Saturday, November 3, 2007

happiness: theirs or mine

When you love someone, their happiness becomes like unto your own. The smile on their face becomes the one on your own.

Yet when does the delight in their happiness become a responsibility to maintain it? How does one fight the compulsion to keep another happy at the expense of your own happiness? How do you weigh the consequences of finding your own happiness when you know it will cause unhappiness to those that you love? When is it ok to choose your own happiness over someone else's?

Long have I caused my parents distress and perceived myself as a disappointment to them. They have not said so, in so many words, yet I know that the life I live and the choices I've made are not the ones they wanted me to make.

I find myself approaching a crossroad. A crossroad that has the potential to bring me great happiness and contentment the like of which I've never known but only dreamt of. Yet if I take that path, Mom will cry, Dad will be saddened, their happiness diminished. For that path will lead me far from my home, far from the place of my birth. And it will not be an easy path. It is fraught with challenges, obstacles, change.

I do not want to remain on the path I am on and die regretting the life I might have led had I but stepped onto the crossroads and taken a chance on a dream of my own.

The alternative is to continue on as I am now, knowing full well that when I have walked this path to completion I will look back with regret for what might have been, but could not be.

Yet what if I am wrong? What if the path at the crossroads leads to disappointment, disillusionment? Then again, what if it does not? Is it worth the risk, to take the chance? Are the consequences of reaching for happiness and not getting it irrevercible?

What is the alternative to maintaining the current path? If nothing changes...regret.

34 comments:

Poodles said...

You only have one responsibility to happiness. Yourself. If you are happy then those who love you will be happy, if they are not, it is their problem not yours.

Reg Golb said...

I disagree with poodles. Once you have kids, your happiness should be secondary to their welfare until they are old enough to take care of themselves.
But your you are right the rest of the time, you can't force someone to be happy. Just like a teacher can't force someone to learn.

Poodles said...

So Reg, by your logic, a woman should stay with a man who physically and or emotionally abuses her if the children are happy there?

I'm guessing if it has gotten to this point, her kids and spouse are involved and OK with what this choice is. She is speaking of pleasing her parents and their happiness is not her responsibility.

Hound Doggy said...

Your parents have had the chance to live thier lives...to chose their paths and learn and find happiness for themselves.
This is your life now.
I'm sorry, but they will not be there forever.
If you take this path and find joy, GREAT. If it turns out to be something else you can turn around and follow the path back or maybe around that next corner there will be something better than what you were hoping to find in the first place.

You've got to do what is right for you. Regret is an awful thing.

Tattooed & Atheist (T&A) said...

Fiery, "Do it id it feels right!" *snicker*

Your parents probably only want for you to be happy, and will understand.

As far as your trepidation is concerned, let me share one of my favorite quotes:

"Ships are safe inside their harbor, but is that what ships are for?" -Thom Bishop

Joe said...

Regret is a bitterness in the stomach that doesn't always go away with time. I don't recall who said, "to thine own self be true" but I like that quote.
Of course you're obligated to your husband and children, but bluntly, your parents will just have to get over it.

Reg Golb said...

Polonius

or if you have a slightly redder neck, Reba

Fiery said...

Poodles- thank you! You're right, it is not my responsibility to keep my parents happy and I can't spend the rest of my life in a holding pattern waiting for them to die so my life can start. If my kids did that to me I would be HORRIFIED!!!!!

Hound Doggy that is excellent advice and I have flagged the e-mail message your comment came in under for future reference and as a reminder. If it turns out to be something else you can turn around and follow the path back or maybe around that next corner there will be something better than what you were hoping to find in the first place.

T&A- That is a fantastic quote! I'm going to find a spot on my blog front for that one, thank you for sharing it! "Ships are safe inside their harbor, but is that what ships are for?" -Thom Bishop

Joe- the kids' dad is involved, no worries there. The whole point is to increase the overall happiness of everyone in my immediate family. Regret is a bitter and ugly and eats you from the inside out.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Go for it Fiery.

Reg Golb said...

I predict Richard will respond with the "false alternative" discussion.

geetha said...

