I’ve noticed, of late, that the more I troll through FB the more green I seem to get, the more inadequate I seem to feel and, before too long, I notice my insides slump as I think to myself ‘gosh, all these people are SO HAPPY, SO SUCCESSFUL!… What’s wrong with me?? How come I am not doing as much as these people?(even though I’m doing A LOT)… I’ll never get there/be there/[fill in your blanks]. How come I feel down at times? How come I’m not perpetually joyous, grateful and enamoured of life… of myself? I must be failing as a new age warrior! Yes, I must be getting it wrong!
The question, of course, is why do I feel like I’m meant to at least sound like them, even if I don’t feel like them (all 932 of my ‘friends’ and then of course, there’s their friends too – it just doesn’t end). Sometimes I catch myself selling happiness on the days that I can and just keeping quiet when I can’t – in case someone remembers that I was unhappy or disillusioned one day and won’t trust me to be happy enough, or cool enough, to like, or hire, on another. It’s a tall order. Happiness, like the dollar, and gold, is being equated as the highest form of wealth on this planet. And if you’re not happy, then you’re either a liability, or worse, a social durge (yes, a failure!). I’m feeling the social aggressiveness for happiness pressing on me inside and highlighting where I am falling short. It seems like the pressure is on to live up to something in my internal world that may, or may not, be persistently real in other people’s. When did this competition begin, I wonder?
Well, today it dawned on me that maybe all that bravado is simply that – bravado – an unreal posting in an unreal forum? And why should we always be happy? Why is that such a strong 21st Century mark of success? As if somehow dodging our own shadow is a sign of triumph over those other poor saps that still don’t understand that it’s all just a case of positive thinking (or, worse yet, maybe they don’t even HAVE a shadow – and then what does that say about us??). Perhaps you didn’t realize that ‘if only’ you thought positive thoughts all the time, your life would reflect that and, instead, what it’s showing is how wrong we’re getting it :). And, the fact that we have any lack in our lives is simply a bit of a reflection of how little mastery we have over our collective minds! Well. It kind of makes me think of faith healers; you know the ones, who say if they can’t heal you it’s because you don’t have enough faith. Quite a convenient argument, really, don’t you think:)? So, the question is, is any of it real? And if it isn’t, does it matter? What role do we play in our own suffering? And what does it have to do with our own essential energy management?
If we focus on the movie messages we get (for those of us oriented towards spiritual movieland) we come across directives like The Secret or What The Bleep (by far the lesser of the two evils) that suggest to us that body chemistry is to blame as well as an ignorant perspective on how manifestation really works.
I had a meeting about a month ago with the sweetest loving couple I’ve seen in a long while. They teach tantric relationship and intimacy for couples and we were meeting because they wanted me to compose some music for their recorded meditations. As the meeting began, intimacies were shared and, not too long in, stressful tears were shed by the beautiful gentleman of the couple. He apologised and hoped I didn’t mind (which I didn’t). Then as we spoke into this more, he wondered aloud if he should be doing more Louise Hay ‘positive affirmations’ to improve his attitude. I was rather surprised to hear the voice come out of my own mouth (in this serene gathering of metaphysical business souls) saying ‘fuck positive affirmations, they’re a load of rubbish, just feel your feelings’. After a quick apology for my language, convinced I had probably blown the meeting (which I hadn’t, thankfully – he looked rather happy to hear it!), I realized that that was exactly how I felt. For me, faking it til you make it is a vague euphemism for ‘keep going and hope they don’t notice that you’re beginning to crack’. How is that a better alternative to being real? And isn’t this how all of life begins – by cracking open?
