Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Happiness or Hope?

I read a most intriguing article this week. It is from the magazine The Psychotherapy Networker, and was written by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener. The title is “The Downside of Happiness.” Here is the link if you want to check it out: http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/currentissue/item/2551-the-downside-of-happiness

As a person that struggles with depression, I have certainly spent a lot of time pursuing being happy. As a single person, one of the most repetitive things I hear is, “You have to be happy with yourself before you can meet someone else.” The next logical step in that thinking, is that if you are alone, you must not have achieved being happy alone. (The next step is, “It’s my own fault if I’m alone.”)

The article doesn’t debate the obvious benefits of happiness, it just points out the balance of the other side. I won’t go into details, but let me say that the research seemed well founded and ethical. Here are some of their interesting conclusions.

“Researchers have found that when you enter into a situation with the goal of becoming happier, you actually make that less likely to occur.” “…adults with the greatest desire to be happy felt lonelier, more depressed…” Well, that explains a lot.

The upside of being less than happy? Also pretty intriguing. “…if your goal is to gain assistance, this is the wrong time to feel happy, express happiness, and minimize the unpleasantness of sadness.” When you need to be a highly effective advocate for yourself or someone else, it is good to “own your feelings of frustration and effectively communicate them.” In the workplace and other environments, it is better to let everyone know that it’s safe to feel a full range of feelings, rather than being sure that positivity “reigns supreme.”

The article also warns us to distinguish between wanting and liking. It is human tendency to want something far more than we actually like them for the long-term once we actually get them. Hmmm…

Summary statements: “…under certain predictable circumstances, being mildly unhappy seems to be better than being happy.” And “…if you want to be surrounded by productive, creative, satisfied people, create an environment where diverse feelings and behaviors are honored.”

Don’t get me wrong. I still want to feel more happy than I am. I most certainly do. But I admit I felt a little better after reading this article. I especially love it when I have figured something out on my own and then read “evidence” to back it up later. What I mean specifically, is that I developed a tagline when my first book came out and I still stick to it today. EMBRACE IT ALL. Own all of it, be honest with all of it. The happy. The sad. The hard. The easy. The ugly. The connection. The loneliness. The positive. The negative. I will hope for happiness, but I won’t be afraid to admit my sadness. And apparently, that’s not such a bad thing.

Then I got an email from my friend I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. She sent me this song about hope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KIhYZQ_ovw&app=desktop It’s worth cutting and pasting the link!

The words describe the darkness without holding back. Then it refers to hope in God and love. I think that can also apply to any person here on earth that loves and cares for us, even if it’s not a “significant other.” It was great timing for me. Instead of “pursuing” happiness, I think I will concentrate more on hope. Sounds like a good plan, even according to “research!”


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Dying, Not Dead

I went through the McDonald’s drive-thru to get my 54 cent ice cream cone. The kid on the speaker was exceptionally friendly and pleasant. When I got to the first window, I asked if he was the guy that took my order. Yes, he was. I told him how nice it was to be treated in such a friendly manner and he grinned from ear to ear. He told me he tries to make a difference every day. He said about once a month or so, someone makes a comment like I did and it makes his day.

I chuckled and told him about the blog I wrote entitled “Customer Service is Dead.” He asked for the web address. Then he asked me to promise him I would write an update and let everyone know there is hope in the world. I gave him my word.

I drove to the next window to get my ice cream and asked for the manager. She walked over with that look on her face. You know the one. “Now what the hell happened?” I told her the boy at the first window was fantastic and again I saw a grin from ear to ear. She said they love him there. He’s a great kid. Very active in his church, pleasant, helps people all the time. Then she said, “You know, there isn’t much customer service to be found these days.” So I told her about my blog too.

So here you are, young boy who brings hope to the world. If you actually read this, please send me a comment.


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H.O.P.E.

As usual, on blog days I often feel like my mind is blank. It’s not that I don’t have things to say, but rather that I get tired of my own story and assume everyone else must be tired of it as well. Last night, my friend said, “Write about hope.”

Not an easy assignment when that is often the last thing I feel. So maybe I can be a smart ass about it and come up with some sort of clever acronym for something else?

H. The first thing that comes to mind? Hell. Oh, that’s not good. After wracking my brain, I think a hopeful person would have come up with happiness. I guess I can say with integrity that I hope to be happy someday. Rather than rare, fleeting moments of laughter, I do hope that someday, “happy” will be something I can feel a majority of the time. Dare I say that right now, though, hell is more descriptive?

