This ‘n’ That’n

Right now I am up to one of my chief pleasures: researching books that are mentioned in the current books I am reading. I’ve found some the best books that way; however, I’m sure the library peoples are not too happy with me in that I always, and I mean always, have a stack of books on hold there. The Sandy library is so tiny that it rarely contains within its walls anything I want to read. I have to order outside of it, but thankfully it’s attached to quite a large number of other libraries so there’s generally somebody who has what I’m looking for. I also have a library card for another county, the county with the city of Portland in it, and Portland has the penultimate library in this area. Unfortunately, since I’m currently without a car during the days, I never get there. Oh well. It helps to know it’s there if I want it.

The Sandy Public Library, my waystation of gladness

I’ve been struggling, mildly, with a slight depression over the last few days. Part of it is hormonal (ahem), but another part is simply life, and trying to figure out what to do with mine. My comfort is that it’s your everyday, garden-variety depression – what I’ve come to call one of my ‘normal sadnesses’ – and thus is nothing to worry about. Sadnesses brought on by mundane pressures kick specialty sadnesses brought on by specific circumstances right square in the ass. Hai-yah! Take THAT, mo-fo circumstantial blues! So I really am comforted by them. Also, they serve as great catalysts for renewed effort in finding insight and inspiration toward next steps.

I think I’ve decided the funeral services occupation is out. I just can’t reconcile my convictions with the idea of it, and this has thrown me for a winker because I was kind of banking on it, more than I realized. Now I’m back to the eternal question: What the hell do I do now? I’ve got my book, another eternal question, but thousands (if not millions, sigh) of people write books, and even if they’re lucky enough to get published, they have to keep writing and getting published in order to squeak out a living. J.K. Rowling and Company are rare and scattered exceptions to the rule. I know that between the unpublished and the mega-sellers there is a mighty horde of working minions – authors we’ve never heard of but who are able to live on the proceeds of their books. If I had energy, this is the category I would aspire to, but I’m finding myself distressingly lackadaisical.

May Sarton, whom I have majorly come to love over the years

One problem might be that I’m immersed in the journals of a (now dead) 80 year old woman. As you can imagine, by that age, she wasn’t doing much. The problem is, she was doing more than I am, and I’m half the age she was. She’s probably still doing more than I am, even though she’s dead. When a major highlight of the week is watching American Idol, there’s something wrong. Oh yeah, now I remember what I wanted to say about that. At the end of her life, at 82 years old, after having been lauded as a writer and loved as a person – after giving lectures and seeing books written about her and on and on – after having had an amazingly full and rewarding life/career – this remarkably introspective and soul-nourishing woman still felt she hadn’t gotten the recognition she deserved, needed, wanted. She was driven, even in her old age, even when infirm. The question I’m asking myself is, Are we ever truly happy? Not even happy, but contented? I want to be… but I find it difficult myself to remain that way. I wonder if people in third world cultures, where the question is survival, not some twisted idea of success, struggle in the same way. Surely not. But I don’t know… and I’ve been pondering this for awhile. What do you think? Is it possible, over one’s life, to reach a state of contentment? I would really like to think so. Love! xo

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14 Comments

Filed under God I'm depressed, Hope, Old women

14 responses to “This ‘n’ That’n

  1. There was a lot that was, lets say “problematical” about the philosophies in The Matrix, but I always sorta agreed with the notion that people can’t really be happy-happy all the time. If you say the film remember when Agent Smith (I think) tells Neo that one version of the virtual reality world that people were put into was a “perfect world of happiness” but that people kept rebelling against it because they needed something to struggle against, or for?

    I think that is, pretty much, true. In that we don’t really want to sit around doing nothing and have everything handed to us. We need stimulation, whether it is talking with people or reading books. And I don’t think that we can ever be content for long periods of time, simply because as we become used to a situation we tend to under-appreciate it. So even if we achieved our dream goals in life, we still wouldnt be happy, not for long.