The other day, I was at a friend’s house (who uses FB A LOT – constantly posting, in particular, somewhat insistent ‘be happy’ life directives to her troupe of happy followers) in LA and, as I was leaving she and I got into a huge ‘barney’ over something to do with ‘boundaries’ (sigh, more new ageisms) and I left the house after having been summarily striped of my flailing dignity and called various unflattering names. At the coda of which I left saying ‘I love you’ and she ‘I love you more’ (yes, totally dysfunctional, I know) and off I drove. For four weeks, I carried this, every day, feeling rotten and angry – trying to ‘get over it’. I could hear various people’s voices in my head saying ‘oh, Clare, you’re just hanging on to stuff – let it go or you’re just hanging on to the past… evolve!’ (more about that idea later!) – and there were other fears. And I knew – because I am a good judge of character – that if I tried to broach this with this particular friend, I would get accused of just that, as if caring about psychic damage was somehow a personality flaw and as if there is such a thing as a ‘past’ that is not part of ‘now’, a past that can conveniently be discarded as separate from the rest of reality – like oceans being separated from each other by a name… philosophically problematic to say the least. So I waited. And I carried it. And I waited. And I carried it. Finally, on a day of particular courage and after seeing yet another insistent post by her on living a real life of totality and, yes, you guessed it happiness, I decided to write it down and tentatively put my concerns out there to initiate a ‘real’ conversation with her, based on my self-reflections. I’m guessing, dear astute reader, that you’ve probably already guessed how this is going to go… NOT well. However, I am an optimist – apparently. 🙂
Some background might be helpful here, to flavour this dish. It just so happens that this particular friend is convinced that she is an enlightened mystic and hosts a (very good) yoga class for people where she sells dramatic happiness and personal freedom with an urgency that is slightly unsettling. I’m not sure about enlightenment i.e. whether self-declaring ourselves as enlightened is simply some people’s way to become enlightened, or whether it’s a more a way of advertising the journey. (I am reminded of a countryside gathering to discuss the environment in deepest Devon one time, where I met this lady in a bright pink fluffy cardigan and heels who, when I asked politely what she did, told me, smiling over her chipped mug of tea, that she was a Shaman. It wasn’t what I was expecting to hear and I know I looked baffled… this self declaration from someone who could as easily have said she was a librarian, or hosted tupperware parties, reminded me of the story of Jesus, how he wouldn’t even admit that he was a Shaman to Pontius Pilate, in the face of his own death. And here was this woman who could have as easily been sharing fashionable knitting patterns stating exactly this – it just struck me as rather odd and surreal).
In this search for the ‘real’ amongst so much virtual happiness and virtual reality, I’ve noticed that sometimes people talk about enlightenment, freedom and happiness with an urgency that can push away the practice of it. I should know, I used to be one of them! There, I’ve said it! Phew. It’s not an unusual situation, as humans we are ultimately fallible (for example, do you recall spiritual Guru Andrew Cohen’s recent apology?) and, whilst I think the search for happiness is a plus, it’s when it has a ‘market value’ that I start to feel an edge of concern bordering on performance anxiety! Happiness is a personal thing, not a measuring stick of personal, or commercial, value.
In my hope for real intimacy I approached my friend. After a few email reach outs on my end, and some rebuttals from hers, I said what I needed to say, got no entry into ‘the real conversation’ I was hoping for and realized that yes, it was going to be a dead end. She was so passionate about her happiness that I was the absolute pariah to it. It seems that with such fierceness come strong walls and woe betide anyone who might spoil the picnic. Everything needs to ‘be sunny…. or be squashed’. And I got squashed. At least the first time. The second, I feel like I miraculously got my dignity back – not an easy feat when you think it’s gone down the rabbit hole of humiliation, never to return.
Now the reason I am telling you about this is because I’ve been having a hard time lately with my own sense of personal fulfillment and it’s arisen in me that vague sense of doom and panic that this isn’t just a phase but perhaps the rest of my life playing before my eyes – a life of despair, hopelessness and failure. You know, the cheerful stuff. Well, one thing I discovered today is that when you are honest with the people you are afraid of losing, you discover something of yourself. You start to become whole -whether they agree with you and what you say you want, or not. And this is the thing about becoming real.
For years I have alternated between trying to fit into other people’s moulds and trying to be honest about how I was feeling, as if endeavouring to make sure I had some kind of insurance policy of friends so I wouldn’t be lonely. Well guess what, I am lonely – so it didn’t work! Watching what I say and to whom, just so I’ll be liked, is actually a rather rancid way to live. And it’s demoralizing. So I’m trying a new tack. Simple truth, boldly owned, spoken first person, compassionate and from the heart – my heart – oh, and vulnerability in presence. And, you know what else I’ve discovered over the years, is that playing happy makes me very unhappy. I think faking happiness is a serious flaw in our overall evolutionary plan. I think we’re meant to be real, genuine. Consider this. Consider the planet – do you think he/she is happy right now? How about the whales with their noise and radiation bedfellows? How about the dolphins getting slaughtered or the trees cut down… coral reefs turning from psychedelic rainbows to chalky morgues? How is that not going to directly affect our happiness too? It’s driving us nuts. Slowly for some and, for those more sensitive to our psychic connection to all life, more quickly. The alienated are beginning to identify themselves with each other because we need the solidarity.
