Monday, May 11, 2009

Be Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With

We all have many fears whether we admit it or not. Some of these fears are rational and some are mostly irrational. One of my personal fears is that my life is simply ordinary. There's really nothing wrong with ordinary but I've always wanted my life to be special, to mean something, and to not be insignificant. I've never wanted to be someone who just goes through the motions even though I do that a great deal of the time. It's a little strange for me to have a fear of the ordinary because I have written much in the past about how the extraordinary is often found in the ordinary. In spite of the fact that I actually believe this and many times have experienced it, I am guilty of not always seeing the obvious or appreciating what is right in front of me. Is there really any such thing as an ordinary life? Maybe we won't be famous or change the world but is there any life that doesn't impact others? In the last five years my wife and I have lost three parents, two of them in the last six months. In many ways our parents were very ordinary people but their loss and absence has left a huge void. My Dad is very much on my mind since he died three months ago today. Maybe it's impossible for any of us to appreciate the void we all will leave someday. Our day to day activities may be the ordinary tasks of daily living but our lives are never really ordinary.

One of my favorite rock bands has a CD entitled "Be Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With". This is very good advice. I get so tired of myself for not appreciating what I have and for always falling into the trap of thinking so much is missing in my life. I am often weary of my own inability to be happy. For a self proclaimed optimist, I too often see a half empty glass. My dissatisfaction with much of life seems more intense at this time of my life. Personal issues that have probably always been part of me seem to be demanding attention. I think I have spent much of my life repressing things I don't want to deal with. I think this is typical of people with my type of personality. I am an avoider. I like my peace and harmony so I tend to dismiss troubling thoughts and feelings. It should be easy for me to be happy. Why am I so resistant to it? Lots of people think I have deep insight into many things. If this is true I seem to have insight into everything but myself. I don't like the way I often feel but these feelings should be no surprise either. Two of my favorite spiritual writers had their own brokenness. Thomas Merton, monk, contemplative, and spiritual master, often wanted everything but what he had. Like me he often had moments of joy and bliss, but he also had moments of deep longing. Henri Nouwen, another spiritual master and writer of many books, was a very broken person who was often lonely. He acknowledges this in one of his most famous books entitled "The Wounded Healer". Even the rock star, Pete Townshend, in his biography that I just finished, says, and I paraphrase, "I've come to the conclusion that everyone on a serious spiritual journey is a lonely person". Perhaps it is true that our restlessness, our feelings of emptiness, and our loneliness are all part of the spiritual journey. I guess such a journey is anything but ordinary.

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