Call me Hercules. Some time ago – no matter how long precisely – having little or no common sense in my head, and nothing particular to interest me in deviating from my whinings, I thought I would wander around a little, and open my eyes and mind to the ways other people found themselves to be happy.
Many impassioned pleas were made of me along the way – “Love yourself”, “Learn to be at peace”, “Be kind to yourself”, “Be happy with what you have” – and whilst all of these seemed like wonderful, wholesome ideals, designed to fill anyone’s cup of self-contentment to the brim, they seemed like huge, huge asks, and the idea that I could suddenly just learn to do them because they’d been suggested, was laughable.
Not that any of these comments were sent with anything less than the very best of intentions, mind. But perhaps there’s a disconnect (or not – I might find myself once again in larger company than I initially would presume) between the achievable for a person who is (in essence and majority) a healthy, whole, person – emotionally speaking – and a person who is not. Because a person with low self-esteem and a pathetically small (still) sense of self-worth is thwarted from within on each of these points.
In each case, there is a rebuff – a conditioned, built-in lie – which undermines efforts to achieve those things, the desire to achieve them, and the feeling that such glorious things should even be attainable by one such as the self.
Unhooking from that lie is infinitely harder than I ever realised. But years and years of that lie, perpetrated by those who really should’ve been saying the opposite, will do that to you. And it’s easy to hold up the few survivors with the strength of character to know all along that the lie is a lie is a lie, and not to be believed, and to provide their flourishment (once free of the toxic environment) as a shining example.
I didn’t have the strength of character. It was bulldozed from a young age and I fully believed the lie. And this lie was everywhere. It was at home. It was at school. It was at church. All the places which should have been havens of nurture and building-up were places where I was torn to shreds. Daily.
And in amongst the lies of worthlessness and undeserving, were the odd dichotomies – those people who cared and who said nice things – who tried to counteract the lies. But it was too late, and I appreciated their kindness in trying to make me feel better, but could never take their words on board, because they just didn’t make sense within the frame of reference I was using.
I still struggle with that. The frame of reference has become wider, less overbearing, but it still factors. I find compliments very challenging and tend to fob them off. I’ve sat, frozen, trying not to obey the insistent twitching in my legs, burning to get up and leave, as someone has said Nice Things to my face, and meant it. I’ve ended conversations with friends online, or plain old avoided them in case they try to say something Nice, because the pain of trying to assimilate their goodness and generosity and extreme kindness in saying such things (and as far as they’re concerned, they really believe them) into a mindset I still recognise as being set to ‘Undeserving’, ‘Not worthy’, is very real. I’ve often felt they are well meaning but wasting their time.
Grindingly slowly, things are changing for the better. Enough drip-feeding of positives is going on that I’m beginning to think more about this. I’m working on strengthening my resolve to help things change. I’m better connected with friends in real life (I think) and I’ve learned increasingly from a few of my more hysterical ‘mericans, about how to offer encouragement and receive support graciously.
But there was still a flaw in the plan.
To achieve the ‘love’ and the ‘peace’ and the ‘happiness’, I first needed to figure out what happiness was. Because if I don’t know it, how can I achieve it? The other two I can work on later. I feel like happiness is key, here.
So I bought a book which sounded sensible, and began reading it. And something leapt right off the page and hit me. ‘Happiness’ and ‘Feeling good’ are two different things. What people often strive for (in the name of happiness) is to feel good. And when they feel good, they call themselves happy. When they do not feel good, they call themselves unhappy.
And yet. Happiness is so much greater than feeling good. And I’ve not read enough of the book yet to succinctly cover each of the areas in which happiness is looked at, but the thing I’ve taken away from it is that Happiness is mostly about DOING Good.
I’ve been getting it all wrong.
I’ve spent so long feeling bad about myself that I’ve ended up trying to redress the balance by being far too focussed on trying to ‘Feel Good’ about myself. Which may or may not happen. Instead I should have been trying to focus on DOING Good. Because the rewards that brings are far greater than narcissism and a mirror with poison glass.
