Take yourself out of the equation

Misery loves company.

I think there’s truth to that. It makes sense to some degree that miserable people want to share their misery or see other people be miserable in an effort to feel less alone. After all, when someone’s happy, they often want to share that too.

The other day, I was chatting with a friend and she was going on for a while about all that was wrong with her life. Some of the issues she was dealing with had to do with other people’s choices and actions having an effect on her. After listening for a while, I shared something with her that I apply when other people try to make me part of something I don’t want to be a part of.

I take myself out of the equation.

It really is that simple.

This doesn’t mean one shouldn’t help others; it simply means that it’s YOUR choice to help or not.

Years ago, I worked as an assistant editor and a boss of mine come up with the idea of having me check on my co-workers assignments at the end of the night to make sure they were done right. I would be receiving no additional pay but could perhaps have a better title. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. Basically, he wanted to hold me responsible for all the assistant editor work. My work was fine; others weren’t.

So I took myself out of that equation.

The fact he had people who weren’t doing their job well had nothing to do with me nor did I want it to. I explained that I was hired as an assistant editor and would do my job to the best of my ability. Perhaps if I wanted to grow with this company, I would have made a different choice but I didn’t. The point is though – it was my choice to make.

Others may try to put you in their equations but remember, as long as no one forces you (because that becomes a whole other situation,) only you can decide to be a part of something or not.

Misery may love company but that doesn’t mean you have to be it.

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(For purposes of this blog, I use the word “equation” mostly figuratively though in the sense of this definition, taken from the Collins English Dictionary, “a situation, esp one regarded as having a number of conflicting elements.“)

Simple questions to gauge how happy you are…

Happiness. That elusive feeling we all want, whether we admit it or not. That beautiful energy that swirls around those who feel it. That pleasurable experience from finding a piece of what you’ve been seeking, that can take your breath away at the same time elevate you.

Why would you not want it?

Of course, it’s one of the hardest things to attain and I’d beg to argue the most sought after. Don’t most people want the well-beloved material items – money, cars, drugs, art – so they can be happy, or so they think?

I think happiness is most difficult to find because it comes from within.

That’s a primitive thought though. Aristotle declared, ” Happiness depends upon ourselves,” many, many, many years ago.

Sometimes to get to the good stuff, the bad stuff has to come out too though. I’ve had some dark, dark moments but when the light did emerge, I felt an inner peace I had never felt before.

Here’s some simple questions I’ve found to be helpful to gauge how happy one is. Perhaps they can help you too!

1. How often do you smile at someone before they’ve smiled at you?

2. Do you yell a lot?

3. As you read this, are your shoulders scrunched up?

4. Do others try to spend time with you?

5. Do you care about what others think?

6. Do you lie? How often? How big?

7. Do you exercise in any way on a weekly basis?

8. Are you proud of your eating habits?

9. Are you proud of yourself?

10. Do you cuss at others to get your words across?

11. Do you enjoy your days?

If you don’t like any answers to these questions, it’s NEVER too late to change…

Cheers!

Other people

Something has been on my mind lately. Perhaps you can relate, perhaps you can’t but I’ve found that other people sometimes get upset with me because I’m not who they want me to be. Whether it be a friend who wants me to be more available or a family member who would rather me agree with them even if I don’t.

One of my favorite existential philosophers, Jean-Paul Sartre, is famously quoted as saying “hell is other people.”

Sometimes I wonder, is it?

Now, I’ll admit that in my twenties I was so self-absorbed I couldn’t care less if I upset someone. I always thought it was their problem and they could go to hell but thankfully, I evolved beyond that stupid point of view as I got older (with much thanks to philosophy and my parents!) And now, I live the life I want but always strive to be as respectful and honest with others as possible. I figure that as long as I am those two things, how much more can others ask of me?

Well, you’d be surprised. I’ve had friends get upset because I have to work. A lot. And therefore am not available to hang out very often. I’ve had acquaintances “de-friend” me from Facebook because they couldn’t handle me thinking differently than themselves. I’ve had bosses actually not appreciate my hard work and rather, treat me like I have a problem for simply wanting things done right. I’ve even, swear to God, have had people get down-right angry with me because I lack in pop culture knowledge and have no idea what they’re talking about. No shit.

I’m not perfect. And I’m not trying to pretend I am but damn, sometimes I feel like just yelling out, “Why can’t I just be me?!” Being a filmmaker who supports herself with two other jobs, time is greatly limited for me. I sometimes don’t turn a tv on for months and yes, I prefer things to be done efficiently because why they hell would one not? And recently, I’ve met the man I want to be with and also have became an aunt to two beautiful nephews so not only am I very selective in how I spend my time, I don’t have much to spare.

That said, I truly believe great beauty lies in the connection between human beings and the relationships we have with one another. Quality has always trumped quantity in my book. So I must ask, when another starts to demand something of you or get upset for what you lack that they wish you didn’t, what grounds are they doing so on? What’s so wrong with being different if you don’t impose it upon another and force them to be that way? Why do we not celebrate our differences rather than get angry about them (unless of course force is used and then, that’s a whole other ballgame…)?

Well… I don’t have all the answers but after much deliberation and observation, I’ve come to a conclusion.

The happier you are with yourself, the more you back off at being angry with others…

Are you happy?

