Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Happiness

I’ve been pondering the idea of  happiness a lot lately. Perhaps, it is because there are so many books out these days about the subject. Where does it come from? Who has it? Why do they have it? When do they have it?  How do they have it? How can I get it? And why in the hell am I or do I feel like I am being negative when I really don’t mean to be? Why does my family look at me and my husband as though we come from Pluto? Why is it so difficult to be direct and compassionate? Why do I feel like shedding this passive aggressive skin is like molting off layers and layers of my own skin?  And why in the hell do I revert back to this mode of communication when I least expect it!? Why can’t I just be happy all the time? I have lots of questions about this fickle maiden. She is so enticing and ever changing.

These are questions we all think of, dwell on. Happiness is elusive for some but abundant for others. Why? What makes us so different from the next person? Is it our socioeconomic status? Is it our education? Our sense of connection? Whether or not we attend church on a weekly basis? Do we all need to sign up for yoga classes or attend a week retreat at an ashram in the mountains of Colorado? Does happiness depend on the kind of status symbols you have? What about how much liquid cash? A good retirement? A secure job? A “good family”? Does your ancestry have anything do with it? Your learned behaviors? What about the behaviors you have unlearned? Are there any behaviors you have unlearned? Or does it all boil down to your self esteem/personal well-being?

Human needs can be defined as: to feel safe and secure, to be accepted by your parents/care-givers/significant others, to feel competent and effective, to have a sense of being “ok” in the world, and to have a sense of worth. None of these needs say a thing about money or education or even the stereotype we fit into. Trust me, we all fit into a stereotype. If you disagree keep it to yourself, I don’t really care about arguing the point.

I work with drug addicts. People who have been judged, stigmatized, and even have come to the opinion that they are, for the lack of a better phrase, a waste of good air. For years, sometimes decades, they have believed this. Their stupors are briefly interrupted by moments of clarity that are so painful that they seek to anesthetize themselves once again and fall into a thick fog over and over and over again.  They can be out for several hours. They can spend their days chasing and hustling for the blissful oblivion only to have a moments reprieve. But once they find it, all is right and their brand of happiness drops them to their knees.  They have finally reached the days nirvana. This does not happen always for the drug addict. They do not always find nirvana each and every time they use. Just like each and every time you are happy you do not stay happy.

Why?

Everything in life is not on a continuous reinforcement schedule. This includes everything in our lives that we use to avoid pain.  Even those of us who do not use, do not drink, or involve ourselves with chemicals have various periods of calm and periods of pain. We think our bosses or spouses think terribly of us and we go out and do something or say something that takes the pain of not being accepted away and we are right as rain until the next moment of self-loathing. We do certain behaviors or think certain thoughts in order to get rid of the pain or to numb it. Positive and Negative reinforcements happen through out our days.Every day. Stop and think about when you last had a not-so-good feeling and what you did to get rid of it. How many times in a day does this occur?

some definitions before I proceed:

Positive Reinforcement is when you get a reward for doing something. Something is given to you.You do the dishes and your wife says thank you. You make a good dinner and your husband raves about it. You are bound to do this again and again looking for that praise. That acknowledgment. That acceptance.

Negative Reinforcement is when you feel pain (physically or psychologically) and you do something or think something to take it away.

for example:

Someone makes fun of you and you get angry (justifiably so) and you haul off and punch them or tell them off. You immediately feel better  for “standing up for yourself.”

Because what you are doing right now, the behaviors you engage in every day, all stem from not having those needs *points up* met. And so when those needs are not met we are going to find a way to fill them. I hate to makes us all sound like pavlovian dogs, but where needs and pleasure and pain are concerned we are.  Some of us mangier then others, but dogs just the same. Some of us learned to be helpless. Some learned that strangers were bad, but  uncle Joe was worse. Some of us had fairly normal childhoods, but all of us had some kind of trauma in our childhoods. It could be that your mother ignored you when she was on the phone and she was always on the phone. It could be that Dad suddenly hated you when you hit puberty and your relationship had never been the same since. All of those things, as little as they may be, are traumatic. Because, remember as a child, your world, your reality is MUCH smaller, you have much less to compare the actions or behaviors of others.

