doing mean spirited things) and can be inappropriate( when you have angst over things you didn’t do). I think it’s up to each of us to let go of inappropriate guilt( so it’s not the kids’ fault) but also to do what we can to help others in need.Haiti matters and mourning’s not wrong. We are all connected.
    And I’d say feeling good should not be about feeling good only for the moment, but for the long haul. When I strive to live my life mission, to grow as the unique person that I am, and to help others less fortunate, I feel good in this moment…and the next…and the next…
    I hope you’re feeling better soon, if you want to.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it. Really, I am a very happy person and quite satisfied with my life — it’s just that being constantly bombarded with messages that contain someone’s list of ’45 things to make your life better’ (many of which, I have to admit, are very good suggestions) gets to be a bit overwhelming. I just try to be as positive and open-minded as I can every day while reminding myself about the things that are important to my life, the things that make it worth the struggle, if you will. Generally, those things are: my family, my friends, my pursuit of personal fulfillment through writing, actions, etc. I don’t need to be reminded 6 times a week what the D’alai Lama considers the perfect recipe for happiness. I’m sure the D’alai Lama isn’t sending that message, by the way! Anyway, I thank you for your thoughts and wish you a wonderful day.

      1. you’re welcome
        I get tired of too many forwards myself. and I find with media pressure, my best approach is to say “that’s nice, but not for me…”
        besides, I’m finding my own interesting things to do…

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