“Achieving happiness is not the main purpose in life,” said Gregor one night, driving home from Brisbane. My brother, who was behind the wheel, nearly went off the road.
“What?” he cried, “That’s ridiculous! Of course happiness is life’s ultimate goal.”
Like Gregor, I am unsure that that is true. The pressure to achieve happiness is the cause of much unhappiness. We look around us, at our neighbours, our Facebook friends and see faces a-smiling. We hear about wonderful jobs and exciting travels. We see beautiful houses. We see happiness all around us, and crave what they have. We crave the happiness they have, and wonder why we can’t feel what they feel.
Life’s ultimate goal is to get by, and to learn to live with pain.
Rocky landscape to rolling hills
From the age of 12 until I was about 20, my life was either happy or painful. There was an internal switch, which flipped between awesome mode and torture. Life was summit or life was the depths of the pit. It was exhausting. And down in the pit, I looked to the sunny sky above me – that’s where I wanted to be. That was life. Where I stood was death. Happiness was my ultimate goal and would drag me from the depths.
Once again, on the summit, I feared falling. I knew darkness, and I didn’t want to go there. I wanted endless days of sunshine.
There was a girl at college with me; a gentle, calm soul. Every morning I asked her how she was, and she replied, “Not bad.” Not bad. What was that? It was such a strange idea. Not bad. How can someone be not bad? Life was either sunshine or darkness.
So, I aspired to not bad, eager to know the secret to this calm and gentle soul. I practiced. I mastered. Day after day, I wandered from the rocky landscape to soft, green rolling hills. There were inclines and declines. Soft clouds, occasionally grey and heavy, floated by. But it was not the exhausting rocky landscape I once climbed.
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.
These thoughts have been in my mind recently. As chance would have it, one of my favourite writers from Enjoy Life For Once shared a post to this exact effect. Jennifer was writing about the pressures of happiness, and the destructiveness of such pressure. As always, her post is not only reflective, it is uplifting. She writes about how to embrace the crevices of our life; of ourselves.
She writes about knowing yourself. If you know that dishes are frustrating and upsetting, know that even if the dishes were made of precious materials, you would still find dishes frustrating and upsetting.
Jennifer writes about learning to dance in the rain.
If we know our declines, our dishes – if we acknowledge – we can learn to include these parts into our life. We no longer edit them out. Leave them at the door. We instead welcome them in, nod towards them, thank them for being there and know they will help us grow as humans. In doing so, our pits of despair become a meandering decline, which we know will at some point become either flat, or will incline once more towards the sunshine and the soft, green grass at the top of the hill. A gentle meander up, and down.
How does this relate to our children?
We, as parents, are creating a template for our child. They are who they are, and will be who they will be, with their own journey. But we are laying down the foundations for them to build upon.
By embracing negative parts of ourselves, we show our children that it is OK to do so. We demonstrate to our children that pain is part of life, and we can help them move through it.
A child’s pain is a mother’s greatest sadness.
Watching our children suffer is painful. We long to help them and take their pain away. Unfortunately, apart from kissing it better, so often it is impossible to take the pain away. But we can show our children how to accept pain and suffering as part of our life. We can show them that it is not scary, and that even though we feel pain in this moment, we will soon feel better.
If we fight in front of our children, we can show them how we make up.
If we lose our temper, and yell, we can become vulnerable and reveal our pain for our children to see. Apologise and acknowledge our feeling. Acknowledge how our children feel when we yell.
If we need to cry, we can cry in front of our children. Our children learn that a smile soon follows, and that even mummies cry.
As parents, we can accept all shades of ourselves and our experiences. We can show our children that pain is a part of life and that dancing in the rain is a beautiful thing to do and will help us grow.
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Linking with With Some Grace for FYBF.