O. Optimism is the word that jumps to mind. I used to be called the Eternal Optimist. No matter what happened, I would get back on the horse again. I would never quit trying. Now, it’s more like I just have the urge to kick the horse and curse at it. Not so nice or admirable.

P. Pissed off. Now that one I can identify with. I still hold tight to the concept that I might be going through menopause. I have no hot flashes and no blood tests to support my theory whatsoever. But when I sit around with a bunch of women, they all say things like, “Yep, that sounds like menopause.” How else do you explain why “The One Who Never Gives Up” has become “Stop Pissing Me Off Before I Go Postal?”

E. Excited. Energy. Elated. Encouraged. Again, all words that I can no longer relate to. If there is a word that is the antithesis of every one of those words, that would be me. EXHAUSTION… yes, that is the E word for me.

If my friend reads this, he will probably want to clock me for taking his idea and dripping it in sarcasm.

But then, what is hope?

I guess when I think about it, I have to distinguish between hope and faith. They are closely linked, I know. And I am quite sure they affect each other. And I am quite sure it would be a good idea to possess a healthy amount of both.

Faith I see as more of the belief that these things will actually come to me. I just need to be patient and endure, and know that it is only a matter of time. That is where I am lacking. I am not confident in any way that I will regain happiness, optimism, and the energy I used to exude. I just don’t see it happening.

But hope? I have to admit, in spite of my own pessimism, I hope to God for all of those things. I hope every day that something will change. That I will regain my confidence and strength. Even though it is hard to get up every day, I still do it. Sometimes I spend a lot of time in my bed, but eventually I am up and functioning. I must have hope, right? In spite of depression, in spite of anxiety, in spite of exhaustion, I get up every day and keep trying. God help me if I ever truly give up hope.

And by the way, thanks for continuing to read… even when I’m dripping in menopausal, faithless moods. YOU are faithful!


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Things Are Changing

There’s been a new feeling in the air. In spite of the rain and wind, there is warmth in the air. In spite of how dark it is when you first wake up, there is light peeking through. I think it’s change. And for a change, the change is positive. The change is happier than usual.

I have a teenage client I’ve been working with. She has formed her identity around being angst-filled and not liking people. Sometimes she has glimpses of a different life. I keep challenging her to stop defining herself as unhappy and depressed. What would happen if she allowed herself to feel connected? What if she wallowed in that and opened up her heart? As crazy as it might sound, I think it’s frightening to her. Even though she would rather be happy (of course), it would be unfamiliar to her. She knows sadness and loneliness. She understands it.

I think I can relate to her. I am the lonely widow. I am accident-prone. I am the one who has unlucky, bizarre things happen to her. I am the one that love seems to pass over. If there is a difficult way to achieve something in life, I will find that way.

But what if I re-defined myself? What if all that is changing? What if those people close to my heart were able to smile and say things like “I’m so happy for you” or “I’m so glad things are working out”? I am actually having fun catching up with people and watching their surprised (but happy) expressions when I tell them things are going well.

I’ve been doing the usual speaking engagements, but it seems like I am lecturing more than ever for some reason. I’ve been changing up my speeches a little, winging it a little more which leads to shooting from the hip. But it also leads to my talking more just from my heart. I am walking out more energized and inspired. I talked to a philosophy class this week at a college and it was one of the best ever. They were actually required to read my book so I can’t tell you the rush I felt when I walked in the room and saw my book on some of their desks. And these men and women challenged me. They asked me questions no one has ever asked me. Some of their questions stopped me in my tracks. But I loved it!

I got an email this week from another college looking for me to lecture. The big thing about that, was they sought me out. It wasn’t Brigitte or I following up week after week trying to get our foot in the door. They sought us. That is a rush too.

I got another email this week from a college asking if I would be interested in teaching at their school. I know that is not entirely uncommon, and I hear that it is often a way for them to get cheap labor. But I don’t care. Teaching has never entered my mind and I was completely surprised and flattered to be asked. How cool is that?

Let a little love in your heart. I know it’s scary. I know it’s vulnerable. I know there are no guarantees that you won’t get hurt in the end. But try anyway. It’s an amazing feeling to be alive again.