I’ve been doing a lot of work on the back end of this site, and while it feels to ME as though I’ve been doing my due diligence on the entry-writing front, I realized today that from everyone else’s point of view, I’ve been disappointingly silent. Let me fix that.
I’d like to talk about happiness, and just to be doubly pedantic, I’ll start with a quote
There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.
– Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching, verse 29
A couple years ago, I found myself in a hell of a situation; at the bottom of a pretty deep hole I’d both dug and climbed into, and most of the trouble came from one bad habit that affected most everything I did —
I was expending tremendous effort avoiding things that (as I saw it) were taking time away from the ‘good’ and ‘fun’ things I wanted to do instead.
The abject stupidity of the situation was that these distractions were, in fact, core parts of my life; not only that, but elements that I’d actually gone to great lengths to include in my life. Shopping for groceries, working on the lawn, shampooing the carpet, walking the dogs, doing dishes, doing laundry, just straightening up and dusting — what I realized (slowly) is that these aren’t chores to be avoided — they’re some of the many ways you get to spend time with your family and friends. They are how you take care of the life you tried so hard to build in the first place; push them away and and you’re pushing your life away.
I’d like to think I’m getting to a point where I remember that you have to embrace the things to which you have, over the course of your life, committed your time — take them on, take them over, and find the good in them. From pushing your (possibly screaming) child in a grocery cart, cooking a messy breakfast on a Sunday morning, to re-sodding your sodding yard…
That’s you. That’s the life you built. That’s where your happiness is.
Now, am I happy all the time? Of course not. Kate will confirm that, if nothing else, I’m a real bear to be around when I first get home from work in the afternoon; I don’t know if it’s low blood sugar or bad traffic or what, but when I walk in the door it’s all I can do not to actually growl at people. (I’m much better after I’ve had dinner, though, so maybe it is partly a diet thing. Hmm.)
BUT, I’ve improved my mood in a more general way by taking that attitude of ’embrace the life you’ve made’ and expanding it to sort of accept the things that happen, even if you didn’t expect them to happen.
And by “accept” I mean “roll with it” not “lie down and take it”; I’m not suggesting that if someone steals you car, you should smile and say “Oh, I’m sure whoever took it needed it more than me.” By all means you should contact police, file reports, and do everything you can to get your car back, but do it with a smile. If you can’t manage that, try a smirk. If you can’t manage that, at least do everything you can not to be a twisted ball of impotent rage.
Twisted balls of impotent rage get headaches and have back problems. They don’t sleep well. Avoid that.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao Tzu
Here’s an example from my current day-to-day.
I’m in the market for a new job. I’m employed, but it’s a contract situation and the company I’m with has a set limit on how long a contract employee can stay with them before we have to spend some quality time apart, and I’ll pass that limit in a month or so. So I’ve got my little feelers out, and sending out resumes, and having phone calls with various recruiters and what have you. It’s not a great job market right now, but it’s not exactly a wasteland, either.
This would be (and sometimes still is) a typical time for me to get stressed and depressed and angry. I mean, look at the timing: it’s all going to come to a head right around the time of the wedding, where I should really and truly have OTHER THINGS ON MY MIND, right?
Then I get a conversation like the one this morning:
Recruiter: “Hi Doyce, we have a job for you. These are the requirements.”
Me: “Wow. If you reformat it, that could be my resume.”
Recruiter: “Really? You have experience with all these platforms and products?”
Me: “Yep. And then some.”
Recruiter: “Great. How about you send me your payscale and current location and a few other things?”
Me: [Does so. The job is in Michigan, so I note in my location that relocation is not an option. I boldface that part, and note that I can travel back and forth a bit, depending on pay, to meet with people who need to meet me, but again, relocation is not an option.]
[phone rings a few minutes later]
Recruiter: “Hi Doyce. We think your perfect for the job, and the payscale is definitely doable.”
Recruiter: “Your start time is very good for us. The position is 8 to 5 out in [Location], Michican.”
Me: “If you check the message I sent you a few minutes ago, you notice that I mentioned that relocating is not an option.”
Recruiter: “You can’t work out there for five days a week and fly home on the weekends?”
Me: “No. I don’t normally like getting into personal details of this nature, but I’m a parent and I have obligations that don’t allow me to be gone that long on a regular basis.”
Recruiter: [Insert a number of suggestions that amount to “but can’t you do it anyway?”]
Me: “No. Sorry, it sounds like a great position, but no.”
(The poor recruiter is, I think, so used to people who are so desperate to find a job that they will agree to anything that they truly do not know what to say when someone says “sorry, that won’t work for me.” They should babysit a toddler a few nights a week — that would help.)
[About an hour passes.]
Recruiter: “Hi Doyce. I talked with my manager…”
Recruiter: “We decided it would be possible for us to raise the pay rate to [20% increase], if you can work full time, on site.”
Me: “Oh. I’m sorry, I thought you might be calling to tell me that an remote work arrangement was possible. The pay you’re offering is…”
Me: “No… I’m sorry, it’s not at all tempting, because what you’re asking for is simply impossible. I was going to say it was a very kind compliment.”
Recruiter: “… Doyce, can you help me understand how we can make a remote working arrangement function?”
Me: “Actually, I’m going to turn that question around a bit. I’ve looked at the job requirements and know the work well enough to know I can do it from here. The job itself mentions working with ‘virtually no supervision’ in — and this is an interesting choice of words — ‘an ambiguous environment.’ Can you tell me anything about the job that really requires the applicant work on-site, full-time, other than ‘that’s what is normally done?'”
No. No they couldn’t.
We said our goodbyes. They’ve called back twice to raise their offer. It’s getting more and more difficult to keep the chuckle out of my voice when I tell them that the pay is not the problem, nor is it the solution. (Though it does annoy me that they were clearly low-balling the initial offer by a considerable sum.)
The thing is, I think you have to find this kind of thing funny. You have to breathe through it when the conversation gets to be too repetitive. You have to accept that this is the way that life is going right now, and if you are going to live your life, than this is it — this is your life, good or bad, difficult or easy.
And if everything went exactly the way you planned, you wouldn’t have anything to write about.