But what if you could return to your childhood and watch it play out through your adult eyes? (some childhood experiences may be better off left alone!) You would more than likely see the roots of your own pain. The roots of your need to be accepted. The roots of your own addictions, behaviors, actions, lies, and intrigues.  You would see that now you have a choice in the matter. As a 5 year old child you were not able to say “Mom, you suck! You are ignoring me and causing me emotional trauma that could last the rest of my life.”  But as an adult you can. Would this improve your chances at happiness? Would this assist you in reaching your happiness quota for the day? Perhaps, but then there are those pesky reinforcement schedules to contend with.

How do we break those? We don’t, we can’t we will always be rewarded and if we deny ourselves those rewards, what would happen then to happiness?  What we break is our learned behaviors. Our misguided, questionable, or downright bad  behaviors that have given us rewards. We take the good with the bad and keep trying until we are how we want to be. Who we care to be.

Outliners

I have come to accept that I do an awful lot of pre-writing and scene writing. I have to nurture these things and really get to the bottom of things before I am comfortable enough to start a scene.  Sometimes it just comes. Sometimes, my I have fire in the head and can’t do anything else but write. It goes into storage and stays there until I am ready to pull it out and work with it or on it. I’m starting to really get a sense of this world I am building, the events that occur, how they occur, and when they occur. So it is another step in the right direction.

Today’s post is more like a workbook page rather than a post… so bear with me.

I came across  the quote ” You think of the book you’d most like to be reading, and then you sit down and shamelessly write it.”  Penned by J.D. Salinger. This quote has always stayed with me.  Hence my attraction to Harry Potter type fantasy/suspense/thriller/Gothic genres. Before Harry there were others, now that I think of it. Dark thick Gothics my Mother would pass onto me. Even a boyfriends Mother passed a book onto me that I recall as being very much a Gothic novel. It was even set in Cornwall. I wish I could remember the name because I would read it again.

So while I am thinking about Gothics what is it about the Gothic that I love?

1) Atmosphere- the darker the better (much like my coffee!)

2) Creepiness, I do like a train wreck that I can’t see too clearly. I have to find out what happens next.

3) Emotional turmoil- I dislike mysteries because they are written after the crimes have been committed.

What is it that I like about suspense? Very much the same things. I like that there is more to the story then what meets the eye.I like uncovering it and not having someone do it for me….hence mysteries don’t float my boat. I also like that the characters grow and change over the book or by the end they have become something else or are going in a totally different direction then what they were. I like seeing growth and change.

And now I just need to sit down and shamelessly write it…..or at least begin again.

I never was too much of a science fiction and fantasy reader. I read a couple novels in high school, admittedly it was more about the boy that was attached to these books then the fact that I genuinely wanted to read them.  I became curious about  Harry Potter when the first movie came out, before that I just thought they were children’s books. But wow what  these children’s books did!

Since my introduction to fantasy via Harry Potter I have read other fantasy novels. Most of them were not very good, but they passed the time and kept me from re-reading Harry Potter for the 62nd time.

I really am pining for more Harry! And just have been sadly disappointed and let down, by “The Next Harry Potter!”

Years ago, July 2007ish, I became besotted with a made up land of my own, but struggled to articulate it. I would join a writing group, it would peter out. I’d join another writing group, it too would peter out. I joined an online writers community and I petered out, partially because I was worn out, partially because I just couldn’t write anymore without feeling like a fool for posting them. Not that my critiques were bad. I let them eat me up.