That is THE question, is it not?

Sure, I suppose a few may say no and to them I say, “enjoy your misery”, but I’d bet a ton of money most people want to be happy. I know I do. But I’ve also learned it’s not easy and in fact, many people are not happy. And as one who studies philosophy, let me tell you, happiness is elusive and more often than not, it’s something internal and spiritual rather than external and tangible.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this concept of happiness. Some around me seem to be less than happy with their lives and their choices, and as for me, I contemplate this on a regular basis because if there’s anything I want to achieve in this lifetime, it’s happiness.

It’s a tough ass question though, at least in my opinion. I know I’ve been searching for happiness since I was ten years old because that’s when I can recall the first time I felt truly unhappy. I had just moved to Los Angeles, CA from Buffalo, NY and not only did I have no friends and no idea of what this new city was all about, I didn’t know how to act and be myself in a new and unknown setting. I struggled and that’s putting it lightly.

But there’s a story about myself from that time that I’d like to share because it made me realize, even at the young age of ten, what it would take to make oneself happy…

Picture this. A ten-year old girl, who had to leave the suburban upstate NY hometown she knew since her memory began because her father got a job promotion, and her sudden new life in the slick and stylish city of Los Angeles, California. Yes, her dream of making movies fully developed there and so in that sense, LA was a dream come true, but in the day-to-day reality, this young girl made up games to play by herself and she kept her distance from others in fear she would have to leave them like she did her friends in Buffalo. And then, at the end of the first year she spent in LA, in the fifth grade, she managed to get the part of Frenchie, one of the Pink Ladies in GREASE, in a play her elementary school was putting on. It was a main role and she had won it over another girl who was after the same part. Finally, this young girl was thrilled about something that she could find comfort and happiness in. As soon as she got home, she proudly told her parents about the upcoming play, in which she would have a main part but then…………. Uh oh. Her mother told her, “That’s the week we’ll be going back to New York for your uncle’s wedding.”

Tears didn’t come. This play was the saving grace of the difficult year this young girl faced and now, even that was going to be taken away from her. It hurt. Let me tell you. It hurt like hell. But she was ten, so what could she do? She told the play director, as she blinked back tears, that she could not accept the role because she would be gone the week before it was to open. The play director said that was best and moved on to the next. It was at this time this young girl realized two things – life is not fair and if one wants happiness, one needs to find it for oneself.

Happiness is different for everyone. Perhaps money would make one person happy while simply being around the people they love makes another happy. There’s no right or wrong answer because happiness has to be defined by each individual. Recently, I was asked in a round about way if I was okay with certain aspects of my life. I didn’t even have to hesitate though before I answered, “I’m the happiest now than I’ve ever been.”

I could say… Yes, I don’t really have any money. Sure, I don’t have many assets. And yeah, I haven’t achieved the level of success in my job that I would like…

But you know what? I have a sense of identity. I know who I am, what I want and what I’m going after. If I live in a one-bedroom apartment with the man I’ve recently met who makes me swoon every time I see him and I get to make films for the rest of my life and be around my family, I’d die an extremely happy person.

I equate happiness with love, honesty, reality and passion.

So what makes you happy?

I had a dream.

I had a dream a few nights back that has not left me. Its simplicity in message was like a slap to my face. And I needed it. It was as though my subconscious looked my conscious in the eyes and charged full steam ahead.

Well… my subconscious won. But before I tell the dream, here’s some back-story…

I’ve been a bit down lately because my latest film “Your Move” has yet to play a festival. My confidence has taken a hit. And while I try to remind myself that when I made the all-or-nothing choice of being a filmmaker I accepted rejection, I still struggle with it. And lately, the struggle has been at an all-time high because though I love all my films, I applied everything I learned from them to this one and I feel it deserves to be shown in front of an audience. Alas, it has not though, except for my cast and crew screening which was one of the best nights of my life. But I digress…and there’s more.

While I’m feeling this way about my filmmaking, I also happen to meet a boy whom I really like. He makes me really happy, just being around him and though I feel like I know him, it’s also super exciting learning about him. But, as my readers know, relationships do not come easy for me so I’m struggling. BUT, I have jumped in, sink or swim. Perhaps this dream was trying to help me to not feel so scared about it.

Okay. I had a dream.

And in this dream I was hanging out with some friends but no one in particular whom I can remember. And we were in a place that was very high up and some people where jumping over a cliff and landing in these holes before they reached the ground. Some in my dream thought it was crazy but others were excited and enthusiastically jumping right over the edge. I was on the fence about it, should I? Shouldn’t I? I was worried. But then, I turned to my friend (?) and simply said “I’m going to do it.” We had to weave through people to get to the cliff but once there, I talked myself into it. Pretty much by saying over and over again, “Just do it.” (or something to that effect.) So, I took a deep breath, (I know, cliché, but I really remember doing this in the dream,) and I leaped over the cliff…

I went down in slow motion and made it into the hole. I landed on the ground with both feet (and I swear to God, this image is so crystal clear in my mind that I really wish I could draw.) Not a scratch was on me. I felt great. Then…

I woke up. And I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face.

I think my subconscious took care of my conscious here and it’s really nice to know it’s looking out for its twin.

Sweet dreams!