Fiery, it's better not to do something which u will resent later. throw ur guilt away. there's only so much u can do to make anyone happy - be it ur parents, husband, children or friends.
ultimately u are responsible only for ur happiness if u don't want to end up sulking and being a martyr.
geetha

Ginny said...

I've been at a crossroads before and it's a scary place. Good luck in your decision.

Maggie Rosethorn said...

Fiery - it's always tough when it comes to making others happy as well as being happy yourself. I have learned that sometimes what makes you happy makes others unhappy, and vice-versa. It's hard but you have to make the balance.

Tattooed & Atheist (T&A) said...

I see you've put the quote up! I'm glad you like it! :)

Richard said...

Go for it Fiery.
To state the obvious: no opportunity comes without risk. You could make your kids happier, and you will have shown them what it is to seek opportunity. Predictably, Reg is bluntly wrong. The kids will only see staid fear-of-change, rather than forthright pursuit of the Good.

The best thing for you would be for it to turn out fabulously. If it doesn't, and you struggle through the regret and then look ahead again, the lesson for your children will be even more profound. Indeed, were you to never succeed but keep trying, you will be a hero in their eyes... and mine. But always be sure to help them understand that your choices were the most rational you could manage.

Your happiness is your moral standard for all your choices. Involve your kids (at their level) so they can understand, at their level, what Mum really seeks. Subtley prepare them for both success and failure. You may be amazed at how well they will understand the latter and side with you! Do you remember when one of your children later explained something to you that had happened before they could speak well enough to explain it? The same thing happens twenty years later!!! (That is how important words are, but also how slowly a complete understanding of abstract ideas can develop--unless one stops at the Bible.)

I prepared my eldest daughter (7 at the time) for the break up of my marriage. When she talked about how one of her friends at school had become more friendly with someone else, I pointed out that it happens with grownups too. Later, when she mentioned a child whose parents had divorced I pointed out how that was an example of grownups who think they are life long friends can also fall out of friendship.

AMAZINGLY, long before I actually left the marital bed in disgust, my eldest suggested that Mum wasn't my friend anymore and maybe we should live in two houses, "like Constance's mum & dad". When it was time, I reminded her of the conversation, and her simple response was: "So I get to live in two houses?"

"False alternative", Reg? It would help you a lot if you discovered that words actually mean something.

Casting no aspersions over the quotations other commenters have kindly offered: cliches and quotations are not a valid substitute for thinking or for conclusions --but they can help with thinking.

E.g. for any one cliche, there is usually an opposite:
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
vs
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread

Think really hard about best and worst case scenarios, and then consider how you can enhance the former and mitigate the latter.

Fiery, my dear, live by your own best standards FOR YOU...
"You are born an individual. don't die a copy, John Mason. Which leads to:
I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. Bill Cosby (no less!).

And you can bet we are all really curious about what has come up,and ardently hope it turns out superbly!!!!! ...except Glob of course whose beliefs hold that you must serve somebody (else), so don't serve yourself, so if your venture fails it would be 'logical' to him, and if it succeeds: "God works in wondrous ways."

Moral greatness is not defined by success, but by adherence to right principle. [Did I write that?]

Thump Thump Eyes said...

I think looking back with regret is probably the worst thing you can do to yourself, so try to avoid that one. You can upset your parents, but the bottom line is, parents usually love their children no matter what!

All crossroads have potential potholes in the road which can trip you up and its impossible to be prepared for them all, it takes guts and I think you've got it!!

Big decisions Fiery, but isnt that what life is all about - challenges, obstacles and change, to which you add delicious dollops of happiness, loving and sharing.

Reg Golb said...

Richard, you are a .... nevermind, I for one will exercise some self control.
What I said was that Fiery only really presented two options. If she was to be happy, then her parents would be unhappy and so the opposite is also possible.

I was simply stating that Richard, being older and wiser would point out that there are countless other outcomes, like everyone ends up happy or everyone ends up unhappy. Which you so kindly did for me. Except you tried to make me look a fool, well kiss my grits, I was right all along.

Poodles. I have to take exception with the third commment. I specifically said that "Once you have kids, your happiness should be secondary to their welfare" I never said to sacrifice your own welfare. Fiery only has one chance to raise her kids, she can be happy after that if she so chooses.

