tom walsh


As difficult as it usually is to deal with unhappy people, I suppose we need to thank them for the model that they give us:  "If you act the way that I do, then you're going to be just as unhappy and miserable as I am.  You're going to live your life filling your own heart and mind and body with poison that will take over all that you are and never allow yourself to be free and truly happy."

These role models are everywhere, and it's very sad to see them.  They spend their time trying to control others and outcomes (especially children and spouses and the things that they do), complaining about how unfair life is to them (even if their lives are the result of their own actions and inactions), and even doing their best to make other people miserable (misery does love company--it's amazing how many of the old sayings are so true).

Rather than let these people affect me in negative ways, I try to learn from them so that I won't be as miserable as they are.

On a very basic level, I learned a lot about this from smokers as I grew up.  Smoking did have its draw to me when I was young, and I even tried it for a week or two when I was about fifteen.  But I had too many role models around me who taught me about the long-term effects of smoking through the way that they coughed for long periods of time every morning, through the fact that they had to have oxygen tanks with them all the time because of their emphysema, through the ways that they died of lung cancer and suffered pretty horribly during the time before their deaths.

I also learned about happiness from the drinkers who would end up getting drunk and then doing things that affected them for a long time.  They might have thought that they were "having fun" and getting the most out of life by going out and getting drunk, but I was pretty sure that they weren't enjoying themselves when they were throwing up into the toilet or out on the street.  And how many people have driven drunk, only to kill or injure others when they've caused crashes?  There are very valuable lessons to learn about our actions in such situations.

I've also learned about what happiness isn't from the people who hold on to resentment and anger for long periods of time, always blaming others for everything bad that has happened to them.  Lost the job?  It's the boss's fault--he's a jerk.  Divorced?  It's the wife's fault, damn her.  Crashed the car?  Those people at GM just don't know how to build a safe vehicle.  Kids don't talk to her anymore?  It's the ex's fault, and that stupid woman that he married.  These people spend so much time blaming others that not only do they not have time to look at their own actions (for they usually wouldn't like what they see), but they also don't have time to look around and enjoy the world around them and get the most out of the lives they've been given.  And they hurt others, too--another action that causes them even more pain, that they then also blame on others.

There have also been many lessons on happiness from the people I've met who allow fear to rule their lives, who never take risks or try to fulfill their dreams.  Our society these days makes this very simple to do--we're offered many outlets for passive "enjoyment" of other people's achievements through things like reality TV, movies, music, and other entertainment and sports venues.  It's a great day when my favorite record hits number one or when my team moves into first place, but what have I done today?  If I base my fulfillment on other people's actions and accomplishments, I'm pretty much bound to feel frustrated and unfulfilled, though I'd probably never admit it.  It does show in my actions, though, in the ways that I treat other people--especially when they dare to criticize my favorite rock group or favorite hockey team.

And on the flip side of this, I've met many, many people who spend their time trying to encourage people to live their own lives and to do their own things.  When bad things happen, they accept them and try to learn from them, but they don't look for a scapegoat to blame them on.  They don't try to control others and convince others to see things their way, as if their whole purpose for existence is to try to get others to agree with them about the faults of others.  They forgive themselves their own transgressions, and thus are able to truly forgive others.  They go through life enjoying the experience, not focusing on negative things that keep them from seeing the beauty and wonder of the world.

So the question is, of course, quite simple:  which people are to be my role models for how to live my life, and which people's actions and attitudes will I learn from as lessons how not to live my life?  It really is up to me, isn't it?  Especially if I want to be happy and live a happy life.


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