The father of my children was at day ten of a cerebral malaria coma and things were not looking good for his recovery. I was on my daily drive to the hospital to ex-wife nag him to wake up, when something magical happened.
I turned my car into the alley, thinking I would short-cut the traffic jam ahead. I was in a hurry, my mind uncharacteristically congested with worry and churning with anxiety.
This man drove me crazy when I was married to him with his perfectionism and tendency for control-freaking, but in the decade since we parted ways, I’d come to see him as a super-hero parent to our now 15 year old daughter. I’d seen his tenderness, dedication and big-heartedness in his equal custody fathering actions.
Bottom line: there is no lack of love and respect in my heart for this man who now lay in an intensive care unit, alive by virtue of a dialysis machine and a ventilator. (The virulent strain of malaria, contracted while doing international relief work in Nigeria, had been diagnosed only when he fell into a delirium at Starbucks near his home.)
As I zoomed into the alley way a few blocks from the hospital I was forced to a complete stop. Backing out of a loading zone was a white truck, its side panels decorated in big bright red Chinese characters, with the English translation below: Double Happiness.
I had no choice but to smile. Perhaps the translation was too literal, maybe the real Chinese meaning on the delivery van would have been more Lao Tzu or Confucian, something well, less sales-pitchy. It reminded me of the dozens of spam emails I seemed to get daily, promising to Triple my Income, or Double my Wealth, or Quadruple my Client Base. No one ever sent an email promising to Double My Happiness.
So, in the Spirit of Chinese Delivery Trucks, I decided to create this Limited Time Offer, Money-Back-Guarantee, VIP Special: How to Triple Your Happiness in 3 Easy Steps (even when a beloved ex-husband is comatose).
1. Realize You are Not the Master of Your Destiny.
I know, I know. That advice is so-not-popular. In fact, it is the anti-script to the new age manifesto of You Create Your Own Reality, and the fuel that drove the book The Secret to super freakish best seller-dom. But what I am saying is actually a relief—I am suggesting you don’t solo-create your This-is-My-Life production. Your life is really a co-creative endeavour, a collaborative project between the everyday you (let’s call that your Mind-Self, though some would say ego) and what author-physicist Amit Goswami calls your Quantum Self (and others might call God).
When you see that not all of life’s happenings are in your conscious control, you can allow things to unfold with a sense of playful freedom and soft acceptance. Ultimately, it’s not about manipulating the plot twists and turns, but choosing our responses (versus reactions) to them. As French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin noted: “In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond.”
This response-ability is where our true Mastery lies. Because enduring happiness is not about conjuring better happenings, but about accessing the aspect of our true Self that, like an Eagle, can ride the up and down drafts with equanimity. From there right action naturally flows.
2. Entertain the Possibility that Nothing is Ever Wrong.
Most often, unhappiness shows up because things are not going our way, or the way we think things should be. For instance, in my perfect life script, I don’t have a father of my children in a near-death episode. And because we imagine we are somehow the sole creator of our story (see step one), we take all or some of the blame for the mess that seems to be happening. I can tell you, when I heard that the father of my children was in a coma, my first insane thought was “How could I have prevented this from happening?”
But what if nothing is actually wrong, it just is?
This is a tough idea to wrap the Mind-Self around. The mind loves to argue with reality, as teacher Byron Katie is famous for pointing out. It’s a petulant child at best and a rabid protestor at worst. Yet in the face of events that are by all standards, unpleasant, tragic, challenging, heart-wrenching or scary, we can choose to suspend judgement, to simply not label it wrong or right, bad or good. To just let it be as it is, without resistance. (This is not to say, we don’t strive for social justice or fairness in the world; it means we don’t attach ourselves to outcomes as if we know best what a best outcome looks like, as if we have a God’s eye view.)
Is this easy to do? (I did say three easy steps).
Surprisingly, yes. Once you are out of the control room (step one), then you become a witness to your life as it unfolds. I don’t mean you become detached or dissociated. I simply mean, there is access to a part of you that watches everything, even the resistance. When that “Quantum Self” is realized directly, in this clarity of witnessing it all, then labels like right and wrong fall away, along with the emotional pendulum swings from despair to exhilaration. It’s the entry to that place Rumi spoke of: “Beyond right and wrong doing is a field. i will meet you there.”
Now that you’ve mastered step one and step two you are ready for the ultimate step into lasting happiness, the one that I usually charge clients $1,797 for, but in this limited time offer it’s yours for the price of your willingness to give it a try.
3. Know that Something Good is Always Trying to Happen.
This is a leap of faith kind of step, the one where you have to kick your Mind-Self to the curb and taking a flying jump of the cliff of doubt and worry. This is the edge where you surrender to the possibility that as they say in A Course in Miracles, “The universe is a friendly place.”
You can’t always see the good in something that happens until hindsight kicks in with it’s 20/20 way of showing you how the interlocking pieces all fit together. I can look back for instance, and see how my mother’s sudden death when I was 39, was a positive catalyst for what became the deep soul work path that followed. I can see see how even the difficult choice to leave my marriage years ago was essential if I was to become who i am today.
You can argue that the mind massages the data to make everything somehow purposeful, but the truth is, things are purposeful. It takes wisdom to see the divine and benevolent intelligence that weaves through every happening in our lives.
And you can’t fake this one. It’s not like you can wall paper over deep anger, despair and resistance to life, with a platitude that “Something good is trying to happen.” But you can perhaps keep this third step tucked away in drawer, like some forgotten fortune cookie slip of paper that shows up again, just when you need it, just when you are ready to believe at last that “God has your back.”
In the meantime, I’ll close out with a poem I wrote in 2009, when I was taking that leap of faith for myself, that my seeming mistakes in life were somehow perfect. You never know, it might be the perfect poem for you today.
Did you know? Something good
is always trying to happen,
even when a loose thread unravels
the whole of existence, or one snag
in the dreamtime becomes a gap
in the fabric of your plans?
I walked through a web one morning,
a shimmering creation that spider
had spun right over my door,
placed so that when I crossed the threshold
I tore right through all the hard work,
all the nights weaving, leaving
a hole in my path.
And in a certain light, I knew
that this was not a destruction
but a way through to something,
that my clumsy passage had left
a possibility––in my wake,
trying to happen.
As for my ex-husband? He is still in a coma—day 17—as of this writing, though he has made incremental signs of recovery. Yet this is still a liminal time for him, and for his three children (two with me, and one with his current wife). We are waiting on the will of heaven.
And I am waiting with the Double Happiness delivery truck message reminding me everyday: Whatever happens, it is how I respond that determines how I feel.
Right now, I am choosing to feel hopeful.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Lori Ann Lothian
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Lotus Carroll at Flickr