Is Happiness A Choice?

“Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable than risk being happy.”
- Dr. Robert Anthony

There are harsh moments in life that sometimes overwhelm us to the point that we want to take a new direction. Some people call that hitting rock bottom. I believe that we all need to experience something of that nature before we are willing to institute change in our life. While it might not be as extreme for some people, it has to be something that shakes us enough to make us want to truly change, to move from talking about change to actually changing.

Risking Burro making fun of me for joining the happiness or positive cult, I believe that we all need to introduce positive thinking into our lives. The more I have tried to change my environment to have more positives, the better things have been. My thoughts have stopped going the wrong route more often than they used to.

I am a person that at times takes everything around me personally. While this is not something that I have completely been able to fix, it has improved tremendously. Most of it has to do with moving the life of control on my life closer to me. I do not let what others say, except for maybe what Burro says, make me change my self image as much as it used to. I now look at the people around me as people that might have other issues going on with them and simply trying to project something at the time they say something to me. I used to take a lot of things at face value, and I now let them sit for a little while before I let my brain think it is truly something about me.

I consider being happy being at peace with the world. Being at peace with the decisions you make, being at peace in the relationships you have. I wish I had been smarter about my feelings earlier in life because I would have not been as frustrated as I used to be sometimes. I remember that I thought that to achieve happiness I had to stop caring in some situations, but in reality is that I had to actually care enough to make decisions about those situations and being at peace with them.

Spending some time once a week looking at LOL Cats might not seem like it is a good therapy, but the laughter they produce have made it seem something I look forward to during the weekends. Spending a Saturday running around might not seem relaxing, but I got so much done this weekend that it felt a lot better than when I did nothing all day. Relaxing for me is not about quiet, but doing something that I enjoy to take a break from what my brain is busy with most of the week.

So what are you doing in your life to take a risk and be happy?

Classism

“Money can’t buy friends but it can get you a better class of enemy”
-Spike Milligan

Classism is defined in the wikipedia as:

Classism is the systematic oppression of subordinated classes of people by the dominant class. It includes individual attitudes and behaviors; systems of policies and practices that are set up to benefit the upper classes at the expense of the lower classes. Classism is grounded in a hierarchy belief system that ranks people according to socioeconomic status (SES), family lineage, and other class related divisions.

Reading Señor Truman‘s post about “What Money Means.” lead me to Spungen’s post about being impressed with some hippies. I have not read Spungen much, but I get the sense that she is very discontent towards the things she feel she does not have. Will in the other hand on the same subject seems to be very happy with his situation. What makes them so different is not the money or social class, but their outlook on what opportunity means to them. I hope you have the time to read both post before continuing, but I will try to make sense of everything if you don’t.

When it comes to social class, I have been all over the spectrum. I have never really identified with one label, but I guess I end up being part of the middle class if you put things in an average equation. Out of my 4 grandparents, both of my grandfathers lost their fathers at a young age, and of them was actually left to fend for himself as an orphan. My grandmothers in the other hand both came from families that were pretty well off, one of them actually came from the upper class. One of my parents grew up around hard work and strict rules in more of a working class environment than the other. At times when I look back I see the behavior of one side of the family as a middle class family desperately wanting to be upper class. Funny thing is that nobody from that family had ever even come close to it in the past, and yet the one person that grew up around a lot of money was the one that wanted it or even social status the least.

My father climbed the corporate ladder and started to get to the middle upper class before we moved to the U.S. I attended elementary school around my neighborhood around kids that were from the lower and middle class. I went to high school at a private school down in with a mixture of people from different backgrounds, but everyone there was at least middle class. There were several people that were from the upper class in my classroom. I was lucky enough to see how all the different classes back in Colombia lived and I think it made me a better person. It taught me that in every class there are good and bad people and that class at times had nothing to do with how people behaved.

My wife’s microcosm was a lot smaller. She was in what she thought was a middle class neighborhood growing up, but I have to keep on reminding there that having a close community where only certain people can enter puts you a little above middle class. Even if the earning power was not what other people in the lower upper class had, she had access to play tennis whenever she wanted and could wonder the neighborhood without any fear. The funny thing about her experience is that even in that environment she encountered the good and bad people and again, it had little to do with the money and more with the person.

Spungen said:

That’s never what I hated about not having money, though. No, it’s the people you have to be around, and the lack of insulation from them.

Initially I disagreed with this statement completely, and not just because there are ways to get out of one social class into another but because in this country, you can truly change your life if you want to. Then the more I thought about it, there is a downward mobility when it comes to class, but not necessarily an upward mobility.

When my family and I arrived in the US our social status changed completely. After staying with family we took flight on our own and lived in a one bedroom apartment for almost 4 years. We went from being middle upper class to being lower class in a brand new environment. It took hard work but after several years as a family we are back to the middle class. I am not sure if that was a product of being in that class before, or if the level of education and opportunity helped, but I believe that if I achieved it everyone else can. I might be completely wrong in that statement in the sense that I had a can do attitude and was not programmed to stay in the lower class by society itself.

Being around upper class people in the past made me very comfortable with them. My Dad worked for a period of time with people that were in the upper upper class in our city back in Colombia, and even thought there was always respect towards them it was never reverence. Reverence has always been displayed in my family towards elders, educators and clergy but not towards people that were simply in a higher class. Respect for someone you worked for was also never to be confused with servitude.

