Thursday, April 21, 2011

Self-Sacrifice and the Pursuit of Happiness

This is a re-post -- I originally put it on my Facebook since I wasn't quite "there" yet with the whole blogging thing. But now that I am, here it is again.

I’ll be completely honest, it’s been a very long time since I’ve “blogged’ about anything, and although FB is by no stretch of the imagination a blogging website; I’m posting this here regardless. I’m doing this for a couple of reasons; but mainly because everyone that has access to read this little “note” of mine is someone I consider a friend. When we are going through difficult times, we reach out to our friends for love and support. During good times, our friends are there to celebrate with us. We share, and over share, with our friends, and hope that they feel as comfortable with us as to share their lives in the same way.

I really don’t know where this is going to take me, or if I’ll even post it… or save it. It might be one of those things that, once written and read, is deleted and never again thought of. However, something tells me that it will be shared, and read by others; sometimes it’s important to share our stories so others can learn from them.

I have recently had a revelation … and it’s something that many people in my life have been telling me for years; I was just too stubborn and focused on other things to accept it. It may sound silly to some of you – or obvious. For those of you who truly know me; you know it isn’t either of those things. So here it is in the simplest form there is: I deserve my own personal happiness. See … simple, right? Not always – and not for as many people as some would think. I know what you’re thinking “You’re one of the happiest, motivating, inspirational people I know” (wow, that sounded conceited, but eh – it’s what it is). I’m not unhappy; it’s simply that for as long as I can recall (at least since high school) my happiness has come from helping others succeed, be happy, and achieve their dreams. Watching someone I care for succeed in something, or helping them overcome a problem, or seeing them achieve a goal makes me happy; mostly because they are happy. Let’s face it… when those we love are truly happy, it in turn, elates us as well.

The drive to see others happy led me to be a very self-sacrificing person. I’m certainly not complaining about that – being selfless is something I strive for on a daily basis; as I think most people should. I give up things I want, things I know will make me happy, to ensure the happiness of the people in my life. I know, you’re thinking to yourself “everyone does (or should do) that sometimes”; because the basis of a happy, healthy relationship is the ability to compromise. There is a fine line, however, between compromise and continuous self sacrifice; and if you’re not careful, you can find yourself in a situation where you realize that everything you spend your time on is for someone else; and that the happiness you feel is theirs, and not yours. When you encounter that situation, things can go bad relatively quickly. You start to lose sleep. You stop eating as well as you should. You find ways to let out aggression on people you love, because you don’t know where else to place it. Worst of all, you start to resent the people you set out to help; not because they have done anything wrong; but because you realize you’re not truly happy.

So, you’re thinking, where am I going with this, right? I have finally admitted to myself that I deserve the personal happiness that comes with focusing my efforts and energy on things that make me truly happy. I will certainly not stop helping other people. Offering advice, guidance and leadership is something I really truly enjoy. When I help someone through a difficult situation or give them advice on something and it helps them, it makes me incredibly happy; I’ll never stop doing that. I will, however, be more selective on what I do with my ‘free’ time – and what I spend the limited energy I have on.

Being sick for the last 11 years has taught me that life is way too short not to do things you enjoy (cliché’ much?). Granted, I have to work, and grocery shop, and do my taxes, and clean the litter box; some things are inevitable. For those of you who have read the “Spoon Theory”, you know that there are days when I have very little energy to get to work, home and dinner made, let alone do something “fun” for myself. It’s the limited “fun time” I have that I need to make the most of – isn’t that a goal for all of us? For those of you who have not read the “Spoon Theory” I highly suggest doing so, almost everyone knows someone with an illness – whether it’s chronic or terminal.

So, this personal happiness thing…what is it, exactly? It’s different for everyone. I’ve realized that I don’t like spending all my time alone, but I don’t necessarily NEED a significant other in my life to be happy. (Previous significant others in my life have shown me that having one does not, in itself, bring happiness). Not that I don’t want one...but it’s not a “must have” for me – I can, and have been, happy without one. Animals are NOT negotiable for me – feline energy is a must have – cats in any shape and size seem to balance me out and make me more level. Dogs I can do without (hahah sorry Sami!); but cats are a must have for me. Remember, sometimes it’s the little things that make us happy. There’s a lot more, but it gets much more personal than you probably want to read, and much more than I want to share at this point.

Why am I posting all of this? I’m doing it for two reasons, actually. First, I want to inspire others to take a look at and evaluate their situation. It’s a task we should all do from time to time, as it helps us grow as people and allows us to be who and what we are meant to be. Count your blessings and be thankful for the good things and the challenges in your life. If you’re not happy with a situation, it’s up to you to take control of it and change it; your friends can support you through it, but only YOU can make it happen. I know I am not the only self-sacrificing person on the planet – and I want others to know that your own personal happiness is important as well; as difficult as it might be understand and obtain.

Secondly, I’m doing this because the changes I have to make in order for me to be personally happy may, and most likely will, impact people in my life. I’m not doing any of this to intentionally hurt anyone; and I know as my friends, you will all understand that. I have lost an amazing amount of sleep coming to these decisions and wondering if I deserved my happiness enough to change the parts of my life that I want to now change. Everyone assures me that I do; so I’m trusting them, and myself, to not send me in the wrong direction. I do know, however, that some people may be disappointed in my decisions, and it’s a very real possibility that I will lose friends by the end of it. I’m not making massive changes to every aspect of my life and to some the changes won’t even be noticeable. The change in my mood, my outlook, and my attitude will be noticeable to everyone – and I hope they consider it a change for the better.

Alright, I’m done… I think. If you’ve gotten this far without thinking “wow… she’s really self centered, and full of herself, and thinks she’s all that”… congratulations – because I’ve thought that a lot about myself recently – but have decided that as self centered as it sounds, it doesn't make the fact that I want to be happy in my own right less true.

Be at peace with yourself and you’re at peace with the world.

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