No, You’re Not Responsible for the Happiness of Others

Here is a post where I lecture myself and remind myself of how one of my personality features bites me in the butt, repeatedly, for the same dang thing. It’s bugging me so much that I’ve started writing my own passive aggressive memes about it. I put a picture of Fiona enjoying Johnson grass under the words “You are responsible for your own happiness.” I felt good.

May be an image of animal, outdoors and text that says 'You are & responsible for your own happiness 0'
Fiona knows this!

And, by the way, I am still occasionally annoyed beyond belief when people post thinly disguised “messages” to folks who are in their disfavor via memes. On the other hand, some of Kathleen’s do make me laugh, so I’m not saying y’all should never do it. Perhaps I just don’t like the ones aimed at me. Wow, that makes me sound like a jerk. Newsflash: I AM a jerk, at least in the eyes of some people. Hey, it reminds me of another meme I wrote years ago: No one is universally beloved unless they are boring as hell.

Where I’m going here is that I keep re-learning is that it’s not my job to “make” anyone else happy. In fact, when I try to do so, it usually blows up in my face in a spectacular manner. And I’m the one who gets hurt. That’s why I wrote a meme to remind myself. It said: “Reminder time: You’re not responsible for the happiness of others.”

I’ve probably mentioned this before, since I’ve been blogging so long, but indulge me as I repeat that one of my “features” is that I find sad people, see their good points, and want to help them become happier. This started in my twenties, where I tried to help a paranoid grad school friend realize that people weren’t always talking about him behind his back and the professors didn’t hate him just because one didn’t say hello in the hall. I knew I couldn’t “fix” him, but wanted to make things easier on him. Of course, he hurt me badly in the end. And I didn’t really help. I heard from him a few years ago, and he was still thinking everyone was out to get him. I didn’t contact him again.

Not by me, but true.

Moving forward, many (okay, most) of my “love affairs” I now see as me trying to help someone sad feel better. Coincidentally, many had some pretty severe mental illnesses they were living with (a LOT of borderline personality disorder). I’d help with their self esteem and get them to a better place by being kind and listening a lot, but I couldn’t “cure” them, just show that they are worth caring for just as they are. Once that message sunk in, they’d move on to someone more well suited to them. And I’d be sad. I do hope the new relationships went well. And hey, I did eventually see my destructive pattern and STOP IT. Lee’s the last sad person I rescued, lol. I was also sad, though, so this time it was mutual, and we are sticking together through thick and thin.

It wasn’t just people I “fell in love” with. I also would come across younger folks and want to help them get a good start in life. Some of those actually worked out very well, and I have some great friends living wonderful, independent lives. But, I was still drawn toward people whose issues were really not something I could do anything about. I couldn’t “make” them happy by providing them with a safe home, sharing experiences with them, giving them tools for their hobbies, or anything. Mostly I now have a lot of baking and art supplies to show for that.

Ooh, this meme hits close to home.

At least two of these people I tried to help and even brought into my home ended up lecturing me for being kind to them just to make me look good. I took that to heart. Maybe a lot of it was MY problem, not theirs. Ugh. All this self-evaluation is not fun or pretty. But I hope I learned the lesson that each of us is responsible for our own happiness, and while giving people a chance is good, they need to find their own way.

I need to keep writing myself some memes, though, because it has dawned on me that I’ve been trying to make life better to some other folks, STILL. I spend so much mental effort trying to figure out ways to make their lives easier and more pleasant. I want the people in my home and work life to feel like they’re contributing to society, cared for, and not alone. That’s probably okay. I still can’t “make” anyone feel less depressed, less unfulfilled, or satisfied with where their life has ended up. It’s not my job.

A meme about walking your own path.

I say all that to try to reinforce it in my head. I’m NOT a failure if people I care about are not handling things well. I can’t rescue anyone, including myself! So, right now I’m working to get a better balance between caring for others and protecting myself from hurt. I know I’m not alone in this, but it’s damned hard. I’m not doing a good job of it a lot of the time. I’m wired to be an annoying rescuer, and I’m sure it came from growing up with a powerless, mentally ill mother, or whatever.

