Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Can You Stimulate Happiness?

Perhaps because the shimmer and shine of the holidays is wearing off, my kids are starting to feel the after effects of the New Year. Post Party blues, is common this time of year. The year has started again and it feels in many ways like starting over. This might be a good thing if you're looking forward to an increase in job opportunity, fame, fortune or just a better lifestyle. For many though it starts over the amount of money which has to be paid for co-pay's and deductibles on insurance. It starts over the amount of your escrow being higher if it was too low and it begins again the planning, purchasing and saving for vacations, trips and birthdays that must be figured into budgets. Many details like these can bring on frustration or depression. This is the point where you're encouraged to see the glass as 'half full' not 'half empty'.
How does one do that? Stimulate your attitude toward happiness, when there is much to be depressed about?
That's the problem, right there. You can't stimulate happiness.
Happiness is a state of mind which translates into a state of being. Yes, you can stimulate the mind toward pleasure or pain...but neither of those is happiness or a lack of it. Pleasure is a temporary state that once the stimulation is absent, the consequence takes up the slack. Often we stimulate ourselves toward pleasure to escape pain, but both are temporary states. What do you feel when you are neither happy nor unhappy? If someone gives you a cupcake, does it stimulate happiness or pleasure? If someone offers you a back rub does it stimulate happiness or pleasure? Only you can know. If your state of being is calm, peaceful, kind and positive then the cupcake or the back rub are stimulants toward pleasure. If your state of being is anger, frustration, hatred, or fear then those same things can stimulate you temporarily toward pain or pleasure. After the frosting is all licked away and your back is holding up your head again...Are you happy?
This is why we get addicted to pleasure seeking activities: Food, shopping, extreme sports, tattoos, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate. Whatever it is, it doesn't bring happiness, just pleasure or pain.
My son showed me the truth about this when I asked What he felt, once the pleasure was gone. "Nothing," he said. "I'm just bored."
"Would you be more likely to help someone else with something if you had pleasure in your life?"
"No, doing work will make my pain worse and take away from my pleasure."
He's a teenager with a common understanding of what happiness is. How sad, though. The reason the world is struggling is because we are all looking for happiness and finding only temporary ways to stimulate pain or pleasure. Money, fame, facebook friends, notoriety...the list goes on and on. We disguise it as caring about others, but if we are happy, then our love, kindness, concern and goodwill for other people should be our state of being. It isn't stimulated or squashed by anyone else. It is work, to see others as we see ourselves. To care about everyone else as much as you care about yourself. To hold back our own tendency to judge because we are not responsible for our state of happiness. Instead, we are frustrated by others who don't stimulate us properly.
I promise you I have failed to conquer this ideal as well. I'm learning to let my inner state of being have more control. I believe you can be stimulated with things that bring pleasure and happiness by participating  in activities and habits that have positive consequences. However, you must seek happiness, not stimulation and its a challenge to see the difference. "I'm grateful to my son who explained it so clearly. It means that you seek true happiness instead of simply what you want. Discovering true happiness is what all of us want in the long run. Don't be afraid to feel what's inside of you once the stimulus has worn off and you're alone with your thoughts and feelings. Without stimuli, without pleasure or pain. Just you, your Father-in-Heaven and the happiness knowing Him and being loved by Him brings. Its the only happiness there is!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Begin Again...

Near the end of last year my posts began to drift off...as did I. I wrote of my experience in the hospital with the infection and bleeding, but I didn't follow up. It is rarely in my capacity to survive the health issues of my life and retain the ability to write or even talk about them while its happening. As this trauma finished, another was beginning and I've only recovered my strength and my need to write about it recently. Perhaps its because, while I was enduring it, my priorities shifted and I saw the important things in my life a new way. Perhaps because I realized that sometimes you must do the thing you can do in the moment you can do it, trusting God and love to cover the details of life.
Five weeks ago, my husband and I went to the I.V. infusion clinic to keep me from dying. I weighed 90 pounds and was hanging onto the little strength I had left when I went in. It started as a bad reaction to new medication and ended with my last fingers of hope hanging on for one more day. It is what I needed to stay alive, one more time to take care of my boys. One more time to read with my son. One more time to kiss then goodnight. One more time to wait for them to come home from school.
I awoke each morning, feeling as though I would throw up. I got them going, made them breakfast, packed their back packs and sent them off to school. Then I'd collapse. I'd throw up, lie in my bed, try to finish the publication of my book and pray...a lot.
That was back in the beginning of October and lasted until Thanksgiving. Each day I grew weaker and thinner. My friends and neighbors fed my family, took me to the doctor, literally carried me where I needed to be and I kept going. When the nausea turned to vomiting and then starvation, my husband would prop me up in the shower, tuck me into my bed when I tried to do too much and took care of the family. The last time I threw up, I'd just had IV fluids for the third time and I decided I would get them every day until we could figure out what was happening to my body. I kissed my kids that day, so grateful that I still could. I curled into my husband's warmth that night, satisfied to know I could go on, if for only one day at a time.
Never did I see things more clearly. It didn't matter. All of the goals I made for myself. The lists of jobs, tasks, busyness that I crowded my life with. None of them were important. The only things that mattered breathed just a room away from mine. The only voices that penetrated the darkness were the ones I treasured. I no longer cared how many likes I had on facebook. It wasn't important how many books were sold, essays written or words inscribed. What mattered was the people. The friends that cared and sent cards, letters, messages, acts of kindness and words of encouragement. The touch of my husbands arms as he held me. The 'goodnight mom's that I treasured and the love and peace I had from somewhere besides myself.
The Friday before Thanksgiving I awoke and it was over. The nausea, the sickness, the drain on every bodily resource I had. It was all gone.
I was thin, exhausted, still unable to eat much, but whatever it was that stole my breath that two months, disappeared. The miracle was not the absence of the ailment though, it was the presence of a new understanding.
There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind that  make a difference in a big way, either for good or ill, with large acts in front of congress, best selling works, fame and notoriety. Then there are the other kind. The kind who make a difference to the individuals who touch their lives and then touch someone else. Both kind of people change the world, just in vastly different ways. I've encounter both and I love and appreciate the goodness, kindness and giving nature of the two.I realized though,  The influence I have will extend only as far as I love, touch and serve others. I don't know what my role in this world is. I hate to diminish the capability of either because I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I can not and will not diminish the mark each of my friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, and leaders have left on my life. I hope to love and spread the pure love of Christ in the best way I can. Because it is truly LOVE that fills our lungs, makes our hearts beat and keeps us alive.