Archive | June, 2013

Being a Warrior of Happiness

25 Jun

When I was a young girl my household was very tumultuous.  My parents fought a lot and at times it seemed like a fog of negativity would float through our house.  While I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling, I knew I didn’t want to dwell in the fog, and so I turned to books, especially fiction for escape.

I started out with The Baby-sitters Club, Anne of Green Gables and Betsy, Tacy and Tib; however, quickly I moved onto books about the Holocaust.

This shift was inspired by the Diary of Anne Frank.  Through her eyes I understood that I wasn’t the only little girl in the world who felt uncomfortable and powerless in their environment.  If Anne could fight to stay positive during persecution, I could stay positive through the fighting.

I inhaled book after book about people who overcame challenges outside of their control, but one day the horror of all the stories I was breathing in suddenly hit me.  It was the image of Nazi soldiers using a human skull for a soccer ball; it was then that I understood the ugliness that can exist in life.

Though, being young, deep within me was a belief in the goodness of people, and it was then that I made a promise to myself to be open to experiencing all of the life: the horror and the beauty, and to try to stay as hopeful and open as I did in that moment.

This unarticulated philosophy became my guide, and it’s the reason why I turned to my Dad at twelve years old and told him, “to try to find happiness in his unhappiness.”

Now, as an adult, I wonder at the innate wisdom of children; that children know that happiness is always possible and they know that happiness is one of their Rights.

Somewhere in the in-between of growing up this belief is often lost.  While many label it the loss of naivety, it can easily be labeled as wisdom’s loss.

This is why I believe it is our responsibility as adults, and even humans, is to define what happiness means for us and then peaceful fight for it if need be.

Life is challenging and outside of our control, and we’re ever-reminded of that every time a natural disaster strikes.  I also believe that we have structured our world in a way to make many of us indentured servants to the structures that we create; either constantly working toward paying off debts, or forced to do things that we have to – not necessarily what we always believe to be right for us.

Even happiness is often a concept we don’t take the time to define.  Our education tells us that this is something that we should strive for, and then makes salary or the material its marker.

Even our constitution tells us that this is something that we should pursue; however, I don’t think happiness is easily achieved.

While everyone will probably land on a different definition, I think happiness is a feeling that brings us energy and makes us believe we can create and make our wants, or what we believe, possible.  That it makes us feel expanded, joyous and whole.  It’s a feeling that rises up within when we feel loved, respected and safe.

Instead of striving toward the abstract concept, or looking at it as the opposite of unhappiness, I believe we should first define what that means for ourselves.  To be taught, as children, to ask questions like, “What makes me feel grateful and productive? What makes me laugh? What activities do I do that makes time fly by?”

It is here people can begin to take the abstract to the tangible and begin to structure their lives around what infuses them with joy.

For me, it’s stories and helping others: stories make life interesting for me, and help me connect; while helping others allows me the joy of watching others find theirs.

I believe happiness is a practice, and I work to not let life distract me too much so that I can put my energy toward activities that help me bring more of it into my life.   It doesn’t always come, and things outside of my control always happen, but I believe if I’m willing to fight for it that it’s something that I can always return to.

The reason that I’m sharing all of this is that I ask whoever is reading this to take a moment and connect back into their own inner wisdom, to think about happiness and wonder at all the ways that you can bring more of it into your life; whether its one less drink, or one less job or one less friend.

To remember that life exists in all the shades of grey that is realized in-between the black and white.  Unhappiness is inevitable.  You will fail, or be disappointed, or make a mistake, , but that’s only one brushstroke of the masterpiece that is the picture of your whole self, and all the colors together makes that piece whole.

To All My Loves

24 Jun

All the men in my life have had different names for me.  With Trey it was Sammers and then it became Sambo (cousin of Rambo).  For some reason that one stuck and he still calls me that; that’s how I know he loves me.

For Robbie it was Rubes and then Stein, taking apart my last name to mark two separate relationships. That’s how I knew it was over.

Brian called me Bug, which was inspired by me shouting, ‘Love Bug,’ as I left his apartment one day.  I’ve never been very good with nicknames.  They’re always awkward – sticky paper on the tongue that I strip over to reveal a residue no one wants to be covered in.

