The Secret to Being Happy (All the Damn Time)

When I was in the murky depths of depression, I used to love it when it rained. The more gray, gloomy and miserable the weather, the better. My then-partner was always puzzled by this meteorological preference. “Who prefers bad weather?” he asked, “Why on earth do you like it so much?”

The answer came swiftly, taking me by surprise with its simplicity and bone-aching truth: “Because it’s the only time my outsides match my insides.”

Because it’s the only time my outsides match my insides.

In the middle of that five-year journey through my own private hell, crappy weather provided a sense of relief. When it was gloomy outside — as it always was within — it was such a relief. I didn’t have to pretend. I could finally exhale. It was such a blessed, welcome reprieve to feel aligned for a day or two while the heavens opened up… even if that alignment was not in the happy, shiny direction that most people prefer their inner compasses to point.

Mercifully, I climbed out of my depression. But at some stage during the reflection and dissection that was to follow, I came back to this point — to the intense feeling of relief and release that I got when “my outsides matched my insides.”

And I realized this truth: It’s still true. It’s always true. In fact, having outsides that match your insides is the key to happiness. Seriously. Except, of course, it’s not normally about the weather aligning with how we feel, but about our actions, behaviors and lifestyle matching up with our internal state.

This “matching up” is actually a well-recognized concept that far smarter people than me have described in far more intellectual terms. Psychologists call it the concept of “congruence,” and it refers to the human drive to live in alignment with who we are and who we want to be. Unhappiness and stress arise when there is tension and discord with who we think we are (or want to be) and how we actually show up in the world.

Most of us know all too well how this feels. It’s that feeling when you desperately ache to lose weight, yet spend your nights curled up with a family-sized block of Hershey’s finest.

It’s when your family is your biggest priority, and yet you find yourself stuck at work, missing your daughter’s ballet recital.

It’s when you know in your bones you’re meant to be a writer/actor/zookeeper, and yet you never get around to doing any writing/acting/zoo keeping because you “just don’t have time.”

This lack of congruence can show up in even the smallest moments of our day, creating tension that we aren’t even consciously aware of, but that is accumulating stress-fully nevertheless. Like when you walk into your room and dump all your belongings on the floor, even though you value staying organized and minimizing clutter. Or when you check your email throughout dinner, even though you highly value being present for your partner. Or when you stay up late binge-watching Suits, even though you know you need more sleep.

All these little actions which are out of alignment with who you are and who you desire to be are hurting you. Perhaps incrementally, perhaps a lot.

Yet the solution is so effortlessly simple (but let’s not get this concept confused with “easy” — it is not always easy). All you have to do is align your life with your values: align your actions with your intentions, align your habits with your desired outcomes, align your minutes with how you want your days to be.

That’s the secret to feeling happy, all the damn time. It’s how to achieve your goals and realize your purpose and feel the way you want to feel. If you can make your outsides match your insides… everything is possible.

And now, I am happiest when the sky is a clear and blazing blue.

BY: Jessica Larsen, The Blog, Huffingtonpost.com

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A Canadian’s View On Our Disrespect Of President Obama’s Presidency

The Fifth Column

EgbertoWillies.com

America – He’s Your President for Goodness Sake!

By William Thomas

There was a time not so long ago when Americans, regardless of their political stripes, rallied round their president. Once elected, the man who won the White House was no longer viewed as a republican or democrat, but the President of the United States. The oath of office was taken, the wagons were circled around the country’s borders and it was America versus the rest of the world with the president of all the people at the helm.

Suddenly President Barack Obama, with the potential to become an exceptional president has become the glaring exception to that unwritten, patriotic rule.

Four days before President Obama’s inauguration, before he officially took charge of the American government, Rush Limbaugh boasted publicly that he hoped the president would fail. Of course, when the president fails the country flounders. Wishing harm upon…

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Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves- By: David Wong/Cracked.com, August 11, 2014

You ever have that funny friend, the class-clown type, who one day just stopped being funny around you? Did it make you think they were depressed? Because it’s far more likely that, in reality, that was the first time they were comfortable enough around you to drop the act.

The ones who kill themselves, well, they’re funny right up to the end.

By now you know that Robin Williams has committed suicide, but I’m not here to talk about him. He’s gone, and you’re still here, and suicidal thoughts are so common among our readers and writers that our message board has a hidden section where moderators can coordinate responses to suicide threats. And in case you’re wondering, no, that’s not a joke — I remember the first time John tracked down a guy’s location and got an ambulance dispatched to his house. Then we all sat there, at 4 in the morning, waiting to hear if they got there in time (they did).

Because Cracked is driven by an army of aspiring comedy writer freelancers, the message boards are full of a certain personality type. And while I don’t know what percentage of funny people suffer from depression, from a rough survey of the ones I know and work with, I’d say it’s approximately “all of them.” So when I hear some naive soul say, “Wow, how could a wacky guy like [insert famous dead comedian here] just [insert method of early self-destruction here]? He was always joking around and having a great time!” my only response is a blank stare.