All’s not lost, though. I’ve been learning a lot in working with my team in Austin, and my boss has come up with this helpful way of looking at the mentor-mentee relationship. And that’s that the mentor can only give 50% of the effort in improving situations. The other person ALSO has to give their own 50%. Expecting someone to fix everything for you never works; you have to put in the effort. Thanks, boss, you super-stoic.

Sara and Ace are the perfect example. Each of them has to be doing their part for their horse-rider relationship to grow.

Forgive me if I’ve ever tried to help you and it made you upset or angry. I’m doing it because I also need help, ya know? Eventually I’ll figure out a balance between being part of a supportive community for those who could use some help and supporting my own self. Maybe even I’ll do better at asking for help. Those are some big dreams.

Until then, I’ll look for memes.

PS: On the podcast, I added that I may not have been clear here. I’m not saying you can’t support, love, and cherish people who are struggling, nor that you shouldn’t. I was trying to just make it clear that you can’t force people to not feel the way they feel. Did that help?

The Tiny Calf

I can tell this story, because it’s happy, and I like happy baby stories. We’ve had a calf on the property for a week who was having trouble immediately after birth. I saw one of the lease guys pick it up and put it in the utility vehicle. I noticed it wasn’t standing.

The sun shining on mama and day-old baby

I was relieved to see the little feller in the pen the next day. He was sure cute, and his mama was very protective. I noticed he sorta scooted around.

I’m so cute.

The next couple of days I figured out there was something wrong with his front legs. He always stood with his hooves folded under. It turns out his tendons had gotten stretched at birth, and it’s not uncommon. Usually it resolves itself in a few days.

I’m trying!

The other issue was he was having trouble nursing. Not being able to stand very long couldn’t help. But, the guys who own him were not giving up. He got bottle fed twice a day, and believe me, milking a beef cow is not a romantic event where you sit on a stool with a pail. No, she had to get squeezed in the chute so she’d hold still!

You may not photograph me getting milked. By this time, he was standing more and even ran a few steps.

Monday, the cow looked way better, and sure enough, we saw the calf nursing. My resident experts were concerned that his tendons hadn’t settled back yet. Both Sara and Trixie said they’d never seen it last so long. That worried me.

My right foot is pretty good.

Today was all rainy, but I sure was glad to see the little family still in the pen. And hey, look who was standing and walking around like a calf? Our little guy! I needed that happy sight.

You be careful over there, son.

After a week, he’s almost normal and obviously gaining weight from all that delicious moo milk. I found out he hasn’t had a bottle since Monday. Looks like all that patience and extra care was worth it! Just look at that smile!

Cheese!

He’s a friendly fellow, but mama isn’t. I know she will be glad to get back in the pasture! I really admire the guys who care for these cattle for being willing to take extra care of their herd. Ranchers with good hearts! (And they’ll make money, too.)

Irrational Pleasure at Small Things

I’m beginning to think the reason I’m usually in such a positive frame of mind is that it’s so darn easy to give me little bits of happiness throughout the day. Just in my office, alone, there are things that make me feel a wee bit of joy every time I use them. Just now I was talking to Anita about my love for the very large set of gel pens she got me for Christmas.

Oooh, ah. This thing has TWO layers.

They replaced the HORRIBLE gel pens I’d been using to write in my notebook every day. I’d say 75% of them were dried up before I even got to use them, and they weren’t that old. I do love the stand they came in, but I guess Anita got tired of me cursing every time I tried to write something down.

Bad pens, on their way to Pen Heaven.

The new pens work like a charm. I, being me, and using them in order to write my notes each day. It’s the baby version of the incredibly complex, but meaningful to him, system Lee uses in his really fancy journals.

Other things that just perk me up a little every day are my various rose-scented items. I love the smell of roses. Of course, it makes Lee sick (I have never met anyone so sensitive to scents in my life, and that’s saying a lot for someone who attended a Unitarian Universalist church where scents, real candles, and many types of flowers were banned because of folks who, I assume, would not have lasted long prior to this century), so I indulge mostly in Austin or in my office in Cameron.

