I got an unsolicited, and very defensive/combative message on Facebook yesterday from an ex of my husband’s. In it, apparently prompted by an attempt I had made at small talk the last time I saw her (I asked if she was still in school – she seems to think I was implying that being “still” in school was a bad thing, which I was not at all) and, I’m sure, no small amount of liquor, she recounted a number of things about her career and financial status of which she is proud, and challenged me with “Were you able to ___ at 25?” and so on.
Now, putting aside the details of the message she sent, I thought I would write a bit about why benchmarks are and are not important, and where “success” does not always equal “happiness.”
We put a very high value on “success”, and thus certain things have a cachet while others do not. Financial success is held out as the highest of them all. But where is happiness as a metric to look at? While the girl in question had achieved a number of things to be proud of, anyone reading the message could tell she is not a happy person. Now, it is true that I have not done some of the things that she was asking – I certainly did not travel much in my 20s for instance, as they money for it was not there. However, I am not upset about that; on the contrary, I have in that time birthed two children who are the light of my life, and though they are a drain on my wallet I would not have it any other way.
I am at peace with the choices I have made in my life. I am even at peace with the choices I have made that I did not like very much, or am not that proud of. Each “misstep” has been a lesson for me, has helped me grow in a particular way.
Part of this is because a while ago I decided that I like being happy. Now, this may sound silly, but if you think about it, we *all* know people who just seem to thrive on being unhappy all the time. These are the people that always find something wrong, the people that carry angry with them like a security blanket. I made a concious decision several years back, in the midst of a separation from my husband, that I do *not* like being unhappy.
That separation was a very valuable experience to me. Was it painful? Of course. But in deciding that I wanted to be happy, I was able to let go of my anger fairly quickly, and this was a turning point in our eventual reconciliation. The thing is,being angry only hurts *me*. It actually makes me physically ill – my stomach hurts, I can’t sleep well, it literally hurts me from the inside. So instead of being angry, I decided to be nice. I decided that if my marriage could not be saved, so be it, but I wanted to regain our *friendship*. Somehow we had gotten to a point where we did not even like each other anymore.
Being nice to my husband in the midst of great difficulties eventually made him start acting nicer to me. Why? Well, if someone is acting badly towards you, and you are consistenly going out of your way to be nice to them, they start to feel like an asshole. So over time, those walls began to come down, and eventually, through a number of other important changes, we did get back together. But it all started with my decision to be happy, no matter the situation.
I have a lot more to say on this, but I have to get out of here, so I will sum it up this way:
The difference between that ex and me is, I will find happiness in the bitterest circumstances, while she will find bitterness in the Garden of Eden.
What do you find in life?