Day 93 (18 June): Self-help
If you go to the Amazon website and search for "self-help" you will be informed that they have over 100,000 titles in that category.
I have not read all of them, but if they were bricks I could build a sizeable extension to my house with the ones I have. Over 80,000 of those books relate to finding happiness.
Yes, it is obvious where I am going with this. If the path to happiness could truly be mapped out and packaged we would not need 80,000 books; one would suffice.
Perhaps the happiness authors read the self help books on making money and decided that the answer is to write books on happiness.
Not content with consulting these 'experts' we often we ask for help from friends and loved ones. But if you ask ten people for tips be prepared to receive eleven pieces of contradictory advice, many of which might never have worked. So I do not feel overly apologetic for again putting in my six penny worth on navigating away from the crap pit of sadness.
It is gradually beginning to dawn on me that instead of suppressing sadness with an obsessive routine of physical and mental training and forced jocularity I should let it wash over me. Because until the big, stormy waves all play out I will never get to be floating on my back looking at the stars with cup of cocoa in my hand.
Right now I am sad and I am doing nothing to distract myself from the feeling. I am letting it wash over me and I am feeling every contour of it.
If you were reading the blog a couple of days ago you might recall I concluded that awareness is a necessary but not sufficient part of emotional health. I then went on to mention acceptance and self-love.
I have found acceptance to be a hard step because denial seems more attractive. If I deny an evident reality I can hold out the false hope that it will go away. And, of course, it does not.
So - I am trying to accept sadness. It will not kill me. It will pass, as all things pass, and when it does pass I will have something with which to contrast my happiness.
Where does the self love come in? I have been thinking about that extensively for the last couple of days.
The first results of that reflection suggest that I should think less about the effects of my actions on others and more about the effects of my actions on myself. I am not advocating selfish behaviour or indifference to the feelings of others. I am suggesting that by paying more attention to my hurt and respecting the boundaries of my hurt I might be in a better relationship with myself and a more real relationship with those around me.
I have been trying to put a brave face on a situation which causes me much emotional pain. I have been trying to be ‘big’ and ‘noble’ in my attitude, my words and my deeds. If I were really capable of doing this then the approach might have its merits. But my emotions ensure that I keep falling well short of the high-minded targets I set myself. I commit, I resent, I back-track, I confuse and I wound.
Perhaps withdrawal from the sources of hurt is not cowardice but a renouncement of the wishful thinking of the child Neil and the rejection of a masochistic desire to prove my value through pain.
Perhaps also withdrawal from the source of my immediate hurt reduces the drama surrounding it and, in itself, contributes to a calming of the waves.
There are no guarantees or pat self-help solutions. There is a path of love, hurt, goodwill and hope - with no sure knowledge of the destination.
I enjoy making you smile. But I also wish to acknowledge that being a human is a messy business which seems to take a lifetime to get right.