Before I got so lost in my parenthetical ravings, I was going to say how I like the rose cuticle oil (with cute li’l dried strawflowers in it) and my fancy rose oil perfume from my favorite multi-level marketing vendor. I have one of those for all my desks.

Smelly objects!

Naturally, my red leather notebook with my name on it makes me happy, too. I write in it every day and enjoy how soft it is. It’s from Jenny Bick, if you want your very own cute journal.

One more thing I love is a good keyboard. I must say I irrationally love the clicky keyboard I have in the Austin office and the cute candy-colored one I have in the Cameron office (they are from a Chinese company that markets itself as the PNK Stuff). Why not enjoy yourself while you type all day, every single day?

Well, look at that. I just came up with all these things just sitting at my desk! No wonder I’m such a chill type of gal these days. I doubt I’ll continue and share what I love about the area around my chairs in my living rooms or my bed. I think it’s clear that many things bring me joy. No wonder I can’t toss most of my things.

What makes you happy just by having it nearby or using it daily? Suna wants to KNOW!

Why Does the Horse Pee at Me?

Apache. He’s quite a guy, with the heart shape on his chest and his pretty mane and tale. He’s also quite funny.

He likes to stand on anything that makes him look taller.

Lee tells me that while I was gone, Apache made his annoyance at not getting his hay regular enough quite clear. First there was snorting, then he snatched a big hunk before Lee could even get it down to him.

But for me, he reserves a very special message. As soon as he spots me coming down the driveway, he snickers. Then, like he’s on a schedule, he pees. That’s an impressive sight that I’ll spare you. Consider it a Blogmas gift.

I’d noticed it before, but I’ve been keeping track, and that horse has peed for me every day since I got back. I actually found a forum post on the topic, and a bunch of English people agreed that many horses “wee” from excitement to see their human friends. Aww. Happiness in horse language.

Now that I think of it, lots of female dogs pee from excitement. Or fear. Ha. I don’t think he’s afraid. Not him!

I love you, too, Apache.

I’m always glad to see him and Fiona, too. But I can hold my pee until I get home.

Can You Learn to Be Positive during a Pandemic?

Some people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and I am definitely an old[er]…person. I’ve always thought of myself as a realist, in that I see the beauty and good in the world, but I don’t deny the sadness, sorrow, injustice and pain that’s around me, either. Life is suffering, after all, says the Buddha.

Top that off with a healthy dose of empathy and sensitivity to the moods of others around me, and I end up not being the biggest little ray of sunshine in Central Texas. I have even railed about “toxic positivity” and “non-toxic positivity” right here in this blog, not that long ago.

For me, there’s room for each.

However, in the last few months, life has been conspiring to teach me new ways of walking through life, thanks to some people who just sorta showed up, or I just started paying closer attention to them. And it’s not just reading all those Buddhist articles that help you see that living in the moment is key.

You see, I used to avoid the relentlessly optimistic if at all possible. Always seeing the bright side of things, ugh. “Oh, no, I have the flu.” “That’s great! You can catch up on your reading!” I also got tired of the relentlessly negative, too. I know people who can suck the life out of any conversation by pointing out the negative consequences of anything: “It’s such a pretty day!” “Yeah, but you’ll get skin cancer if you stand in the sun.”

Depending on how you look at life, this may well be true.

I probably have mentioned before that I loathe being told to smile when I am, at the moment, not actually happy. Sure, I’ve read that forcing yourself to smile can make you happier, but sometimes there’s good reason to be unhappy, at least temporarily. Okay, fine.

Look at that happy face!

I’ve been watching the positive people in my life more closely, though. Here’s one you can watch yourself: go follow Emma G on Facebook. That is one positive woman. I happen to know that she’s faced some challenges in the year I’ve been reading her posts, but she never fails to find something good, some way a challenge has helped her grow, or a way something she’s learned can help others. I look forward to that smiling face every day, as she shares how she’s working on her musical career while minimizing danger from COVID-19.

Here, wine is helping us stay positive.