Which brings me to Hercules.
Hercules was a naughty man and did some bad, bad things. To atone, he was set twelve trials. Once he’d completed these, he would be granted immortality.
I am not particularly badly behaved (except sometimes) and I don’t think I’ve done much which is truly bad. So I’m not atoning for anything. But I like the idea of putting my challenges into trials, and by completing them, achieving Happiness.
A wise friend recently said to me that if I went out running in the rain and wind and cold, and had a thoroughly miserable time slogging through it, I could work on my determination and desire to achieve my goals whilst I was running, and then at the end, the warmth and deliciousness of coming home and getting clean and dry and warm again would be so much more accentuated. He was right.
Hercules had twelve trials. I’m going to stick with the aim of the hop and choose Ten. And the thankfulness will (I hope) help to accentuate them with a flavour of that Happiness.
The Trial: Keep on running, but for the right reasons. Hold shallowness lightly and focus more on the health benefits and be pleased at my achievements as they happen.
The Thankful: I have the luxury of a safeish city to run in. And appropriate gear to do so. I am rich indeed.
The Trial: Stop judging. Especially myself. There is a saying ‘you can judge a man by his friends’, and if that’s true, I’m golden. I need to chuck away the lie and the old frame of reference and learn to accept that if I can sustain awesome friendships with such amazing, lovely people because they want to be friends with me then I must trust their judgement and assume that there is some
thingone worth their time.
The Thankful: I have amazing friends.
The Trial: Develop a right attitude to money. At the moment I tend to feel guilty for having it and try to give lots away, or spend it like water and wonder where it’s all gone. And I’m historically very bad at managing money. I tend to panic-save and rarely buy anything for the sake of it (except shoes sometimes. and books).
The Thankful: I have money to work with.
The Trial: Prioritise the Real World more. This one’s gonna be really hard. But I do need more sleep (as luxurious as it is to have a lunchtime nap in the back of the van). And I need to leave on time in the mornings rather than staying online to read one last blog post.
The Thankful: I have a job to be late for.
The Trial: Be a better wife. I’m still ‘hungover’ from the past three years. I need to stop defaulting to snappish and exasperated. I need to learn to be loving and kind. And slower to anger.
The Thankful: I have Husby. And he’s worth the trial.
The Trial: Let go of anxieties about the future. Is this the biggest, hardest one yet? Perhaps. Because that future and the question-mark of children still terrifies me. But my anxieties are having huge impact, and they need to be better managed. I need to continue to (and plan to) Do Good in spite of being anxious.
The Thankful: I have people and systems (if needed) who can support me in this.
The Trial: Buy the book I contributed to. This one is shameful. I still haven’t bought it yet because it still hurts to think why I’m in it. WonderAunty has a copy, and I couldn’t even hold it for too long.
The Thankful: This book IS BRINGING HOPE to women who need it. And if I share it, it will bring more hope. But first I need to buy it.
The Trial: Be more organised about housework. This ties into the Real Life thing. It’s something I find not in the least bit interesting when my laptop is calling me, and I do it with bad grace, nearly every time.
The Thankful: Sarah inspired me with the word ‘Frog’ and a concrete method for achieving this.
The Trial: Wow! I got to the end of the things I can think that I need to change, before I got to ten!
The Thankful: I only have eight trials to achive.
The Trial: Free-for all (genuinely) – what do you think I need to work on?
The Thankful: I have people I know well enough to know they will offer constructive criticisms.
The En—nooooooooo WAIT!
Hang about! I promised you BIG AWESOME GOOD NEWS
And guess what. I didn’t forget.
Sad news first – Melissa has decided that the time is right for her to step down as a TToT co-host.
AMAZING AWESOME BIG NEWS RIGHT NOW
Our new co-host is the ever-so lovely, wonderful, heck YOU KNOW HER ALREADY –
*\o/* SANDY *\o/*
Pop on over to Mother of Imperfection and congratulate her – she’s going to be BRILLIANT at this.