I was happy to discover that the blogger of Never That Easy tagged me as one of the “five blogs that made her think” when she participated in the “Thinking Bloggers” meme.
I was particularly pleased to have been chosen by Never That Easy, because of her subject. She writes about the challenges and frustrations of having lived with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome for more than a decade: living with her parents in her late 20’s, constant fatigue, not getting answers from doctors, painful and inconclusive medical tests, barred from activities that are easy for others, confronted by some people’s skepticism about whether she’s “really” sick.
The fact that someone who grapples with such serious, constant issues would see value in my blog means a lot to me. Sometimes I worry that readers might think that I’m presenting happiness as something that can easily be achieved if only we’d all organize our closets and eat more vegetables.
I do tend to focus on the little things, it’s true. Partly that reflects my belief that the way to achieve a big change is to make lots of little, manageable changes. I find it’s easier to follow through with something small and concrete, like “I’m not going to nag the Big Man to change light-bulbs” than to follow through with something lofty and vague, like “I’m going to behave more lovingly toward the Big Man.”
“But,” I sometimes imagine a reader thinking, “it’s so easy for Gretchen. She doesn’t have any terrible problems to deal with. She doesn’t have a step-daughter who hates her, or a father who was verbally abusive, or three hundred pounds to lose, or….”
That’s absolutely true. One thing I’ve learned from my happiness project is that I should be very, very, very grateful every day for the fact that (right now, at least) the scale of my challenges is small.
But one day, my phone is going to ring. That’s true for me, that’s true for everyone. It’s the human condition. And I already have a pretty clear idea of one particular phone call that might come. One reason that I focus on the little things is that I believe that the best preparation for meeting large challenges is to meet small challenges, first.
One of my biggest goals for the happiness project is that I’d be better prepared for adversity – that I’d have the patience, the stamina, the self-control, the mental reserves to deal with a bad thing when it happens. Because it will.
The time to start exercising, stop nagging, and make gingerbread houses, I decided, is when everything was going fairly smoothly. I didn’t want to wait for a crisis to re-make my life. And as trivial as these steps may sound, I do hope that working toward happiness now will make it easier to deal with causes of great unhappiness.
Some people seem to think that it’s pointless, or frivolous, to worry about happiness unless you’re very unhappy or depressed (I distinguish these two states). I disagree.
Studies show that people often look back on bad events – like having cancer – and say that much good came out of those experiences, and that people who face what seem like big challenges – like being in a wheelchair – are often quite happy. The writer of Never That Easy strikes me as a pretty happy person.
But that happiness doesn’t come automatically. It takes effort. I hope that making the effort to be happy under ordinary conditions of life (and it does take effort, even under ordinary conditions) will make it easier to be happy when conditions get tougher. Also, the same strategies tend to work to bring happiness, whatever the conditions of life might be.
The fact that the writer of
Now, to continue the meme…five blogs that make me think are:
The rules for the meme: 1) if you get tagged, write a post with links to five blogs that make you think, and 2) link to the original post, by The Thinking Blog, that launched the meme so people can easily find it.
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