Can You Be Happy Leading A Life Of Mere Existence

So many people will not be happy or feel confident until they reach a certain financial status, a certain element of success, a certain level of power. They are not happy “in their own skin” – just by being alive.

There is a story from one of the talk shows a few years back. It goes something like this: A female guest wanted a husband. She felt like a nobody without a partner.

The host says if you need a partner to complete your life, you cannot be a very happy person by yourself. You can‘t be much by yourself. The woman was not comfortable “in her own skin.”

There are stories were athletes feel that if only they win their big championship, they would be something.

The late Sammy Davis Jr. diagnosed with cancer once said that if he could not sing because of his cancer, he did not want to live.

But I know about a journalist that as long as she could breathe, she was grateful to be alive, savoring every moment.

Before one can have a productive life, one must be happy in “his or her own skin.”

We all have dreams, passions that make life worth living. Our souls cry out to make something out of our lives.

We live our lives through our gifts, our purpose. It gives us our identity. But to pursue our purpose, we need to be comfortable “in our own skins.”

So many of us cry out …if only I was rich….if only I had a mate….if only I was successful. We are not comfortable “in our own skins.” Our happiness is based on a certain image or certain status and when we fail to meet that standard, pain and frustration sets in.

So, how does one become comfortable “in his own skin?”

One of the toughest challenges is to be ourselves. So many people will try to control us, convert us into their line of thinking. I have to believe such a practice is more based on fear than love.

Ralph Waldo Emerson summed it up:” To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Being comfortable “in our own skin” is about accepting ourselves. And that’s never easy.

We are notoriously bad in comparing ourselves with others. We must realize that most people don’t have it together. According to Canadian religion author Tom Harpur, “we are all weak and the fact by being human we are all vulnerable.” Few men are to be envied.

But being human is more than just being comfortable in our own skins. As written earlier, our souls cry out for meaning, purpose, the need to be needed. Like food, relaxation, water, we all need to make something of our lives. Ideally, something that calls us to use our natural talents and gifts. And we’re not happy unless we try. There is nothing wrong in trying and failing. The crime is not trying at all.

One of the best ways is to find purpose that serves humanity and not our inflated egos. If it’s the latter, we may be hurting only ourselves.

And it’s important to find something we love regardless of the chances of success. Something that gives each of us satisfaction.

George Burns once said that he would rather fail at something he loved than succeed at something he hated.

We must realize that life is difficult, no matter what stages we are at.  We feel that if we reach a certain plateau, or level or status, our problems would be cease. We must realize we will be confronted with new challenges.

We should be wary of success. In the words of Oscar Wilde: “There are only 2 tragedies in life: “one is not getting what one wants and the other is getting it.”

But what if one cannot get it together. A person may have goals, desires. He has tried and tried but still no progress. For every step forward,  he seems to go back four. He has become lethargic and listless. He sees the futility of life and living.

He cannot wrestle his negative feelings to the ground and beat them into submission. Pain is real. Frustration, hopelessness, are real feelings. They cripple him emotionally. What is he to do? Life brings him nothing but pain. And there are thousands who can not get it together and no fault of their own.

Not everything is his fault. His mind has been poisoned by is negative beliefs caused by his surroundings. After all, we become by what we live by. The negative emotions become part of his psyche.

Telling someone who is emotionally down to get on with his life is like telling a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair to get up and start walking. If one can turn off  his negative emotions at a whim, we could shut down mental hospitals, prisons, eliminate homelessness, etc..

There are those who believe terminally ill people should have the right to die. There is no cure for their illnesses. The quality of their lives have left them. Should those who cannot get it together, see the futility of life have the right to end it all?

If our answer is “no” to the last question, do we not have a duty to help that person with his gifts? Find his path? Help him become the best that he can be?

To become who he was meant to be often takes the help of others. Unfortunately that help is brutally absent.

Just who has it worse: a terminally ill patient with no hope for a cure or a person who cannot get his life together and needs the help of others but because of free will, the help is absent?

What is our responsibility, if any, to those who cannot get it together. Do we have a responsibility to help out? And do we, as a society, not lose out by not helping him. Poet John Donne wrote:  “No man is island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. Any man’s death diminishes me because I’m involved in mankind.”

And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said:” I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way the world is made. No individual or nation can stand out boasting of being independent. We are interdependent.”

The cornerstone of helping out centers around the “Golden Rule.”In its rawest form, it states: “treat others as you would like to be treated.” Sadly, those who practice it are the exceptional, not the rule.

We all want others to adhere to the Golden Rule but few who practice it. If people aren’t going to practice the Golden Rule, why should it be shown to them in their time of need?

I think one of the main reasons we don’t practice the Golden Rule is we lack love of our fellow person.

And what we call loving by some is often more about control. It is often based on fear such as the religious zealots who want to control us with their value system. Or those who want to push their views down our throats by playing “rescuer.” We give them what we think they need, because it has worked for us, not what they actually need. One man’s medicine is another man’s poison.

As Thomas Merton wrote:”the beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

We have a duty to love. Dr. Leo Buscaglia writes: “man has no choice but to love. For when he does not, he finds his alternatives lie in loneliness, destruction and despair.”

We complain about the violence in our society. But don’t we inflict pain by doing nothing to those who need our help. We allow our fellow person to continue suffering.

If we are not helping, are we not hurting that person?

There are criminals we call psychopaths who have no feelings for the harm they cause their victims. Aren’t we just as guilty of the same mindset when we are not aware that our silence may be hurting someone?

To help someone who cannot get it together, we must become involved in that person’s life. It involves action. And it must be on the sufferer’s terms without giving up our self respect. As St. Francis of Assisi said “preach always. If necessary, use words.”

Paraphrasing St. Francis, if one is a teacher: teach always. If  necessary, use words. If one is a motivation speaker, motive always. If necessary, use words. Etc., etc., etc.

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Ken Munro

Ken works as a security guard. He’s a struggling writer of sketch comedy and pieces on spiritual issues. He wants to set up a non- profit comedy troupe for the community, entertaining in hospitals, drop-in centres, etc. He has established a troupe for psychiatric and physically-challenged communities to participate in. He is also interested in the plight of psychiatric patients and other poverty-related issues. Ken can be reached at munrokb2003@yahoo.com

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