Happiness is not a parade. And it is not traded. It is earned. It is earned by each one of us choosing to do the things that we love, by choosing to become real about who we are and what we feel and need. It’s about presence. So, as a practice, it’s actually quite difficult and, without that realization, it can be socially embarrassing to feel we’re visibly ‘not quite there yet’. And those needs don’t have to be obviously about us – they might be a need to see social justice in the world, or a need for thieving bankers to go to jail for longer than traffic violators. That’s it. It’s that simple. And it can feel like the grand canyon in terms of how easily accessible it is. As a people, we seem willing to trade our self-ownership for security (unreliable), for love (others’ rather than our own), for social status (precarious at best) and for the idea of an identity, an external identity… perhaps even a borrowed identity.
And, finally, what about the market place aspect of FB – people constantly selling these things; popularity, ideas, secrets to success, smiles. Is it all just technological snake oil? Another mesmerizing marketplace of projection, putting off the real, puffing our proverbial proud feathers as we fly unerringly towards the cliff edge of our future? We’re running out of land. Why are we delaying looking at what we’re doing to ourselves, to the Planet and to us as Planet? What are we doing about it? This cognitive dissonance is painful, this addictive drive to ‘happiness no matter what’ (‘happiness in spite of’) is not real. I think it needs to transform. It reminds me of young children hiding under their bedsheets, eyes shut tight, praying for the monsters to go away. Life is both enduring and precious and perhaps we need to be the same way.
Let’s not be afraid of our shadow life – let’s become real about it, on a personal level. Let’s face it, it’s already showing up in our relationships to each other and to all of life – the next step is tugging on that tenuous balloon string to pull it back out of the stratosphere of anonymity. Our true identity resides only in our genuine truthful sense of self. If we, if I, stop worrying if people will like me, if I will fail – which I can feel is already slipping into place – then I become someone. I become me. And, after all these years of wondering who I am, I only have to look at who I’m not. I’m not the unstoppable yoga teacher. I’m not the compassionate tantric teacher. I’m not (yet!) a famous musician. I am a seeker, a questioner. And in this search for knowing who I am (for me the question is a philosophical one, not easily answered) – I have discovered that I am. And I love that! I’m me! I’m here! I’m alive with purpose and drive. I feel things. I have opinions. I care about connection and honour. I care about the trees and other species. I care about the ‘people-ness‘ of life. And I really care about kindness.
There is no enlightenment without humility. And there is no freedom without mistakes. I make mistakes and I know that, I’m learning from them, tracing my finger along those scars, accepting the consequences of being so imperfect and loving the fact that every day I can show up and try again. It’s hard. There are disappointments. But I’m falling in love, slowly, deliberately… and I’m a dreamer. I dream of a better world, a more solid sense of ‘me’, an ability to be deeply honest, whilst contributing to others’ deepening joy, if I’m lucky. And I know that however I may feel, I am supremely lucky to be here, alive, on this planet, today, and tomorrow and the next day. In service of myself, my ancestors, and the future. I have a mantra “I know what I’m doing” and, even when I don’t, it helps.
And, in case there’s any doubt – I am not against happiness. I simply don’t want to feel like there’s something wrong with me if I’m not feeling it 24/7. I am not sure life is that simple.
So thank you FB for giving me a focal point, a place of irritation to push against and discover through. And let’s see what I start posting after this blog 😉 Or maybe I should just stop using it altogether and get outside more!!
Thanks for reading! And please participate by posting in the comment box below.
A take away consideration: Are you enjoying your own experience of happiness? What helps you feel uniquely, specially, connected and joyful? And what do you go to for your own nurturing when you don’t?
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Who is Clare?
Clare Hedin is a singer/songwriter, comedic performer, healer and teacher of Creativity, Consciousness & Innovation @ San Francisco State University. For more info please visit https://clarehedin.com. Also, join Clare’s Club ‘Living In Your Center’ for a free introductory week, to begin to discover more about your own path of truth, mess and justice! She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website for more ways to connect and to develop your own process of creativity, personal growth and planetary consciousness.
Credits: Green Monster Image Thumbnail from http://colourbox.com – thank you Colourbox!