    And for us in the “developed world”, well, I guess we have a whole heap of our needs met. The physical ones; shelter, food etc., so part of us assumes that we should be happy. And we aren’t. Which then makes us wonder why the hell not? And look for something that might. Whereas people who are struggling to find food, well, they’re too busy to wonder why they aren’t content. They know, it’s because they’re trying to not starve.

    And yes that is all simplistic (and way loooooong), and life is more complex than that. But at the same time it isn’t. imo anyways :)

  2. This was an excellent point: “And I don’t think that we can ever be content for long periods of time, simply because as we become used to a situation we tend to under-appreciate it.”

    I fear you may be right, and it bothers me… Though, I suppose if it’s deeper, more “worthy” values that we’re striving for, philanthropic endeavors, say, instead of a bigger faster car, then I can accept that we’re always wanting more. More on behalf of others is acceptable to me. So is “more” in regard to inner qualities. But more material things, more attention from others – anything that is outside of ourselves seems like so much dust in the wind and to spend our lives longing for it is a tremendous waste, like it shouldn’t BE that way. Did we evolve this far to fall so short? Obviously there is something in us as a species that longs for a perfectly-realized moral code, seeing as there are so many of them floating around, but attaining them is impossible. I suppose that, if we are going to go through life being overwhelmingly discontented, with only pockets of joy here and there, then it would be better to spend our time working toward whatever nourishes our souls, and the souls of others. In my opinion, of course! Although comfort isn’t a bad thing to want either. Gah. I don’t know. As you said, life is more complex than that, and bigger than I can figure out! Obviously. I think you’re also right in saying that people who are starving are fooled into thinking their discontent comes from being hungry alone. Once we’re fed, we start looking for the next thing to fill us, and so on, and so on.

    It helps to know I’m not alone, though. xo

  3. Harlequin

    You need some bits of discontent to remind you to be grateful for the awesome stuff. Right now, I LOVE my work and am excited about my career, I’m wild about various tv programmes and movies that keep me interested, I adore my flat and living by myself and I’m in pretty good health-for me anyway! OTOH I’m terrified about my finances, I don’t get to see my friends much and I haven’t even got a faint beep on the love radar. But on balance, I’m happy. :-)

    • Ooh, good point as well, H! And what you said ties in to what Fence was saying about becoming complacent (and subsequently unappreciative) when you’re stuck in the status quo. Like you, overall, I’m happy even though there are definitely things I would change in my circumstances. And there are unknowns, too, and those are never fun. I guess I’m just feeling a little wandery at the moment, unsure of my next steps, so I feel discontented in that area. Ugh. And that discontent colors all my other areas UNLESS I can remember to count my blessings every day instead. I’ve been trying to do that, but it’s been more difficult the last couple of days. It’s another transition time for meeee. I’ll find my way eventually, I hope. :)

  4. I think so. Contentment, to me, is being happy with where you are–enjoying the journey, persay. But not necessarily being happy just sitting there. Does that make sense?

    Every year, I become a little more content. I think it comes with the perspective that although there are things that I still feel called and motivated to do, I can get to them in their own time. Right now, where I am is where I know I am supposed to be. That brings a huge amount of contentment–and comfort.

    I wish you well in figuring out where YOU are supposed to be right now!

    • It makes perfect sense, and I agree with you… My problem comes when I don’t know which direction to head in once I get up off my butt. And I don’t really feel called to do anything! It’s strange to feel this way, but I’m going to trust, as I always come back to doing, that I know what’s best for me in the long run and will end up doing it when it comes along. Whatever it is. I’m in the dark right now, but I never end up staying there for long. In the meantime, I really appreciate your well-wishing! xo