Living with Kathleen the past few months has also been a lesson at looking on the positive side of things. I have never seen anyone post so many cheerful memes in my entire life. Sometimes I’m like, geez, you have insomnia and are sick to your stomach, but you’re still posting “everything’s GREAT” all over Facebook. I see, though, that she’s trying to draw in the good stuff by sharing it (guessing it’s the power of attraction or something). Whatever it is, even when it irritates me a little, I can’t HELP but be reminded to look at what’s good in my own life, which is leading me toward a more positive outlook. She’s another person who’s had some real challenges to deal with in the past year but is finding ways to see the good. She’s never afraid to go talk to someone about our business and get some sort of positive outcome, too. Also, she’s one amazing idea generator. Now she wants me to have a donkey ranch.

This was taken just after Pam gave me a positive pep talk.

Another beacon of positivity is my friend Pam B. from the Breakfast Club here in Cameron. She’s another person who just radiates happiness and works hard to cultivate good in the world. Every time I talk to her, she says something about wanting to “elevate the good” or find joy or something to that effect. She is amazing at bringing people together for the betterment of this small but quite vital community (and is really fun to watch in community theater). Seeing how she works so hard to bring happiness to her friends, neighbors, and families is a real inspiration.

Here’s Eva with the sun behind her, making her even sunnier.

A final source of positive vibes is my coworker, Eva. I’ve known her since I started working at Planview, so I’ve had plenty of time to soak in her attitude. Especially in the past few years, she has provided a great example of how to take feedback that might upset someone or get them down, and turn it into an opportunity to learn more, find a new way to present information, or create a better product. She’s confident in the skills she has, and doesn’t take it personally when I mess with her grammar, because she knows perfectly well that the actual ideas are great. But it’s not just about work, but all aspects of her life that she brings along a sunny attitude and a lot of gratitude. It’s rubbing off, slowly but surely.

Here’s one of Kathleen’s memes.

People like this have been in my life before, some for many years, but I must be in a position to be more open to their input and to learning from them (thanks to those Enneagram books, I guess). I’ve been told that people come into your life for a reason, which is hard for someone like me, who has mostly been convinced that life is random. But, maybe there’s something to it, and something to the idea that if you surround yourself with positive people, you’ll be more positive, even if there’s a pandemic going on.

Another thoughtful meme that I have taken to heart. Some people may wish I hadn’t.

Do you know a relentlessly positive person? If you do, THANK them, and see if you can let a bit of that attitude rub off on you. Things in the world won’t change, but you may be better able to cope with it. I am, thanks to Emma, Kathleen, Pam, and Eva (and all you others I didn’t mention).

Okay, let’s all be SUPER HAPPY! Be a ray of sunshine like Emma, Kathleen, Pam, and Eva!

Happy Salad, Happy Imbolc

The picture of health, for my age.

I’m a happy gal today. I went to the doctor for my checkup and was declared in “excellent health for a woman your age.” Thanks, I think. Some more lab tests got done and I have to get a mammogram tomorrow (making me wonder if she found something).

But, yay, I was so happy I got the happy salad for lunch!

It was happy, though I put on too much dressing.

I also couldn’t help but be cheered up by the weather today. In this part of Texas, February 1 is when you start to see the sweet-smelling flowers blooming. When I stepped out of the work building for my daily walk, I was hit by the smell of these little power-houses of smell.

Then, just around the corner I smelled grape Kool-Aid! The Texas mountain laurels have started to bloom!

While the knockout roses were pretty, they didn’t smell, but that’s okay, the sweet alyssum and phlox made up for it.

They remind me of me, perhaps a bit too colorful.

No wonder Imbolc (celebrated on February 1 in the Celtic festivals) is my favorite holiday. It symbolizes light arising from the darkness, and here that means flowers! I’ll give some to my Brighid statue today (it’s St. Bridget’s Day on February 1, too). (Note that Anita’s favorite holiday is Groundhog Day, so we have two days in a row to celebrate.)

Anyway, remember to take care of yourself, turn off the news, and look around you. There’s always something out that that will lift your spirits.