That’s honestly the equivalent of “How can that cow be dead? She had to be healthy, because these hamburgers we made from her are delicious!”

So I don’t know Robin Williams’ situation, and I don’t need to — I can go scoop up an armload of examples without leaving my chair. As one of the head guys at Cracked, I’m surrounded by literally hundreds of comedy writers, and I inhabit the body of one. Kristi Harrison recently wrote about the psychological dark side of being funny, and was speaking from experience. Or, here’s John Cheese talking about his recent adventures on antidepressants. Here’s Mark Hill on his depression, here’s Dan O’Brien on his social anxiety, here’s Tom Reimann on his, and here’s C. Coville on the same. Here’s Mara Wilson on having an anxiety disorder, here’s Felix Clay on regret, here’s Gladstone on emotional trauma, and Adam Brown on almost dying from cough syrup addiction. Those are just the ones off the top of my head. You get the idea.

Now do you want me to tell you how many messages/comments/emails we get from fans telling a writer to “kill yourself” because said writer wrote a joke they didn’t like? When I ban them, they always act confused as to why.

“What, you’re saying Cracked writers are a bunch of tortured literary geniuses? You write boner jokes in list form, for Christ’s sake!”

Yeah, and Chris Farley just made wacky slapstick movies about a fat guy who falls down a lot, right up until he stopped his own heart with a drug cocktail. The medium has nothing to do with it — comedy, of any sort, is usually a byproduct of a tumor that grows on the human soul. If you know a really funny person who isn’t tortured and broken inside, I’d say A) they’ve just successfully hidden it from you, B) their fucked-uppedness is buried so deep down that even they’re in denial about it, or C) they’re just some kind of a mystical creature I can’t begin to understand. I’m not saying anything science doesn’t already know, by the way. Find a comedian, and you’ll usually find somebody who had a shitty childhood.

Here’s how it works for most of us, as far as I can tell. I’ll even put it in list form, because who gives a fuck at this point:

  1. At an early age, you start hating yourself. Often it’s because you were abused, or just grew up in a broken home, or were rejected socially, or maybe you were just weird or fat or … whatever. You’re not like the other kids, the other kids don’t seem to like you, and you can usually detect that by age 5 or so.
  2. At some point, usually at a very young age, you did something that got a laugh from the room. You made a joke or fell down or farted, and you realized for the first time that you could get a positive reaction that way. Not genuine love or affection, mind you, just a reaction — one that is a step up from hatred and a thousand steps up from invisibility. One you could control.
  3. You soon learned that being funny builds a perfect, impenetrable wall around you — a buffer that keeps anyone from getting too close and realizing how much you suck. The more you hate yourself, the stronger you need to make the barrier and the further you have to push people away. In other words, the better you have to be at comedy.
  4. In your formative years, you wind up creating a second, false you — a clown that can go out and represent you, outside the barrier. The clown is always joking, always “on,” always drawing all of the attention in order to prevent anyone from poking away at the barrier and finding the real person behind it. The clown is the life of the party, the classroom joker, the guy up on stage — as different from the “real” you as possible. Again, the goal is to create distance.

You do it because if people hate the clown, who cares? That’s not the real you. So you’re protected.

But the side effect is that if people love the clown … well, you know the truth. You know how different it’d be if they met the real you.

I get a dozen messages a week from people telling me they love me, I get a few a month from people saying they want to meet me in person. You know, kind of like how they watch an episode of The Walking Dead and decide they want to live in a zombie apocalypse. Trust me, kid, you wouldn’t like it.

But there’s more. The jokes that keep the crowd happy — and keep the people around you at bay — come from inside you, and are dug painfully out of your own guts. You expose and examine your own insecurities, flaws, fears — all of that stuff makes the best fuel. So, Robin Williams joked about addiction — you know, the same addiction that pretty much killed him. Chris Farley’s whole act was based on how fat he was — the thing that had tortured and humiliated him since childhood. So think of my clown analogy above, only imagine the clown feeds on your blood.

(Jesus, that’s going to give me nightmares, and I have a side job writing horror.)

I keep mentioning Chris Farley for a reason — in the end, he was so alone that he was hiring prostitutes just to hang out with him. Here’s an account of how his last days played out:

“Farley partied for four straight days, smoked crack and snorted heroin with a call girl, then took her back to his apartment. When they argued about money, she got up to leave. He tried to follow but collapsed on the living room floor, struggling to breathe. His final words were ‘Don’t leave me.’ She took pictures of him, stole his watch, wrote a note saying she’d had a lot of fun, and left. He died alone.”

In this case, the clown was a hilarious fat guy playing a Beverly Hills Ninja. Back behind the wall, the real person was a scared, lonely, awkward fat kid who couldn’t even pay someone to hold his hand when he died. “Don’t leave me.”

