I had a few pretty intense conversations with some friends last week that really got me thinking. It is clear that I like to think and I like to write and from that I learn a lot about myself and how I interact with those around me. I also like to talk, a lot, about my experiences and my growth as a person because I am so proud and feel I have come so far from where I once was, whether it was a month ago or 6 years ago. I want to share my growth with others especially when I can sense that person feels the same way I once felt and still do feel but with much less intensity due to my life experiences. So when my friend and I sat down to talk about life I chose not to talk but to listen to what he had to say.
My friend puts a lot of time and energy into pleasing others, into being the guy that goes out of his way to help people even if they have no intention of returning the favor. He is not the type of guy to keep score on his outpouring of kindness but at some point in time when no one ever bothers to give to him what he has given to them, he gets extremely frustrated and angry under the surface. Outwardly he seems very happy but inwardly as I have come to find out over the few years I have known him, there is a part of him that is seemingly inherently unhappy for whatever reason. I have watched him go from extreme euphoria to depression over the years and every time it kills me because I too have been there; we all have. I simply want to help as much I can but as I have learned, I cannot help those that do not want to be helped. All I can do is listen.
So as we sat there chatting, he mentioned he is going to start focusing on himself more. GREAT! YES! FINALLY! But what followed wasn’t what I really wanted to hear. “I am going to start working on myself, F everyone else. It’s about me now.” There were a few more F words dropped in subsequent sentences but the gist was that in an effort to make the decision to focus on bettering himself, putting himself first and making himself happy he failed at the one thing that needs to be done in order to do all of those things for oneself. Positive thought. We build off of foundations. We can’t build a strong sense of self without a strong foundation. I continued to listen for a few minutes, sensing and seeing the negativity build up inside of him until I could see he just wanted to punch something; he seemed to, in a way, be fuming under the surface.
I paused momentarily to gather my thoughts as he looked at me and I said, “Can I give you a piece of advice?” I noticed that in the development of the sentence he had said to me about focusing on himself, he got himself so worked up that I could sense anger within him, almost a bit of bitterness. Now I have made a lot of changes in my life the last 6 months so I am not one to preach about being all peppy and happy because at one point I was a miserable human being and it was no secret. But if I can offer small bits of advice or lessons that I have picked up and learned along the way, that’s all that matters.
I have been in his situation before in the sense I wasn’t focusing on myself and my happiness and I took the same tactic. “F everyone else.” When you say it like that, you’re still F’ing everybody else that you are saying FU to so here’s another way to look at it. Acknowledge that you have given a little too much of yourself and recognize that you feel the need to reign it in, but in order to truly make it about one’s self and about being happy with one’s self, you have to start with a foundation built on positive thought. If you are saying F everybody else, you aren’t really creating a positive foundation to build from and in the end aren’t really focusing on creating a positive environment for yourself.
Happiness comes from a positive environment, that is no secret. The simple sentence or statement of, “I am focusing on myself and my happiness right now” is all that is needed. To truly focus on oneself, there needs to be no mention of another in that sentence. It’s like telling someone to not think of the color red which in this case would be the “F everyone else” part of the sentence. What are you really thinking about at the end of that sentence? The color red and everyone else. The most important person here, you, falls by the way side and will continue to unless you change your mental approach.
The next few questions I asked as we continued our conversation was, “What makes you truly happy? When the world gets crazy and you get down, where do you go? What do you do that calms you so much that nothing else matters? What brings you back to the present with such intensity that when life gets you down and your mind starts turning, allows you to reset with ease? Where do you feel safe?” He didn’t know the answer and was visually taken a back by my questions before he finally admitted, “Wow, I have never thought of that. I have no idea what that would be.” Think about it.
My point was that everyone has something that calms them and brings them back to reality; like a blanket or a stuffed animal when we are little that soothes us. Most of us let go of that safety blanket as we get older because who really wants to admit that as a 27 year old you still sleep with a stuffed bunny from your childhood? Yeah. That’s right. I do. Bam. Anyways, the whole point is to find something that makes you ridiculously happy. It’s that tiny sense of security that when the world starts to get the best of us, we can turn to and realize suddenly that it’s not so bad. It’s a place we can go to free our mind.
For me, it isn’t really my stuffed bunny, although I still really do sleep with her every night. In reality my safe place, my happy place, my childhood security blanket is my writing. I started journal writing when I was 10. At first it was often just about my day simply because I love to remember everything and I liked reliving my days when I would write about them at night. But then over time it became less about documenting my day and more about the emotions I felt during my days. I took a brief 4 year hiatus because a lot of the things I was experiencing at that point in my life were way too painful to write down. But even now I find myself recapping those years as I am better equipped at dealing with what happened during that time.
When I feel any emotion, I write it down. Sometimes its a quick note in my phone and sometimes its a 5 page journal entry. When I write, I feel a sense of passion that gets my bones tingling. I feel with every bone in my body when I write, my soul gets involved. When I write is when I truly feel emotion. I am so in the moment that nothing else seems to matter except for what I am writing. I told my friend this and he just kind of stared, not knowing what would make him feel that way. He did eventually get back to me on what he considered to be his safe place but realized he wanted to think more about it. I got a big smile on my face because I knew that I had helped him a little. I had helped him like so many others have helped me. I can only hope that the guidance I have received from others and the things I have experienced can be passed on to someone else so that they too can find their own sense of happiness in a world that demands a lot of us.
Take a moment sometime to think about what you do that makes you happy when your world seems to be falling apart. The most important part of this to remember however is that this one thing that makes you happy, your safe place, cannot have anyone else tied in to it. To say, “my safe place is when I am talking to…or when I am hanging out with …” is to set yourself up for failure. It has to be yours and only yours. It has to come from within. My friend realized music was his safe place. Music moves his soul. He sits alone and just listens, actively listens and comes out feeling alive from within. To be able to feel with your soul, to come alive from within, now that’s what living is all about. He is on his way to a better sense of self and a stronger sense of what makes him happy, what makes his heart beat.
So I end this post with similar questions I asked my friend and myself at the beginning of my quest to really discover myself and what it means to be happy from within…
What makes you happy? What makes you, you? What brings you to life? What makes your heart skip a beat and makes your soul come to life?
Find it and hold on to it. It’s the most important thing you will ever discover about yourself.