My concepts of poor and rich have a lot more to do with relationships than with money. I have seen it over and over in my life that money does not buy happiness, and sometimes the people consider poor because of money have a way richer life when it comes to happiness and good relationships. Education and open mindedness I value more than a huge bank account when I am choosing who I am around.

As kids we are limited by the decisions our parents make. If they chose to be in a neighborhood where outside influences are a constant factor in kids life’s it will affect them. Many kids from lower class families living in very dangerous neighborhoods end up getting out and not being affected by them. I think when you are young it is your parents responsibility to keep drama away from you. I never felt I had to be around people I did not want to growing up, and right now I have friends from every single social class imaginable.

I have a friend here in KC that is working his way up from having a modest living to actually making enough money to have his own home. I also have another friend that makes over six figures and has for most of his career but its struggling to keep his standard of living because of some poor choices in the past. Their social class means next to nothing to me, and it could partly be because I am in a the middle class and I can easily move from one to the other. I do not feel uncomfortable or out of place in either situation. I am not so sure if that will be the same for my friend in the upper class hanging out in a below middle class neighborhood or vice versa.

So the question that I post to everyone out there is, how does social class affect your relationships right now? Do you feel an upward mobility?

To believe or not to believe

“The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.”
-Eric Hoffer

One of my closest friends does not believe in God, another one has completely separated himself from organized religion but both of them are very kind people that I believe can make it into the heaven that I believe in.

Recently XO has been posting about atheism in the sense that you should doubt faith, and I will put him in the bag with the fanatical atheist. I think anyone that is actually giving people information for one cause or another has taken a step towards that side and can quickly become fanatical. I am not offended by what he posts and I actually like that there are people out there challenging religion.

Part of having faith is being able to believe even when others don’t. Part of believing is knowing that it is your choice to have faith. I also don’t think spirituality should be confused with faith. While some people might not have faith in something like the thought of God, they might have faith in the goodness of people, in love or many other feelings.

Humans are capable of abstract thought, and what differentiate us from animals is that feelings can make part of our decision making progress on top of instinct. We choose to override our instincts with either morals or feelings. Society prevent us from for example taking food from one another even if we are hungry. The formation of society is what allows us to think in those terms, to believe that there is something out there bigger than us.

To actually promote that there is no god, to deny his existence is in some way an acknowledgment. I believe that Nietzsche saying “God is dead.” is a cry for help from someone that feels abandoned. To attack organized religion is one thing that I am not against, bloated institutions that take advantage of people are not good in my eyes. To attack the faith that people have on anything I believe is dangerous in the sense that you are not trying to open eyes but close them. Where once person sees beauty and comfort, someone else might see something unpleasant. I think it is important to respect what others believe, because that people that believe in nothing probably feel pretty empty inside.

Saying you are sorry

One of my uncles just discovered how to forward e-mails. While I delete most of the stuff I am sent, I felt like opening this e-mail up and reading it. It was your standard forward, but it had a little saying that really stuck with me.

It is not the first time I have read motivational stuff, I actually like to read stuff like that. From 7 habits of highly successfully people to 21 suggestions for success, I like to read and think about things. I have even been blamed of being too into philosophy to the point it annoys people.

The quote I read simply said,

“If you say you are truly sorry make sure you look the person in the eyes.”

Saying you are sorry is something people take for granted. Forgiveness is something I believe people don’t truly understand… when we are hurt we expect it, when we are at fault we don’t always know how to ask for it.

I am trying hard to remember if I have always looked people right in their eyes when I have said I am sorry. I am going to make a conscious effort from now on. I am certain that one of the problems I have with trusting someone has a lot to do with being able to look at them in the eyes… the people that cannot do that sometimes seem to me like they have something to hide.

The Word

“The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it.”
- Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon is one of those figures in history that everyone likes to make fun of. From naming your puddle Napoleon because of the psychological complex named after him, to just thinking he was an overall goof ball. Napoleon was a prominent figure during the French revolution as well as a very good war strategist.

The quote above is one that troubles me. The older I get, the truer it sounds.

I grew up believing that everyone was good, or at least had some good inside them. Life has taught me that a greater percentage of people are going to try to take advantage of every situation than those that try to pay it forward.

Before you try to tell me different, think of all the so called friends you have had to call to keep in contact with. Or the people that have done things for you, only to later expect something or a lot more in return. Then count those that have only appeared to want to know you while you help them with something that you are good at or its your profession.

Thankfully I have been able to meet a lot of people that have become true friends, but it still does not make it easier when you find out that some people you trusted were not truly there to be friends.

I try to keep my word every time I give it. In many situations I would have been better off not giving it rather than not keeping it. Last week while in Chicago I wanted to see a lot of my friends, but I ended up not being able to make any concrete plans with many of them… again the fear of giving my word and not keeping it.

It is not just me though, the older I get the harder it is to get confirmation from people on plans. Eric, Travis and I have been trying to get together for the last 5 years. I saw Travis this year, and I saw Eric about 4 ago… They saw each other last year(I was supposed to be there too, but work got in the way of that), but we have not been together as a group since college.

I wonder why it is that as adults, where we should be more secure of what we can and cannot do it becomes harder to give our word out. I miss the days of telling my friends, I will be there and not having anything to stop me from being able to keep my word.

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