Kids welfare before personal happiness. golb

There is a nice sentiment. The opposite to that is

Screw the kids, do what feels right. atheistink.

Fiery, you will make a choice. The outcome, whether good or bad, is seperate from the decision because you can't assume that if you had made the opposite choice you would have been any better off. That, Richardo, is sound advice, and I didn't quote the Bible.

Fiery said...

Every time someone comments on my blog, I know that they have taken time from their busy day to spend a few minutes with me and my thoughts. And that in and of itself is an enormous compliment.

I know that most of them do not have time to write long comments so they abbreviate their thoughts.

The nice thing about the quotations that people have offered is that they are short and easy to add to the front of my blog or put on a post-it note and stick to my bathroom mirror.

On the other hand, Richard- I have been hoping you would comment on this one and I am very glad that you did. Thank you! Some excellent food for thought. A comment I will have to print up to appreciate in its entirety.

As for details, Richard, I am feeling a delicious sense of irony in telling you that the details will slowly be forth coming as it unfolds. After all it will come to dominate my life and how could it not appear on my blog?

Thank you all save one for your encouraging well wishes, they are sincerely appreciated.

Richard said...

Reg, you wrote,
"What I said was that Fiery only really presented two options. If she was to be happy, then her parents would be unhappy and so the opposite is also possible.

Except that is not what you said. Scroll up, there is nothing to suggest so complicated a thought... you are confabulating.

You then wrote, responding to Poodles,
I specifically said that "Once you have kids, your happiness should be secondary to their welfare" I never said to sacrifice your own welfare.

You certainly did, by the full meaning and implications of those words! When a person is unhappy few things in their life are unaffected. One's kids will most definitely be affected. Welfare and happiness are not mutually exclusive concepts, so one cannot say, "happiness should be secondary to welfare". One affects the other. Words, Reg, do have exact meanings. Do not argue for a distinction between physical vs mental well. Physical well being without happiness is a shift towards a walking corpse. Mental well being without physical well being is a shift towards being a ghost.

Those are the options you are offering Fiery and her kids too --"until they are old enough to take care of themselves"! Nice. That mentality fits nicely with your wicked anti-abortion stance too.

I never try to make you look like a fool, you do it all by yourself. I'd much rather you didn't.

Harry Nads said...

If you kids don't stop fighting, I'm going to turn this car around!

Starhawk said...

Do what's right for you and those around you, until that compromises your continuing happiness.

Then just do what's right for you.

No disclaimers or footnotes for kids, husbands, or parents.

If you're not happy they won't be. Do you have a responsibility to them... yes. If you become miserable because of those around you, and it is a lasting misery, than the best thing for all involved is to move on. My parents divorcing was the best thing they ever agreed on.

As others have said, your parents no longer have a hold on you and must accept your decisions. You're an adult, their role is only an advisory one and they should accept your path no matter how it differs from theirs.

Reg Golb said...

Richard,
It is not a complicated thought. Anyone who read there pages could easily come to the conclusion that Richard is an archetypel sage in this community. You wouldn't lower yourself to some banal remark like the rest of us. I was showing you the respect that your obvious age has earned.

I respect you, you on the other hand don't respect me or really anyone who you find to be beneath you. You so clearly point out all of my thoughts for me, thank you.

The original comment was dealing with happiness, my comment was pertaining to welfare.

I think everyone here has suffered through times of unhappiness. I for one had to work 80 hours week for an extended period of time. I wasn't happy about it, but it didn't bring misery to everyone around me.

You have clearly been conditioned to consider yourself first. This is unfortunate. The fact is happiness is not a destination. You don't get to happines and stay there. Fiery may find herself happy and suddenly realize that her kids are now miserable. That fact would be detrimental to her happines if she is a caring mother.

"Those are the options you are offering Fiery and her kids too --"until they are old enough to take care of themselves"! Nice. That mentality fits nicely with your wicked anti-abortion stance too."
This is not what I would have expected from Richardo.

That mentality fits into the idea that you are a parent and your kids come first. If you want to see how putting yourself before your kids works, come down to America and see our little social experiment. It sucks, kids are baggage.

Fiery is an excellent example of a parent who sacrifices for her kids. Why, because she is a real mother. Not a tumor carrying narcicist.