Great Little Things in a Little Texas Town

Happy Lunar New Year!

Like I was talking about yesterday, I’m trying to take notice of little things that bring joy. I think it’s important, even when you know perfectly well that the bigger things require attention. I just don’t want the scary stuff consuming me, because that would paralyze me and I’d get nothing done.

So, here are a few things that have sparked joy in me over the last day or so.

Lee’s future office. Ahh.

Of course the Pope Residence renovation is bringing joy! We have master masons working to shore up the brick on the interior, and the rest of the walls have been revealed. Want more pictures? I put some up on the Hearts Homes and Hands blog.

There are a couple of small town signs that I enjoyed yesterday, too. One was put out by the local bank. It’s so smart of them! And still, it has small-town charm. I edited it to say “office” and deleted “drive-thru” and hung it on our office door.

Keep our town healthy!

This one has to be my favorite. Kathleen and I walked to the Bistro to get our Friday wine, and I glanced over at the Italian restaurant. I thought, hmm, someone must be hanging out there and annoying people. Then I looked on the bench. I had to take THAT picture!

Bad kitty. Can’t you read?

It’s Ricky, the town cat, owned communally by all the downtown merchants. According to my friend Jean, he’s not only loitering, but soliciting pats! There’s a happy Cameron kind of thing, right?

Other things that have kept me perky are just things. We got new sticky notes and magnetic clips to give to clients at Hearts Homes and Hands. I think they came out great, which is always a relief when you pay money for things.

I didn’t make any typos!
There’s a hand that’s been working on stuff.

And the last thing is I got my nails done and honored Imbolc, my favorite time of the Celtic calendar. I put Brighid’s sacred flame on them. That will make me smile for the next couple of weeks. It wasn’t easy for Tina to do this, so I appreciate the effort, even if I’m the only one who really knows what it’s about.

And what else?

What the heck! From @stephenrx7 via Twenty20

We are going to go get CHICKENS for the new coop today! And food for the old chickens, who get to stay right where they are. As you can guess, the ladies in my family are pretty darned excited.

Let’s hope they get along with the dogs. There will be some training involved!

Why MUST I Blind People with My Brightness?

Today I’m a vision in yellow and pink, with sparkly shoes, a shiny necklace and earrings and my crazy sunglasses. At least I washed my hair, so it’s not mega-coral/pink.

Since I hit the big 6-0 with a splat in 2018, I’ve gotten brighter and shinier. My hair has been flaming red, orange, pink, and all colors in between. I have quite a collection of sparkly shoes. I have shiny nails, shiny jewelry, bling-y tops, and some pretty interesting glasses. In some photos, I stick out like a heavily bruised sore thumb.

The response, at least to my face, has been surprisingly positive. Random people at work tell me I always cheer them up, or that I’m their outfit coordination role model. I get shouts of, “Love Your Hair” from people I’d never have suspected would love my hair, based on their appearance.

Why, Suna, Why?

I have always enjoyed choosing clothing and putting together outfits, which conflicts mightily with my urge to wear a t-shirt and jeans every day (I just coordinate accessories, I guess). I’ve found that looking at my happy clothing cheers me up when I’m in long meetings, dwelling on how ill all my friends seem to be, or listening to the news.

No doubt my love of fire, hearth and home and my attraction to the Celtic goddes/saint Brigid has something to do with my love of shiny.

If I look deep in my heart, I’m sure a part of it is enjoying the positive attention, because, let’s face it, short, chubby, mousy women with graying hair and a tendency toward sarcasm tend to not get a lot of it. But, I’m inevitably surprised by attention, because really, the brightness is to help ME keep positive, look on the bright side of life, and share my internal peace and joy with the outside world.

My bright yet windowless office.

My Austin home is also really colorful, and it makes me happy to be there. My book club members and friends who see my photos often comment on how the bright colors reflect me and Anita and make the Bobcat Lair house feel so homey. All the color in the ranch house is in my office, but I make up for it at my office. I like to be around things that are bright. They remind me of how much inner light I feel shining within.