After all who hasn’t dreamed of writing the next Harry Potter? Really?  I don’t want to rewrite Harry Potter, but I do love the world of magic as J.K. Rowling put it together, it was rational and not like the other Sci-Fi/Fantasy books I had read.  The characters were human and not some special race or what-have-you. What I do want to do is not write a hokey fantasy world that people cannot relate to. I don’t want to only reach some readers. I want my book to be relatable to humans who are not first choice fantasy readers. How hard can that be without sounding like I am copying Rowling or Tolkien! ?

A portion of it is my own confidence. I love the world I am creating. I have worked on and off on it since 2007. When I leave it alone too long I dream about it and fantasize about taking a week off work to start on it again. All with the same goal each and every year, that by 40 I will have it to an agent. It really is my dream to drop my profession in the dust and move onto writing full time…What other writer does not have that dream too? But here I am still struggling to get this world together and ency those that can just bang out chapter for chapter of something, anything.  I feel like I am missing a few pieces and when I sit down to write the missing pieces are exaggerated. I stopped writing even if I was just processing my day. Wrong thing to do, but what can you do when you feel defeated, not good enough, scared to look like a fool if it actually does get published.

I need to kill my babies don’t I? I need to let go of this self sabotage and just write, otherwise it will never get done and I will pine for what I never did.

I am completely obsessed with writing.  I think I will take the plunge, research and construct a novel. About? France, pre- revolution, the Age of Enlightenment. That is as far as I’ve come…. As the Victorians had meaning to their flowers there was meaning behind what one wore. We don’t really think of what the colors we wear say about us…or do we? Am I the only one left in the dark and where certain colors to complement my skin tone? I certianly cannot wear red…no no no. pink is totally out of the question. purple as long as it is more blue than red and as much as I like orange it never sits well with my coloring. Green makes my eyes pop, brown is good too, blue works well.

ANYWAY

I’ve started notes. I have plenty on Louis XIV. I read a lot of biographies of dead royalty. I have started notes on The Age of Enlightement, Rousseau etc. I guess we will see what happens.

There was a time, at the age of sixteen that I devoured something my mother called the Gothic Romance. I  didn’t know what was so gothic about it at the time. I just loved the history, the costuming, the adventure, the detail. It was something my history classes left out, the teachers, as hard worked and badly paid as they were just had no imagination! How many times can one make a family tree or write about her heritage?  this same teacher also ran from the room screaming my junior year and never returned to teaching.

But I digress,

My first series was the Skye O’ Malley series of books by Bertrice Small.  And it is the only series I remember reading faithfully.My mother urged me to read The Outlander Series, but sadly it didn’t really interest me. Funny that I have always fawned over the Scots versus the Irish versus the English and that book just did not entice me at all. I did read one book, one book that for the life of me I wish I could remember the title, it was very intellectually stimulating, but  as I said I can’t remember the name….I can’t even remember the authors name as I would look her up.

What I remember of it: Sheakspeare, the globe, an apothocary that was a woman, a man that ate only white things….yep that’s it!

I also read lots of Jude Deverux, Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, But my mother and Bertrice Small started it all.

Over the years, I have read a wide wide range of books. I veered from the course of romance at about the age of eighteen. These were summer books; books that were easy fluff, nothing challenging, things that made me curious to look up the history, but not curious enough to read it cover to cover (anymore.) I could put these books down for days, pick them up, and be transported into their pages. Most importantly, I did not need to remember anything about the book!  After the age of eighteen these books just never “did it” for me anymore.  The plots too easy, the “suspense” too simple. I began to look further a field. I landed in plain old historical fiction, a little bit of sci-fi/fantasy (only for Harry Potter ♥ ) and some plain old literary fiction.

Having been the “C” student in history it’s funny to me now that I can and will devour a historical figures biography or piece of historical fiction in quick time.  I can remember the finer points much better having read something that stretched my vocabulary, not only encouraged me to look it up, but gave me references upon references to paw through.