Reg Golb said...

One more thought for richardo,


You quoted me and then you said "Except that is not what you said" How can I not have said what I said. Or did you mean "that is not what you meant" Richard, words have meanings choose wisely or you will look like a fool.

Oh, here is a new quote from Richards twisted mentality

If you are miserable, you might as well share the feeling.

Johnny said...

Trouble is glob is that you read "if it feels good do it" into people saying "if it feels right do it". You think people are talking about taking a hedonistic approach to life rather than a moral approach to life- (T&A's snicker at what he said is a joke kind of like when I say as an aside "he said do it hahahah")So when Poodles says you only have one resposibility and that is to make yourself happy she is totally correct pointed out by Richard when he said Your happiness is your moral standard for all your choices. Doesn't mean go and party, take drugs sleep around if that makes you happy because ultimately it wont make you happy, it means if you are unhappy in your situation in life then those around you or who care for you are ultimately going to be unhappy too. Having, loving, growing with, teaching and just being with your kids is happiness for most people but that can be stymied by other external factors because your kids are not entirely your life.
Hound doggy's post was really nicely put Your parents have had the chance to live thier lives...to chose their paths and learn and find happiness for themselves.
This is your life now.
As a parent I try and raise my daughter so that when she is an adult she will make good choices, and that short of falling for someone that will harm her I will have no issue whatsoever with who she decides to be with and what she decides to do with her life, I find it hard to understand parents that will not "let go" or accept their childrens choices, after all we are all a product of our upbringing are we not?
I have more to say but have to wind up at work!!

Richard said...

Oh Reg, come on.

Harry Nads is going to have to turn the car around, or put you in the trunk. Nonetheless it is interesting to see unreason at work...

Reg, you may not have used swear words at me, but your post is dripping with disrespect and insult:

I respect you, you on the other hand don't respect me or really anyone who you find to be beneath you.

What is the point of saying "archetypel [sic] sage" or "lower yourself" or "beneath you" except as disrespect? You are either a liar or that blatantly irrational. I'll respect you when you don't make self-contradictory arguments and don't argue for the impossible. One of my best friends among the high school staff was the janitor. He made more sense than most any two teachers put together. That's what gets respect, good sense.

You have clearly been conditioned to consider yourself first. Conditioned, Reg? Thanks for the respect for my judgment.

Happiness is the primary reason to live, and understanding that requires reason. Johnny expands on this point very well in his comment above. Think it through but do so honestly, without automatized reference to your existing biblical lexicon of morality.

You say you would not have expected me to connect your advice for Fiery with your anti-abortion stance. Why? The connection is stark. The anti-abortion stance requires the mother to sacrifice her future options for happiness, for the sake of protoplasm that might become a child. Your position asks that Fiery sacrifice potential future happiness for herself (and her kids), on the grounds that her status quo is better for kids. It is the same fundy 'logic' used by anti-abortionists.

Your last paragraph in that comment explicitly supports what I have just said. Brilliant! Thanks for providing it. :-) What did I said above about your contradictions, Reg?

BTW, Fiery's circumstance is in no way related to your argument where "kids are baggage" ...that suggestion is a disservice to Fiery and her view of her children. The causes of children as baggage is a different discussion and has everything to do with America deviating from its Founding Principles.

Johnny said...

Joe, too, is right although I don't think anybody is suggesting that we do not have an obligation to spouses and children even though the spousal obligation is less than the parental obligation after all once a parent always a parent.- Myself, my daughter, my immediate family then friends. Myself means my health and wellbeing is paramount for without that I cannot properly care for my daughter- when we are talking about hapiness, glob, we mean long term happiness not short term gratification (nor short term "unhappiness" for that matter you would be unhappy and affect those around you if you had to work 80 hours a week for the rest of your working life!) and in the long term happiness is directly related to well being. So paradoxically one must look after ones self first to look after those that are most important to us. I notice that people who believe in god put god first!

Richard, you are a .... nevermind, I for one will exercise some self control.

Glob if you were exercising self control you would not have typed this at all!! It doesn't matter that you didn't type cunt because those of us who realise that you are refering to Richard loosening up a little thought it straight away and any who don't will supply their own word!! Or were you just up on your high horse? Very christian of you.

