“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”- Epictetus
Why write? Why draw? Why yoga? I’m in the process of reinvention (again). I must not be the only one thinking about this though because both the January issue of Psychology Today and the March issue of Outside magazine are about change and reinvention. Change in the self, change in the global workplace and change in how we define ourselves is in the wind. This sort of thing used to be devastating for those in past generations who really bought into the idea of a single lasting career for the husband, or a single husband for a wife. And, for some, this was a reality. For others, who built their personal identity around this external thing called “career” or “husband”, it was crushing.
I can’t romanticize that past too much, however, because as I get older and see how the 70’s and 80’s are romanticized now I can attest it was not ‘safer’ then to, for example, hitchhike around the country or for children to run free in the streets around the town. It wasn’t smaller then. It wasn’t simpler. People weren’t happier. There weren’t more fields of green (well, maybe there were more fields of green).
I'm laying in my bed, awake, staring at the ceiling. The sun is up and peeking in my blinds. I want my book to focus my mind on something, but it's on the desk. I don't want to disturb the dogs by getting up and getting it.
To want. The implication of lacking or needing something outside the moment, that the moment is not perfect and to accidentally instill a cycle of dependency.
"I want to feel better."
"I want to be healed."
"I want that book."
"I want my mind to be still."
It is perfect, however, this moment. Everything is how and where it should be right now, right here, right in this moment.
When I think about what I am full time every day all day, I am a mom. I may not be the best mom in the world, but it is the one constant in my life and it’s one big part of who I am. When I think about my health, my vision, my life and where I’m going to put my energy, it is always with the kids in mind - whether those rug rats know it or not. And, believe me, they will doubt you. If you're a parent, you know what I mean.
How can I stay balanced? How can I encourage them? How can I give them space? How can I be strong for them? All of these questions float about in the background while my body does my day to day life activities.
Everyone wants to be happy. Sort of. It’s complicated, right? I mean, we all think we want to be happy ... until we sabotage the happiness, that is. Probably because we’re either A. shortsighted or B. undecided about how to define happiness for ourselves.
Taking a cue from a Harvard Grant study, which followed 268 male undergraduates for 75 years, collecting data along the away. The study found that the two pillars of happiness are love and “finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away,” according to director George Vaillant.
Vaillant is an interesting study himself as well. Ambitious. Married 4 times at last count. Complicated. Thinker. Respectful. Disrespectful. A contradiction. A manipulator. A hurt boy. A student and expert in psychiatry and psychology.
I could go on. For a while there I felt like I may have been describing myself. Isn’t that what happens to us when we get older and live through more experiences though? I mean... if we’re lucky. I’m not manipulative, however. Not smart enough. And I’m obviously not a hurt boy. But we all do have that kid inside us - some of those kids more traumatized than others. His was pretty traumatized. And I would never want to trivialize the subject.
The interesting thing about the study result is that second part: “finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.” A friend of mine said “coping” made it sound like work, like it wasn’t really a very happy thing.
Granted the economy of words is typical of the field of research reporting. Taking that with a grain of salt and expanding on it by unpacking what that really means is where the heart of it is, however.
If we were to take a barebones definition of the word ‘cope’, we would sense the emotionless word to convey to us that it is to manage, to survive. Add that to a sentence regarding the concept of ‘love’ and it seems, well, lacking. Reposition the definition slightly to have it mean, ‘to have the capacity to deal successfully with’, and the whole feeling of the word to ‘cope’ changes. Words become ideas: to have the capacity; successfully. These are concepts we can get closer to emotionally. They create desire. Sounds way better than mere survival and management. Who wants to merely manage love?
If I were to unpack the idea of coping a tad further, making it really a personal interpretation, I would say it is exactly the right word to use in the report. After all, this is indeed what we do. Every day. We find ways to cope. Imagine a sliding dynamic multidimensional scale. On some ends, life is easy. On some ends life is difficult. The difficult end is going to be the more interesting end. An array of challenges get thrown at us - even if we were to gear this diagram only to focus on the subject of love. For some, challenge number one could just accepting that they are lovable. For others, it could be balancing personal ambitions with holding onto and protecting the love they found. For others, it could be that they haven’t really even unpacked the word love for themselves yet in the first place. And yet for most, maybe, it is how to get over power struggles in an interpersonal relationship.