I was also thankful to have a wealth of information while at college and studied English Literature. I fell in love with the Beats and Romantics.

For the past couple of years, I have been quite enthralled with the mistresses of Kings as well as French Royalty.  I love Antonia Fraser and Alison Weir.  I took my time on  Kathleen Windsor’s tome Forever Amber.Which I have to say was one of the best researched piece of fiction I have read in a really long time and to think she was writing it in the 40’s!

I am going to give Margaret George a go next and found what I hope to be a gem about the reign of terror Annete Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution by James Tipton. I can’t stomach Phillipa Gregory. I tried and failed. I passed the book on, they tried and failed. I passed the book on yet again and they tried, failed, and offered to burn the book.  I think it’s still sitting on my shelf waiting to be donated or sold to a used bookstore.

I have gone back to school. I wanted more out of myself and for myself and my family than what counseling gives to me. Counseling is great, but it exhausts me. It makes me thankful for what function I have in my life, but little patience for the dysfunction that is inherent in that same life. I think about “crazy” way more than I should and therefore can become a little (or a lot) compulsive about things.

 

So with my choice to return to school I also had to consider what that was going to do to my writing. What was it going to do to my family? I haven’t any children, but would like them. When was I ever going to get time for writing? Was it going to take a backseat to family, work, and school? Was I going to go for the doctorate or the masters? How much time would that take away from my writing? Would Academic writing completely kill off my creativity as it did before? And I realized that in all things there must be moderation, a balance to be struck. As much as there is time for work there needs to be time for relaxation.So when was I going to get that time?

For these past 6 weeks I have been grappling with group projects, individual school work, research, journal articles, a laptop that finally decided it was overworked (although not underpaid for) work, commuting, chasing down a field experience that fell through, and the lovely holiday.My disintegration began last weekend. I had been doing and doing and doing. I went to a friends BBQ and after being bored out of my mind by a 30 year old hypocrite who ” likes her drugs” but wants to talk smack about people that happen to get addicted and the people that help them get sober I was ready to go. I loved seeing Hes and her family, I love her mother and the dogs, but I was absolutely twitching with the desire to rip this 30 year old child’s head off her shoulders and feed her sugargliders to Porshia and Tucker the two very well behaved dogs that minded and did not attack this codependent idiot. (too bad I hadn’t brought Em.)

Later that night, once we got home I was twitching with nerves. 1) I was getting rude and condescending emails from a faculty member from my field experience, 2) PMS, 3) that idiot I mentioned above, 4) I was not able to let go and be thankful that my husband puts up with me. I finally cried my eyes out, snuggled with my dog, and got some clarity. It was time to strike that balance and stop doing doing doing. But HOW to stop doing doing doing? And get back to doing the things I loved and go to school and go to work?

Well Sunday night I meditated for the first time in a very long time and each night after that I did things for me. If I felt myself getting keyed up over something I had no control over I took a shower, pulled out my crochet needle and yarn, or got online and wandered around aimlessly. I even started writing.

I’ve also thought alot about being depressed this Christmas. My family of origin dynamics have a bit to be desired. My mother tries too hard to make everyone happy and seems to be toeing some sort of line. Blended families are weird, but even more so when you are an adult. It’s getting better and more free as we all age and have kids, but it makes me sad because I haven’t seen my mother happy in awhile. My father is off in his own twisted universe making himself happy and making sure the rest of us get blamed and shamed for the worlds or his ills. So this year I choose to be blissfully ignorant of their issues. I choose not to be depressed. I choose to enjoy the season and my friends and family.

I still haven’t figured out my balance that needs to be struck, but this week I spent more time on ME than I have in a long time.I decided to host Christmas dinner, am taking next Friday off and my husband and I will start decorating for the holidays. He apparently has already started our tradition of cutting snowflakes. I’m going to bake until my hearts content and spoil the ones I love. And remember that I am only responsible for my happiness and the rest of them can figure it out on their own.