So, yeah, if you’re out there and are feeling down, here’s the national suicide hotline. I’ve been told it’s great, by the numerous people I know who’ve called it. But I guess my larger point is that if you know somebody who might be at risk but you’ve been denying it because they’re always smiling and joking around, for the love of God, wake the fuck up. They don’t know how to ask for help because they don’t know how to relate, because when you’ve lived behind that wall long enough, you completely lose the ability. “Well, I tried to help him, but he was kind of a dick about it.” Right, that’s what it looks like. “But I don’t know how to do a suicide intervention!” Nobody is asking you to. How about this:

Be there when they need you, and keep being there even when they stop being funny. Every time they make a joke around you, they’re doing it because they instinctively and reflexively think that’s what they need to do to make you like them. They’re afraid that the moment the laughter stops, all that’s left is that gross, awkward kid everyone hated on the playground, the one they’ve been hiding behind bricks all their adult life. If they come to you wanting to have a boring-ass conversation about their problems, don’t drop hints that you wish they’d “lighten up.” It’s really easy to hear that as “Man, what happened to the clown? I liked him better.”

As for me, I haven’t thought about suicide in a long time, not since high school, when a guy talked me out of it, though to this day I doubt he realizes it. So, I lived on to wind up with a job where one of my tasks is to ban people who follow him from one comment section to another telling him he’s not funny and should kill himself. Is that … irony? Shit, I don’t think English has a word for what that is.

Anyway. Rest in peace, Robin. You’ve given us a chance to talk about this, and to prove that this has nothing to do with life circumstances — you were rich and accomplished and respected and beloved by friends and family, and in the end it meant jack fucking shit

-David Wong

RIP Robin Williams

Depression is a deadly disease, and too many people don’t understand it. It’s not something you can just snap out of; it’s not a question of cheering up.

IT IS A CHEMICAL IMBALANCE IN THE BRAIN.

It is not anyone’s fault. It’s an invisible illness that many people suffer from in silence, because they are ashamed or embarrassed to tell loved ones and seek help. It doesn’t matter that you “have it better” than other people. It’s hard to listen to outside encouragement when your brain is shouting at you. It just makes you feel even more alone and even more worthless.

I don’t want to feel this way, but I don’t know how to feel differently. This is all I know.

Decisions, decisions

My dad was a blue collar union man. My mom worked part-time (once we were all in school full-time), at first cleaning houses, and then at an office. She never had a “career”. None of my relatives had “careers”; although they (mostly) did work, it was blue collar and entry-level white collar. By the time I graduated high school, none had gone to college, except one cousin who was studying to be a teacher. My parents were also loners, as was I. They didn’t really have any close friends, and neither did I. As a result, I didn’t have anyone to emulate, and therefore knew next to nothing about college and the working world. It was implied (by everyone, including school councilors) that a bachelor’s degree would guarantee me a good job, leading to a career.

I went to college with the intention of majoring in photography, but my parents didn’t want me to declare a major until my Sophomore year. By the time I got ready to select my Sophomore classes, I discovered that I would, at that point, need 4 full years to complete that degree. My advisor encouraged me to try art history, because it involved the arts and also involved a lot of research and writing. She said it would be the equivalent of majoring in English, and I’d have no problem finding a job. I had a very vague idea of what kind of job I might end up in, but I knew it would be a good one. That’s what college is for, right?

ah degree wonka

I graduated magna cum laude with a BA in art history, and a minor in anthropology. There were no jobs where I grew up (it’s very rural), so after working retail for several years, I relocated to a small city which was a financial boom-town at the time. I got a job at a health insurance customer care call center, which later closed. I moved on to a paper-pushing position at a durable medical equipment company, where I was again laid off. I worked briefly in HR for the census. Then I went back to school, this time with a career plan in view.

I went to a well-known for-profit school and got a diploma in medical billing and coding. I obtained my CPC-A credentials. I have worked a few temp jobs since then, but am unable to find a job which doesn’t require at least two years experience for entry-level.

If I could go back again, I’d major in something like accounting. I like numbers, and it pretty much guarantees a career-path which will always be in demand. I should not have majored in any liberal art. A BA is so useless I might as well have skipped getting it altogether.

I never learned how to swim.

I just read something that really resonated with me, a comment on my favorite blog, askamanager.org.

“I think sometimes quitting or acknowledging something isn’t working out is considered a weakness. It’s drilled into our heads as kids that if we do a good job, try hard and are nice then we’ll be rewarded, but sometimes it doesn’t go that way, there’s nothing you can do to fix it and the more you try to fix it the worse it gets. To me it’s a strength to be able to assess a situation and have the sense to realize it won’t get better. It may not get worse but it could take all kinds of extra effort on my part just to keep treading water while . . . others . . . are swimming laps past me.”

I’ll need to spend some time thinking about this.

http://www.askamanager.org/2014/07/my-office-permits-bad-behavior-under-the-guise-of-harmony.html#comment-516773