We laughed about it, the absurdity of me calling anyone lovebug.  We were absurd together.  Our conversations mostly consisted of us passing the phrase, ‘I love you to one another.’  He’s the only one I don’t talk to anymore.  He squashed me.

Len never had a nickname for me and yet I thought we’d marry.  He was the first person to call me Samantha-only.   We broke up after four days of living together.

Next was Phil who again picked up Rubes.  I should’ve known it wasn’t going to work out; that you can’t let someone take you backwards to something that nobody calls you anymore.  I should’ve known that he was going to leave me for another because we never took each other very seriously.  Yet, we cried when we said goodbye.

With Vinay I became the Pantha and we tried to claw each other apart, so it never got past that.  When he told me he thought, “people were trying to kill him,” I knew it was time to go.

To Simon I was sexy, to Martin I was someone who never responded, to David I was Princess and to Galegher I was the girl who never stopped pining over his best friend.

Before and between all of these men there was Matty, and I was his Sam.

We had known each other since we were three and were each other’s supposed first kiss, though I don’t know if those count at the age of five.  I dramatically “broke-up” with him at age eight and we never kissed again.  I cried for days when he told me he was engaged, yet I couldn’t imagine life being any other way.

Nor could I imagine allowing another man to name me.  I was 27 and exhausted.  I felt that the little heart I had left was mine; broken pieces of me rattled within, and when I glued it all back together it felt too precious to give to anyone else.

Then I met Josh, and he looked at me said, “let me in,” because he knew he wasn’t getting past any other way.

For some reason I listened, though alcohol helped, and when I look back I know that’s why we ended up slow-dancing to Billie Holiday in my hotel room.  In the morning I turned to him and said, “Let’s pretend like we don’t know each other,” and he conveniently left his sweater in my room.

When he came back it was because, “it was his favorite sweater,” he kissed me, and suddenly I turned into Samanthy.

I didn’t think I could have another name: from Sam, to Sammers, and Sambo, from Rubes to Stein, ManthaPantha and everything else in-between.  There didn’t seem like there was anything else to call me.

Yet there I was being someone’s Samanthy and different words left my mouth.  It stifled me, so we opened up the relationship, making a path for me to call myself something – breath came easier.

Men continue to flit in and out of my life, but I am and forever always mine.

There have been too many names, too many moments, too many disappointments and at the end of the day as the years pass you learn that you are you and no one else’s.  You run, scream and slip endlessly away until there is nothing left to hold onto anymore and your liberated soul laughs at all the other selves you thought you could be.

Upon Reflection, I Probably Shouldn’t Have Done That

23 Jun

A friend of mine recently asked me if I was still writing, and I thought, “of course, writing is always a part of my life,” but his question made me realize that lately I have only been writing for myself.  However, I have also been working on a series of essays entitled, UPON REFLECTION, I PROBABLY SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE THAT, which seems to be the theme of my 20s.

While this book has not yet been bought by a publishing house, nor is close to finished (so the title is subject to change), the first title that came to mind was THINGS YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE REALLY SAD because many of my stories, especially the funny ones, occurred because I was trying to avoid feeling the negative emotions of sadness.

Things like being a date with a man who was dressed in a festival of stripes, or leaving my work laptop at a bar and then pretending my college laptop from 2002 was my work computer, or getting locked in a convenience store all occurred because I was sad and acting out to escape that sadness, which of course created more problems.

The reason that I’m sharing this is almost always our first reaction to any kind of discomfort or sadness is to flee; that fight or flight is deep within us and our first line of defense.

I was inspired by the first title because I wanted to show how close humor and sadness really are, how laughter also causes tears, and that attempting to flee sadness is laughable; it will just feed itself on the dramas that you create in your attempts to escape.

Though once I crowned my set of essays with THINGS YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE REALLY SAD, I saw that approach made my story a constant reproach to me; that negativity is a reduction, and therefore I was reduced in my stories.  That isn’t what I want to share with others.

Of course I want to make people laugh and feel, but I want them to see how to survive with humor, how openness is both good and bad, how mistakes are universal, and that if we take a moment to pause a lot of trouble or drama can probably be avoided.

In Yoga, instructors always recommend to linger in the space in-between the breaths, they say that this is where the essence, the highest self is found; it is the pause in-between the beginning and after.

For me it is the telling of the stories UPON REFLECTION; that now that I’ve learned to take a breath and pause what’s left behind to share?