I don’t know if I’ve talked about my mom and how awesome she is, but I’ve got this mother, you see, and she’s always got rock solid advice, even if I don’t want to hear it.
When I was a senior in high school and going through my first and only angsty teenage break up (for those keeping score at home, my only other break up was a remorseless college break up…ugh, dating sucks*), my mom told me a phrase that I clearly logged away under the MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU’VE EVER HEARD file, right next to the recipe for Beer Bread and that line about being financially secure before I ever get married. At the time, I was so sick of talking to my mom about the problems I was trying to ignore that she probably had to tell me several times before it finally knocked me upside the head with some sense (I think that might be the only way teenagers really ever learn anything).
“Maggie, you are not responsible for anyone’s happiness but your own.”
Normally, the line reads, “Only you are responsible for your own happiness,” but my mom realized that I wasn’t having trouble accepting responsibility for my own happiness. My problem lie in trying to affect change in others.
While I’ve grown so much since high school (make your short joke in your head here), that advice has greater significance now than it did when I was a whiny high school student. Living in St. Francis can be frustrating, not just on me but on my community mates as well. In other places of this beautiful country, other friends are also frustrated and despondent about their current situations and future plans. I love these people dearly and I want them to be happy, but ultimately, that’s only something they can do for themselves. Conversely, only I can make myself happy. This advice was never telling me to be selfish. Far from it. There will always be a need for empathy and being a good friend will always include trying to cheer up my mates when they’re bummed, listening to them when they need to vent and offering my surprisingly comfortable shoulder when they need to cry. However, I cannot allow the sorrows that inflict others to inflict me. I have enough of my own demons to overcome and furthermore, cannot be a dependable friend if I shoulder the burden of “fixing” the unhappiness of others. In my attempt, I would only make myself sick trying to make other people happy which is neither possible to accomplish nor healthy to try.
I believe we have more control over our emotional well being than we’d like to accept credit (and thus responsibility) for. A positive attitude, as irritating as it may be to admit, can be astoundingly effective. Making the decision to grin and bear can very often lead to grinning and actually enjoying life. As long as I accept that I can only control my own mood and view of this absurd gift of life.
Why did it take me moving away to realize how spectacular my mama is (send cookies)?
*I felt the need to point out that I’m still friends with the gentlemen involved with both break ups. Both are outstanding young men and I’m pretty sure they read this blog.