Glob I thought you were going not too bad till

You quoted me and then you said "Except that is not what you said" How can I not have said what I said. Or did you mean "that is not what you meant" Richard, words have meanings choose wisely or you will look like a fool.

Dude you do realise you didn't say it at all you in fact should have been the one who said meant not said here

what I said was that Fiery only really presented two options. If she was to be happy, then her parents would be unhappy and so the opposite is also possible.

what you really said was

I predict Richard will respond with the "false alternative" discussion.(the point where you started this fight with Richard very christian of you)

that is all you said before Richard's post, none of us are mind readers glob!

I was simply stating that Richard, being older and wiser would point out that there are countless other outcomes, like everyone ends up happy or everyone ends up unhappy. Which you so kindly did for me. Except you tried to make me look a fool, well kiss my grits, I was right all along.

Again nowhere did you state this at all until here! So it couldn't have been too simple a statement! You actually have to type what you want to say my friend. So of course you thought you were right it's easy to be right after the fact although you weren't even right ....can't actually see where Richard says everyone ends up happy or everyone ends up unhappy!?!?

Fiery, you will make a choice. The outcome, whether good or bad, is seperate from the decision because you can't assume that if you had made the opposite choice you would have been any better off. That, Richardo, is sound advice, and I didn't quote the Bible. Bit jumbled, not too bad but hardly advice.
Haha Richardo...did you think that up all by yourself hahahah

Reg Golb said...

"Happiness is the primary reason to live, and understanding that requires reason",

While this might be your moral code, it is only A moral code. Fiery or anyone for that matter doesn't have to live by your moral code.

Reg Golb said...

"that is all you said before Richard's post, none of us are mind readers glob!"
Ok

"Glob if you were exercising self control you would not have typed this at all!!".
My self control was in the use of some weakminded profanity. I am not saying that I didn't want to say it. I am still human.


I am sorry that I didn't expound more fully. but you have to be honest, did anyone here really expect richardo to come in with some mark twain or ben franklin type quote. I wouldn't expect him to. In fact I would probably fall out of my chair, and my behind has been glued to for a long time lately.

Johnny said...

hahahaha good one glob :-0

No. You are exactly right glob never said anyone had to live by my moral code, I would suggest thought that if they did they would be quite happy as I am. I don't require anyone to follow me at all and would never force anyone to.
I would have thought though as a christian it is your duty to try and get everyone to live by your moral code?

Reg Golb said...

Think again. I can't get anyone to do anything. It is my duty to tell you, you do with it as you please.

Crazyman Bob said...

In reality there is no such thing as "duty." There is only choice and the full, clear recognition of a principle obscured by the notion of "duty": the Law of Causality.

Life or death is man's only fundamental alternative. To live is his basic act of choice. If he chooses to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his choice. If he does not choose to live, nature will take its course.

Reality confronts man with a great many "musts," but all of them are conditional; the formula of realistic necessity is: "You must, if—" and the "if" stands for man's choice: "—if you want to achieve a certain goal." You must eat, if you want to survive. You must work, if you want to eat. You must think, if you want to work. You must look at reality, if you want to think—if you want to know what to do—if you want to know what goals to choose—if you want to know how to achieve them.

In order to make the choices required to achieve his goals, a man needs the constant, automatized awareness of the principle which the anti-concept "duty" has all but obliterated in his mind: the principle of causality—specifically, of Aristotelian final causation (which, in fact, applies only to a conscious being), i.e., the process by which an end determines the means, i.e., the process of choosing a goal and taking the actions necessary to achieve it.

In a rational ethics, it is causality—not "duty"—that serves as the guiding principle in considering, evaluating and choosing one's actions, particularly those necessary to achieve a long-range goal.
Following this principle, a man does not act without knowing the purpose of his action. In choosing a goal, he considers the means required to achieve it, he weighs the value of the goal against the difficulties of the means and against the full, hierarchical context of all his other values and goals. He does not demand the impossible of himself, and he does not decide too easily which things are impossible. He never drops the context of the knowledge available to him, and never evades reality, realizing fully that his goal will not be granted to him by any power other than his own action, and, should he evade, it is not some Kantian authority that he would be cheating, but himself …

