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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What do you mean, Resisting Happiness?

Matthew Kelly, a Catholic motivational speaker, has a new book out that is all the rage among my people right now:  Resisting Happiness.  As with most of his work, it is an easy read - the words flow like you are having a coffee shop conversation with a friend.  After reading Journey to God and still plowing through the work by Father Bedoule, OP on St Dominic, this little book is a kind of exhale for the brain....I read half of it while in the bathtub soaking my aching joints in epsom salts for twenty minutes.

The book has me thinking about something another like-minded and similarly afflicted woman I know says about her relationship with God.  She says that she had given Him every aspect of her life except for dating because - and I am paraphrasing - she was pretty sure God did not know handsome.

At the time she said it, the room full of people laughed.  We knew, whether we were male or female, straight or gay, exactly what she meant and our laughter was rueful and full of recognition.

The idea of resisting happiness, therefore, is not about stubbornly refusing to be happy - it is more about the trust I have that God really does have my best interest at heart.  My sin is this: despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite example after example after example that He knows what is best for His Creatures (all of them - human or not), I still think that He has somehow overlooked me.  I still think, deep down inside, that the phrase "God helps those who help themselves" means I have to make the decision about what is best for me in terms of people, places and things.  I am the one in control and so it is me who will decide what makes me happy.

This is really pretty funny.  If I am honest about me, about the decisions I make about my life, I have got to admit that what I have determined I need to have in my life in order to be happy is rarely necessary.  In fact, to tell the truth and shame the devil, I have very little in my life right now that I thought even ten years ago would be necessary in order for me to be happy and fulfilled.

I am not the size I thought I needed to hair is not the color I thought it had to be....I have no husband and no children and am not a published author with a book tour on my horizon.  I am not filling halls as a speaker or staring in a reality show that brings people to the Catholic Church.  I am not working where I want to work and I still have all those pesky bills that need to be paid, by me.

Yet if I am going to continue down this truthful path, I also have to tell you that I am happy.  I am happy being 45 pounds away from my final goal weight, happy with my natural hair color, happy with the crummy job I have surrounded by people who just have a way different value system than me (a value system I find frightening and ugly).  I am happy living where I am living.  My bills are all paid.  I have a Scottie and two cats and yesterday my nephew came by to visit for no reason other than wanting to stop by and spend some time with me and Mom.   Today I get to take her shopping and tonight I get to be of service in my 12 Step program.  I am on vacation this week which means I do not have to drive in fog or rain.  I get to take the dog for a walk later.

I get to share my thoughts with all of you.

What is making me happy today?  Why is it my life, as small and mundane as it is, is a life that is second to none?  Being sober is a big part of it, of course, but it is more than just physically not picking up a drink.

I think, and I may be wrong, my happiness is rooted in my determination to be closer to God.

I just am no longer concerned with doing what the world thinks is necessary as much as I am concerned with being able to stand in front of Jesus Christ, at the end of my time, and hear the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant".

Years ago, when I returned to Holy Mother Church, I was attacked verbally by people who saw my return as a betrayal of feminism and liberalism.  They saw my return to The Church as an indictment of them.  They saw my decision - and my willingness to state that this was my decision - to put receiving Him in the Eucharist at the top of my list of things to do as far more important than whether or not a woman could become pope or if homosexuals could get married.  I have lost family and friends and I am considered a fool by many people.  I refuse to change that decision - and because of that decision, I am happier than I have ever been...without having anything I thought I had to have in order to be just that - happy.

Do I still occasionally resist happiness?  Heck yeah - it is my concupiscence.  When it is a cold Sunday morning and I would rather stay inside...when I see other people being lauded for their open mindedness and congratulated on being inclusive...when I feel lonely or overlooked .....all that stems from my taking my eyes off the prize - the ultimate prize:  eternity with God.

But I am blessed.  I am blessed because I have a Sacramental and Liturgical life that draws me closer and closer to Him.  Even when I fall, I know I can get back up, ask for forgiveness and grace, and then keep on trucking.

Today I do not want to resist what makes me happy.  Today I want to live life as He would have me live it and so, today, just for today, I give Him my will and my life...I offer it to Him as a sacrifice and a sign of my love.

And I ask Him to help me live the way He wants me to live - just for today.

1 comment:

R.L. G said...

“Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” This trope/bumper sticker slogan was often heard in early recovery. In early sobriety, which felt like being inside a burning building, my damaged perception insisted on almost any other course than to exit. An old movie comes to mind, “Detour,” the scene where Tom Neal is tooling down the road in his convertible. Ann Savage is seemingly asleep in the front passenger seat, and Tom is having a mental conversation with himself about his impressions about Ann. Then Ann’s eyes snaps open, and she looks at him, sits up and says “Where did you leave his body?” Snap. Oh,that… Reality checks are a necessary part of life, if you wish to actually participate in life.

What was happiness to me when I was drinking? Winning a fight or argument, defeating an opponent, crushing them if necessary. That elusive feeling I was chasing. Being on top. You could say that happiness had an, um, savage quality for me. The happiness that others experienced, that feeling associated with safety, security and wellbeing was not on the menu for me. I never felt safe, and if I got close to that feeling, I convinced myself I did not deserve it. Fast forward through the years. Now that I have a handle on that entire distorted perceptual miasma that is my psyche, I am faced with the possibility that happiness is not a destination, but something one passes through. Maybe a little, maybe a lot, maybe sometimes, and maybe there are dry periods. Sort of like other emotions/feelings, like despair, joy, melancholia, and dozens of others or their derivatives. The trick is to be awake enough to experience and pass through them, which is what living life seems to be about. I once heard it best described in a meeting long ago, but did not entirely grasp it at the time: “I used to wish I could have any life but my own. Now I will fight anyone for mine.”