  5. StevieRicardo

    Pulling one of my theories from my hat, I can state that happiness is a choice. We choose whether to have a positive or negative outlook on our world and therefore create our respective realities. Taking this theory into consideration, I can ask myself, “Why have I been depressed these last few days?” I have… it sucks monkey balls. Obviously, there is something I am subconsciously telling myself. But what? I have been so gloomy, in fact, that I’ve quit my job and decided to high-tail it out of this sunny peninsula ASAP. So now I’m left to wonder… What’s missing? Or better yet, why do I feel as though something is missing? Happiness and/or contentment (depending on how you wish to interpret the terms) can be simplified and boiled down to having our needs met. So now the logical thing to do would be make a checklist of my physical, emotional and psychological needs and see what department is lacking. Ambivalence and depression occur when we do not take the necessary steps to take care of our needs. It’s always a choice. Your happiness is in your hands. We are taught to believe that our wellbeing (emotional, physical, what-have-you) relies entirely on external influences (parents, jobs, diseases, lovers, friends, the weather, God/dess), but that’s a cop out. We can choose to let these things affect us or we can stand our ground, claim our space, shout “We’re here, damn it!”, and co-exist with these elements of our world without allowing them power over us.

    That’s me self-empowering rant for the day. I needed it and I hope you enjoyed it. :)

    Love you, sis! <3

    • Hello, punkin. I fully agree with you regarding the importance of having our needs met, in all areas, when it comes to contentment. And it’s an excellent idea to make a checklist of needs so that we can see what’s lacking. My problem right now is that I see what’s lacking (an income-bringing occupation) but don’t know which road to take to get it, or even what “it” will be. I thought for awhile it might be funeral services, so now I’m having to readjust, and that’s what’s triggered my current malaise. Happiness IS a choice, but sometimes it takes awhile to untangle the various elements in order to reach it. In the meantime…. (moving down to your next comment)…

  6. StevieRicardo

    Also also,

    Talena makes a very valid point. Why do you feel you NEED to go somewhere/do something? I will suggest you read the Tao Te Ching. We can only ever be when and where we are in this given moment. To worry about tomorrow is fruitless. It will stress you out which will make you feel worse NOW, which is all that really matters. Try some relaxation techniques and practice being in the moment. Right now, you have everything you need. The natural order of things will come to pass. That is guaranteed. Be here. Be now. This time/space is what you can control. The future is out of your hands until it becomes the present.

    …and THAT was my self-contradicting statement for the day. :D

    xoxo

    • … I am trying to remind myself to trust my flow… the stream I’m on, and not flail and kick but float willingly where the current takes me. It’s a discipline, a practice, that isn’t always easy to achieve, especially in the wake of a difficult realization or circumstance. I do feel I need an occupation, and that’s something that must be planned for, so yes, I definitely do need to go somewhere/do something. However, I also want to remember that even now, in my room, without any idea of what to do next, I’m still moving forward and will eventually find my footing, so it doesn’t help to panic. It does help to be reminded to breathe and to relax until I do find that next step. And of course, to keep breathing and relaxing once I get there!

      Life is all about taking little steps. My biggest struggle is embracing my desire to meander through life instead of run, as I was taught. I’m tired of feeling that I should run, and I need a big overhaul of that particular belief system. That work can be exhausting and bring on depression, in and of itself! There’s a lot going on with me at the moment, and having this discussion with everyone has been really good for reminding me to go easy on myself as I process through everything. xo

  7. Wow, Kells. This post really struck a chord with me. And not just me…I loved each comment you’ve gotten so far. I really like what StevieRicardo said about happiness being a choice. Have you ever seen this quote?

    “Each of us literally chooses, by his way of attending to things, what sort of universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.” William James

    Speaking of contentment, have you ever heard this little zen fable?

    There was a monk chased by a tiger to the edge of a cliff.tiger. The monk jumps off. Halfway down, he grab onto a vine. He looks up, he sees a ferocious tiger. He looks down, he sees another hungry tiger, waiting for him on the ground below. He looks at the vine. A mouse is gnawing on it. Then out of corner of his eye he sees a strawberry growing on the vine. He plucks it and eats it. And it is the sweetest-tasting strawberry he ever had.