Really. The last two years I have felt so much more at peace with myself, at home in my body, and secure in my place in life, that I just want to show it. Sure, I get upset occasionally by world events or situations beyond my control, but I’m doing a lot better at focusing on things I CAN control, surrounding myself with people who DO care about me, and letting other things sort themselves out. Not trying to save the world, help others fix themselves (unless requested), or sending all my energy OUT has helped me find a lot of inner peace.

It shines through.

What Helps You Shine?

You don’t have to dress like Elton John on a worldwide tour to project a blinding shininess to the world. Just taking the time to notice what makes you happy, and perhaps sharing it with the world is a good start.

For example, today I woke up to more sparkles in the world, as the sun shone on heavily dewed fields. As I was driving out of my driveway, my breath was taken away by the color of the bare river willow trees along the arroyo. Everything looked shining and orange (like one of my outfits, ha). I didn’t get a picture of it, but I found this one that really evokes how I felt:

Peace among the orange willows, by @loreke76 via Twenty20.

Share how you shine, how you would like to shine, and what makes you happy. Give me a comment here or on Facebook, share on Twitter, Instagram, or email. Just walk around and be your shiny self. THAT is something we can all do to make the world better, inside and out.

Love, Peace, Happiness. The Big Letdown

Many times, I write about how the passage of time and the learning opportunities I’ve taken advantage of have led me to be more content. And it’s true. I’m handling life’s ups and downs fairly well right now. That doesn’t mean I don’t notice what’s wrong in the world, though.

Frosty sunrise.

All day today, I’ve been reading about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the things he said and did. (His actual birthday was last week, but the US loves Monday holidays.) I also listened to a lovely song imploring us to listen to what John Lennon said, give peace a chance and all that. Today, I’m reminded that King said:

“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”

 Speech to the Negro American Labor Council, 1961.

I came of age in the 1970s. It wasn’t a perfect time, but to me it seemed like things were going in the right direction. Women were working toward equal rights in all ways. Black people could marry white people. Gay friends were emerging hesitantly from their closets. People talked so much about peace, love, and equality.

Now that I’m over here, looking back from over 60 years wandering our poor beleaguered planet, I think I was quite wrong. By surrounding myself with my “tribe” of people like me, I was blissfully ignorant of much of US society, and certainly VERY naive about how businesses and capitalism worked.

I know there are still people out there like me, working to improve the environment, feed the hungry, bring peace and understanding among our fellow humans, and all that. I see that in my volunteer work every day. But, I no longer have confidence that we have the numbers or the strength to accomplish much. (I’ll still keep doing my part.)

Really, stop reading if rants bore you like they do me.

Here’s Why (Or Stop Reading Now)

The heart of my sadness is this: I once believed people were basically good and kind, just sometimes they were confused or misled. I now see too many people taking pleasure out of harming others, spurred on by their own “tribes.”

Continue reading “Love, Peace, Happiness. The Big Letdown”

Book Report: Can We, Should We, Be “Happier Now?”

They started a book club at work, where everyone is to read some self help book. Even though I had to miss the first meeting, I have been dutifully reading Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones), by Nataly Kogan. Kogan is a Russian immigrant who founded the “Happier” app, which I used for a little while then got nothing out of, because no one else I knew was using it and I probably didn’t quite “get it” at the time. Still, I figured this lady would know something about happiness, since it was her job.

It’s certainly a cheerful-looking book!

I was dubious about this book, to start out with. After all, I’ve read plenty of self help books about learning to love myself as I am, embrace my imperfections, and be kind to myself. I have said more than once that Brené Brown saved my life and that I should re-read The Gifts of Imperfection annually. Her books are how I became the much-less neurotic Suna who writes these blogs.

I told myself that, since I have already turned around my negative self-talk (I scare myself sometimes when I find my inner voice saying stuff like, “I feel great!” or “I’m happy today.”), I really don’t need another book on this topic. Of course, I conveniently forgot that I vowed to read books on this kind of thing yearly, to remind myself of how I want to be in the world.

Continue reading “Book Report: Can We, Should We, Be “Happier Now?””