A disciple of causation is profoundly dedicated to his values, knowing that he is able to achieve them. He is incapable of desiring contradictions, of relying on a "somehow," of rebelling against reality. He knows that in all such cases, it is not some Kantian authority that he would be defying and injuring, but himself—and that the penalty would be not some mystic brand of "immorality," but the frustration of his own desires and the destruction of his values …

Accepting no mystic "duties" or unchosen obligations, he is the man who honors scrupulously the obligations which he chooses. The obligation to keep one's promises is one of the most important elements in proper human relationships, the element that leads to mutual confidence and makes cooperation possible among men …

The acceptance of full responsibility for one's own choices and actions (and their consequences) is such a demanding moral discipline that many men seek to escape it by surrendering to what they believe is the easy, automatic, unthinking safety of a morality of "duty." They learn better, often when it is too late.

The disciple of causation faces life without inexplicable chains, unchosen burdens, impossible demands or supernatural threats. His metaphysical attitude and guiding moral principle can best be summed up by an old Spanish proverb: "God said: 'Take what you want and pay for it.'" But to know one's own desires, their meaning and their costs requires the highest human virtue: rationality.


From the Ayn Rand Lexicon
http://www.aynrandlexicon.com

Reg Golb said...

In reality there is no such thing as "duty."
I am glad you are not in the Marines

Starhawk said...

This post is mainly to say goodbye. The last week or so has been a bit stressful for me. My sister (whom I have a joint mortgage with, for our house) has apparently fallen into financial ruin. I've spent everyday of the last week going over her finances and realizing there is no way out. She is the most responsible person I know of when it comes to money. Unfortuneately between her credit card bills (which she only uses for emergency bills we didn't expect) and her deteriating health, there is no way she'll be able to pay all her bills... she needs to double her income to stay afloat. Even with my help that's not possible.

I'm not griping I'm just trying to explain to those who are interested why you won't hear from me for a while. I have to concentrate on my family (I live with her and 2 of my younger siblings).

I spend more time on this blog than I should or even have to. The problem I've found with the internet is that people think it replaces face-to-face conversation. It does not. We spend 30-40% of our time explaining what we meant to say as opposed to understanding the message. How many times have you posted something and then spent the rest of the thread trying to get others to understand what you were saying. The internet is an incomplete medium when compared to actually meeting someone and spending quality time with them. I'm not knocking the net, it has allowed people seperated by a globe to communicate with one another; but I spend 1-2 hours trying to come up with a post that will get across what I mean and not allowing it to be misinterpeted. It's not just because I lack the ability to express myself; or my lack of formal education. I watch Crazyman and Richard (two minds I respect) spend an inordinate amount of time trying to explain what they said 2 weeks ago instead of progressing the conversation to the next level.

I was raised and born by manipulative people. I have spent most of my life (since I was 15) trianing that out of me. I want to express honest opinions and recieve objective feedback. The problem I have with the internet is it is to easy to coach a post to get the response you desire. In order to police myself I spend an hour...minimum... typing my post, and rethinking it just to avoid coaching the response I want from you folks. Look to your most recent posts and you may find yourself guilty of such things. Not lying per-se, but gearing what you DO say to hear the response you wish. Using what you know those here will say about situations that do not pertain to most of them.

The worst part of it for me is that despite the time and precaution I take; I still find myself manipulating the conversation to suit my desired goal. Until you meet me and sit down for coffee with me face to face... possibly on multiple occasions; you will not know me. I feel wrong pretending you would. Too many things I've posted here, I believe in a general sense. Specific situations... once you know all the details can change how one views the case. Many of you seem to have a firm strong belief in their view of the world and how it works. Good for you, I wish I was so settled. I just feel uncomfortable with putting my thoughts in such a permanent form when I'm still determining my own moral outlook.

In the end I need to focus on what is going on with the people and family around me for now. I'll drop by and maybe take peek from time to time, but I need to focus on what is before me... thank you for the time we did have. Hopefully I'll be back at some point in the distant future.

Some of you have my e-mail address, so feel free to drop me a line if you want to talk to me specifically. Otherwise, good luck and good travels.

Fiery said...

StarHawk's comment has been given its own blog post. Please direct your comments to it there.