Friday, August 24, 2007

The Pursuit of Happiness

Ugh! I am tempted to delete that last post. "Oooh wee, Tiara! How do you manage to be so dull?!" (as the old "Deep House Dish" SNL skit goes- please tell me you've seen that!) I have no idea how I manage to be so dull! I saw an Oprah yesterday about happiness. Please! I just don't like Oprah. Why does she talk about people's auras and loving yourself and this Unitarian type god? The thing that pushes me over from feeling bad for her (like I do for Rosie O'Donnell and Ellen) is that she is so astoundingly influential. Because she has some good things to say. But it is all mixed in with garbage (but pretty garbage). And so she's deceitful. But she's deceived too. And so she's just a false teacher. And it bugs me. Even I enjoy her show. She praises stay at home moms like no one else (she ought to! we're the ones keeping her rich and successful!). She has interesting topics. I mean, it's an enjoyable show. And like I said, she has some helpful things to say. But that's really what I'm getting at, Rosie and Ellen had/have "fun" talk shows. They're not trying to help anyone except hurricane victims or their special fans. They're just entertaining us. But Oprah is all about self help. I have a self. I need some help. And even with both guns blazing, I still have a hard time discerning if what she is saying is true and helpful or just part of the pretty garbage. I'm telling y'all (again), she's dangerous!

So about the happiness thing, here is a link to the quiz she had her audience take. If you know how to answer these questions, you must be aware of how happy you are and so why are you taking a quiz? And I say that with all sarcasm. One thing that bothered me is that Oprah said there's no external world. She said everything is internal. And the happiness expert guy is like "you're exactly right." What?! Also, why is she also the expert on everything? No matter who the guest is, she has just as much, if not more, to say. So back to there being no external world- seriously, she went on to make it sound like she believes life is essentially like the people hooked up to the machine in The Matrix. So the happiness expert is all "Yes. The optimists are right. And the pessimists are also right. It is all based on perception." And I'm thinking to myself, these people just have way too much money. Because seriously, how did they become so out of touch with real life?

The questions are put like "my life is close to ideal" or "conditions are excellent." Please! Is this necessary in life? Evidently it is for happiness. We are unhappy if we are not living an ideal life with excellent conditions? Jesus said "in this world you will have many troubles." I am so sick of hearing that if that is true, there's something I'm doing wrong. No, he said I will. So I'm going to. I guess that makes me unhappy by some standards. But what bizarre standards!

I am all for the idea that we need to be content beyond our circumstances. I am all for happiness at any place in life. But I just wonder what Oprah is talking about. I know that she had a rough childhood so I think that she has a grasp on real life hardship. There is some big thing she has and the happiness guy have about letting the past go. Okay, that seems helpful. Except that it makes no sense practically as the past is not something you literally have your fingers wrapped around, so anyone having a problem with this is left guessing- how? literally? figuratively? what?! And what do you do with ongoing, current suffering that isn't in the past? What do you do with poverty where there just isn't enough money but people are working hard? (I guess in our country, we blame the President.) What do you do with babies with cancer? If happiness is just perception, how do I perceive away the real need for groceries or the need for healing? Why is there this "no one should complain or ever think that they need something" idea? I know people who can't find a job. Obviously, I know people with sick children. I know people who work hard and can't afford school or clothes for their kids and live day to day by faith. Don't call those people pessimists because they struggle, because their "perspective" is wrong. Or perhaps even Oprah would concede that their beautiful courage and faith in the face of trial would count for something even though they would no doubt call their situation less than ideal or excellent.

I am not sure I am making any sense. I am just grumpy about standards. I am sick of having unrealistic expectations pushed on us. Everyone talks about how Americans are so obese. I wonder if there is a correlation between the unrealistic expectation for tee-tininess and the end result of obesity. Maybe not. But the other unrealistic expectation in our world is that we all have happy easy lives and we all have our own homes and white collar jobs and are positive and wealthy. I had someone (not a regular, not anyone I had ever heard of before or since) leave a comment a little while back that seemed to me to be kind of patronizing and passively aggressively critical (if you can say that?) . A friend noticed it and linked to the commenter's blog to see what she was like and told me a little about it. Oprah's show yesterday reminded me of what my friend had told me about the blog and I went for a look-see. I don't want y'all all searching back and trying to find the mysterious commenter. I can't be sure she even meant to be critical. But man, this blog. It is so pretty. And her life is so perfect. Cocktail parties. Coffee dates with girlfriends. Sterling silver baby gifts. Lunches in tea rooms. Trunk shows. Vacations. Nannies. More trunk shows. Party invitations. Monogrammed everything. Family gatherings. Country Club. Did I mention the trunk shows? Am I jealous? You betcha! I will never have that life. I should not have that life. But I so want that life. And I am married to someone who doesn't have the same struggle. I know some of y'all don't. Some of y'all would look at that blog and want to puke. And some of y'all might look at that blog and see nothing wrong with it. I am on the teetering edge of knowing something is wrong with it and yet wanting it anyway. God has graciously spared me (like a bird from the snare of the fowler) as I wrote in a post a while back.

