To say that V and I have been challenged by life lately is an understatement. She is totally consumed by family illness and other family distractions; I’m having trouble sleeping because of my workload.
When I come home from work at the end of a long day, my mind really wants brain candy, so I turn to “Top Chef” or any of the mindless offerings of TV (some of which I am embarrassed to admit to watching). Let me just say that if it is “mindless” you are looking for, TV has a lot to offer.
Lately, however, I have been enjoying Oprah Winfrey’s “Lifeclass” series. Oprah is splicing in some clips from her many shows, having guests and audience participation to explore what lessons we can all learn from these episodes. Some of them are quite good. I have actually been congratulating myself that this, at least, has some substance as opposed to some of the mind-numbing things I have been known to watch at the end of a day.
Last weekend as I was doing some bedroom cleaning, I turned this show on. This episode featured one of the editors of Oprah Magazine, “Beth,” who is also a life coach. Beth told of an experience she had while “out” during a surgery. She did not die or nearly die, but she had some of that out-of-body experience you hear so many of the near-death people relate, She “floated” above the operating room, watching her doctors. She was bathed in light, which brought utter and complete happiness. She hated leaving it and came away with the “understanding” that this complete happiness was the way she (and all of us) should feel all the time. She “understood” that it was our own doing that our happiness in this life was so diminished, and she set her life’s path to exploring why that is and what she could do to avoid that diminishment.
She has decided that “truth” is the key. She says that any time she shades the truth (even, “I like your hair…” when you don’t) diminishes her happiness in a way that she can feel.
So the rest of the segment was about lies we tell ourselves (even when we don’t know we’re lying to ourselves) and to others and the way that destroys a happy life.
The clear theme: If you stick to the truth and only the truth, you will live in the bliss for which you were created. If you are not living in heavenly bliss, it is because of untruth—even that of which you are not conscious. You must, therefore, discover what secrets you are keeping from yourself so that you can be totally truthful and, therefore, totally happy. Voila!
Well, it is a hypnotic proposition, and I literally sat on the edge of the bed, thinking about what lies I was living in which were diminishing the ecstasy for which I was truly destined…because, Lord knows, that is diminished at the moment.
As I fell toward that message, suddenly Elvie began jumping up and down on my shoulder. Remember Elvie? I have written about him, here—he’s the “Little Voice,” the one that rides around whispering in your ear, and he’s always right. My son and I use his initials “L V” to refer to him as “Elvie.”
And what Elvie was saying was this: “What about those people in Africa where some guerilla-type soldiers come in and hack people to death in front of their children’s eyes? What shades of untruth was it that got in the way of their happiness?”
And, “Gee, could it be that if only V would get truly honest with herself, then her daughter would be healthier and V could, therefore, be happier?”
And suddenly I saw myself, having been entranced by the allure of the message I was hearing, like this depiction of poor little Mowgli hypnotized by the scheming Kaa (first couple of minutes—although the rest is classic, too!):
Now, let me be clear: I believe we should be truthful. I totally believe that lies we tell ourselves can hinder our happiness and success. I believe that lying (however small) sometimes can cause havoc in our lives, and we should avoid it.
As I sat there, awakened by Elvie, wondering about my own readiness to fall into this New Age message, I also wondered why? I believe it is a search for the easy way out. I would LOVE to find a formula to life’s happiness, where I could be assured that if only I would follow that formula, life’s unpleasant challenges would dissipate.
But I don’t think that’s gonna happen.
No, instead, I think I’ll try to remember that I should not fall for “easy fixes” to cure any discontent or unhappiness I may have. I simply do not think that someone in a third world country who is watching their child die of starvation because of drought needs to look inside herself to find what lies she is stuffing. Let’s face it, life just brings difficulty. Yes, we exacerbate them by our own actions, but sometimes we have nothing to do with the misfortune that comes our way.
And, I think that (I’m speaking of myself, here, as much as anyone else) only too-fat—from-too-much people who have the luxury of time (not to mention a steady supply of potable water) are sitting around seriously wondering if getting honest with oneself is the key to happiness. That scene is probably not happening very often in, say, Haiti.
So, that’s a nice Thanksgiving message, isn’t it? Maybe we should accept the challenges that come our way, do our best to overcome them with honesty and truth but also remember that struggles—and, yes, unhappiness—come with life. There isn’t an easy way around it.
Let’s concentrate on our blessings this season and derive happiness there. C
P.S. – And about that “total honesty” thing…I am in/from the South. If you ask me about your hair, I am probably going to tell you I like it whether I do or not. Sorry, It’s the Southern way. Guess I am not destined for heavenly bliss…