    I get a kick out of this fable, because it reminds me that it IS possible, even in the worst of circumstances, to feel contentment.

    Lastly, I want to share a passage written by Donna Farhi with you:

    Positioning yourself to see and experience a more encompassing view does two things: it it opens you to new possibilities and freedoms and it also makes you more vulnerable and exposed. Like climbing to the top of a hill for the best vantage point for seeing a panoramic, 360 view – you will necessarily be exposed to the elements. From here you may see everything, but you will also feel everything in the most vivid way: the wind, the sun and the rain. But to live otherwise is to dwell in a house with no windows.

    Is that not wonderful? I hope it resonates with you like it did with me.

    • Twy, I always love your little zen fables! Or, you’ve only told me one other, but I loved it, too. And I really loved the quote from Donna Farhi. It reminds me of a poem that I copied for Stevie Ricardo the other day. I simply love it.

      Once, my face protected me: a mask
      Of youth and health and even prettiness
      The mask preceded me.
      It led me down pathways
      And across valleys…(tharr be more) Peer into the depths
      And into the arms
      Of harm and villains, magically
      Eradicating dangers
      (One would have thought otherwise).
      Now the mask is dented and cracked.
      It bears a patina of fatigue
      And a moral quality
      (In the sterner contours)
      It lacked before. It’s a mask
      No longer: it’s me.
      Human and open to attack.
      – Deborah Pease

      Being truly known, by yourself and others, is worth being exposed, I think. I’m glad I have such wise friends. <3

  8. Jenn

    So out of all of this, I was most struck by your reply to Talena that you didn’t know which direction to go in. And it brought to mind the image of a labyrinth. I have one sitting on my desk that I periodically use for meditation purposes. What always comes out of that exercise, for me anyway, is that no path is direct. There are so many turns and seemingly backtracks as well. But in the end, it is all forward movement, taking you toward the center. So, I guess, what I’m trying to say is that perhaps it is not the DIRECTION that you need to find as much as the actual MOVEMENT in a direction, any direction. You may find that it is a windy road, but at least you are traveling the road and not stuck along the side dithering about where to go. Perhaps, on your journey to find a paid occupation, you might want to take a page out of Torie’s book and look into a volunteer opportunity while you sort yourself out. That, in and of itself, may be the direction that you are supposed to go to find a paid occupation. And if not, it will have just been a step along your journey anyway.

    On a different note, I have always thought of happiness and contentment as being wholly unrelated phenomena. I see happiness as a transient state, dependent on outside influences (i.e. I am happy when Charles buys me flowers) and contentment as being a more settled state, dependent on the well-being of my mind and soul – a choice to live, not an experience to pass through.

    • Jenn, I really loved your illustration of the journey… Most of the time, I DO feel that it’s the forward movement that’s important, not necessarily seeing the goal ahead. It’s just that… sigh… I’ve been feeling the fact that I’m 45 and have no set occupation, and how would I take care of myself if I had to? That’s a very real concern, and it’s been pressing on me. I try not to worry, but I don’t really believe that everything happens for a reason, or that there’s Somebody watching out for me and guiding my steps. I believe that somebody is ME. I wish I could rest in the idea of a personal god, but I just can’t, though I’m not going to plant a flag on that belief. Anyway, that’s my current quandary. Though today, I’m not depressed about it and have a lot more hope. I’m innately optimistic, anyway, and I’m happy that’s once again kicked in.

      Regarding volunteering, that IS a good idea, but I don’t even know what I’d want to volunteer for. I’m just in this weird funkified place. I’ll figure it out. Aaaand, I see happiness and contentment the same way you do. I’ve always considered contentment to be far superior to the mere transient state of happiness, nice as it is when it surprises us. xo

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