So I guess what I want to want is what God has for me. Therefore, what I want to want is "many troubles." I have lost some perspective though. I mean, I see where I might have gone if I had not had the troubles I have had in the past few years. I am grateful and I would not change any of those things (hey hey, that gives me a high score on one of Oprah's questions!). But where am I now? I don't feel like I've gotten anywhere. And I must confess, I spent quite a good portion of the evening last night looking for inexpensive monogrammed diaper covers on ebay.

I am just going to post this. I feel like I am quitting mid thought, but I have to stop for now. I would love any comments about happiness, about struggling with being unhappy, about the struggle with wanting a pretty life, whatever. Or if you can see so clearly how silly the pretty life is, a gentle reminder (for those of us who are struggling) wouldn't hurt.

Oh, maybe just this last thing. Is it flat out silly to have that pretty life? I mean, clearly for me, the seminary student's wife with three children, that is just discontent to be wanting all of that. But supposing you had enough to live four of those lives and you only lived on a fourth your income and gave three fourths away. Are those things just silly and frivolous anyway? I'm thinking yes and no depending on how important you make them? I don't know. What do y'all think?


Renae said...

Hi Abby!

This goes to the heart of the problems I have in my r'ship with my Mom... I've been saying for years that her faith has been completely Oprah-ized. And it makes me sad for my mom and mad at her at the same time. The exact same things come out of her mouth at me that you said in this post... if something's wrong in your life then you need to ID what you're doing wrong and change it. I was exhilarated after we began attending NCF and I began hearing TRUTH that completely was the opposite of what my mom was telling me. And it made me realize why I always felt so awful about myself after getting off the phone with her.

These years in seminary have been some of the most difficult of my life, and yet because I've been able to have Truth preached to me, I've been able to get through these years with GOD'S strength (not my own because I don't have any!) and have been able to identify and discard the Oprah-ized humanistic garbage that people try to comfort me with.

Oooh, maybe reading your blog has taught ME how to rant! (Kidding, of course. I've been ranting about Oprah's "faith" for years. I just happened to find a sympathetic audience here!)

On another note, I read about your looking for a ballet class for Amabel. I decided I wasn't up for driving back and forth to campus for ballet (it always took me longer to commute back and forth than the class itself lasted!), and I think Sophie would be more interested in gymnastics anyway... do you know of anything over on this side of town?


Becca B said...

I share some of your frustrations. We (read I!) are addicted to happiness, ease, material abundance. IF we do have those things we think that it's because of the righteous way we're living. That's just prosperity gospel, and even though I intellectually know it's deceptive, I too struggle with just wanting a "pretty life," as you called it.

My downfall is comparison. A wise older woman I know frequently doles out one and only one piece of great advice: Don't compare yourself to other people.

In contrast, I heard a Christian man in his 60s once counsel a group of 20-something couples that if you were "honoring God" and "living for Him," then your business was probably going to go pretty well. That made me so mad!

Great much to think about. You're very transparent, which I appreciate.

rebekah wright said...

I'm totally with you on Oprah--a friend of mine calls her the anti-Christ! I scream at the t.v. sometimes when I watch her and the garbage she dishes out that so many people are totally buying! And I can relate about wanting the "pretty life". I want everything to be easy and I am scared about having anything difficult to go through--really difficult, not like the difficulties I've had. My faith is so tiny!

sara said...

let's see if I have figured out the blog problem...

sara said...

Yeah Abby!! After weeks of not being able to respond to anything on your blog, I think I have figured out the problem!

I hear you on the whole pretty life thing...definitely part of my world here. I spend lots of time trying to figure out where that magic line is..between buying things that you don't really need, and giving anything and everything away to others. I haven't come to any conclusions, but I think that line is drawn at a different place for everyone and may change in different seasons. So much of it seems to go back to our motives and our heart, and if we are being led by God to act in a certain way, or by guilt. Anyway, glad I get to start posting again!!


april said...

Well Abby let's see what rambles fall out of my mouth,
I've been through some pretty rough patches not unlike you and I have to say that if God wouldn't have drug my nose through the muck and made me struggle to survive I might not have one ounce of compassion for those struggling themselves. I am constantly aware of families that have less than I do. I told Clay that I don't think I'm cut out to ever be a wealthy person, there's just to much responsibility and guilt involved for me to be comfortable having more than I would know what to do with. Of course I still want to have a beautiful home. But now I ask myself, at what cost? What do I want to teach my children about a home? Is it comfortable, open, loving, friendly? Can they bring their friends over and will those friends feel welcome? How comfortable would my friends that have less than me be if I had my house done to the nines? Not very. I tell you, the homes that I'm most comfortable in need a lot of work. The women that I'm most comfortable around let their kids wallow in the mud and wear worn out shoes. It's not bad to love beautiful things, God has obviously given you a gift and a passion for certain things. Now you need to learn where to place that passion in your life and not let it consume you. I know you've already spread your talents to others, I've seen your handiwork on other's beautiful. Find your joy in knowing that you have a gift that other people admire and are not capable of doing themselves. I think you heard something worth hearing on that Oprah show about letting go of your past. It's more about accepting your past whether good or bad. You can't change it, you can't relive it. You can only go forward with the life that God has given you and I honestly believe God shows us everything for a damn good reason whether it's good, bad, ugly or beautiful. Then he sits back and lets us figure out just what we're going to do with it all. I think you're on the path Abby, you have a big heart and people are going to love you and your children with or without a monogrammed butt cover.

RHB said...

I'm with April. :)

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