Saturday, August 13, 2011

Return of The Yard: Or, It Isn't All Just Sadness, You Know.

Dealing with chronic illnesses, dealing with being disabled, can be a full-time job.

In fact, if it isn't, maybe yer doin' it rong.

As far as I'm concerned? Life is truly precious. It shouldn't be wantonly destroyed. It shouldn't be wantonly made painful or hard or mean or of little use, either.

Fun is precious too. And what an excellent assistant for that full-time Deal With It job!

Some people believe that making conscious efforts to be happy gives false results. That if happiness doesn't arise spontaneously, it isn't real. Surely we've all seen instances of the type of phoniness that portrays an emotional falsehood, whether of happiness or sorrow or anything else. But that isn't the same as putting forth effort to be happy, not to me.

Long ago, a sibling's psychiatrist friend asked me what my ultimate, overriding goal in life was. At the time I was in my late twenties or so and hadn't seriously reconsidered this important question for a while. A little surprised, I thought for a moment and said, "Well -- to be happy, I guess."

And the man jumped down my throat. Looking like he was trying to mask a bit of honest hostility, he told me, "No no no. Happiness can't ever be a goal on its own. It's only a state we can reach by meeting some other goal - getting that job you wanted or getting married, having a baby, things like that." (At the time this rang a bell I couldn't place. It seems to parallel the philosophy espoused in a wonderful book called Man's Search for Meaning, by WWII concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl.)

Goals tend to make you think, to consider and deliberate. Assumptions tend towards suspending judgement. Such useful qualities! Yes, both of them, thinking and assuming. And both need to be used with care, so much care. Care and caution and honesty and strength.

As time went by, as my respect for Mr. Frankl and disrespect for Mr. Shrink grew, I finally decided Mr. Shrink was dead wrong. Not only can happiness be a stand-alone goal, it must be one, if we're ever to think clearly enough - to understand ourselves well enough - to find it.

Not to mention, making happiness a goal can go a long way towards protecting us from certain Elementary Errors of Assumption. Like believing money or fame or lots of cheap hot sex will bring us happiness. Eeek!!!

Maybe it's human nature to assume certain events or conditions must make happiness. WAHHH!!! STOP! Maybe the dubiousness of the Happiness Value of Money is clear enough. But even blessed events like having a baby won't necessarily make a person happy, any more than that seemingly perfect job or marriage or fancy espresso will. Or that glad little breath of relief from seriousness... ;-)

Some day you may be walking around sad, not knowing what will make you happy or how to get some of it. Sure, time will pass and your emotions will change and I bet you'll feel better, happy even, once again. But if you do know what some of your personal Happy Stuff is, and how to get it, it stands a decent chance of happening quicker and better. Right? Makes sense?

Even more so if you're willing to put some time and effort into it.


That four-letter word.



Of course, sometimes a four-letter word is a very good thing.

Like L o v e.

And me, I love to work.

Now, certainly you've heard me over the years going on and on about Gardening Happiness. The mirrored equivalent of no-gardening unhappiness too. The waiting-to-exhale hope of an approaching day when some two years of no-gardening comes to an end, and my modified body can handle tiny bits of modified gardening activities out in the Florida sun...communing with nature once again, talking to the birds and lizards and singing to them and tossing them bugs, and finding wonderful little treasures in my yard and watching as my plants bring forth buds and flowers and fruit, and I clear away this *sick ol' neighbor lady's* weeds and vines and mess and my pretty walkways' brick paths emerge once again for cats and people to amble down, shyly peeking about to see if anyone's watching them take such liberties...


Some happiness lives there. Yes.

Okay. Here we go, back to the present, out in the here-and-now. Time, finally; it becomes time to explore. After an exhausting 10-minute venture outside in the front yard - in the power chair, sure, but! dressed in my genuine same-old gardening clothes! - the first requirement needed to obtain this glorious Gardening Happiness freedom was clear.

A trip to Home Depot was in order. Another big, big venture: not just going there, up and out of my sickbed; but maybe even going there all by myself. A first.

A couple weeks ago, a Saturday looked good. I could handle it, I knew I could, even though Walter couldn't come.

I called TOPS the day before and made my reservation. TOPS stands for Transportation Options, or some such; it's an adjunct of our local city bus service that picks up the disabled, even in heavy motorized wheelchairs, only $3.50 each way. I made sure they knew I was shopping and might buy something large, and they said, --Fine!!

OHHH!!! Deep breath! The next day arrived, it actually did! And TOPS came and Home Depot was there and I shopped, all by myself, and thought and zoomed around in my speedy chair and explored and compared and made decisions and spent the carefully, precisely budgeted funds I came prepared with.

Rendering me the ecstatic new owner of the following: the fanciest pole saw I've ever owned; a 3 1/2' *dandelion weeder* - a digger stick long enough for leverage, we don't have actual dandelions around here; a spray bottle to fill with rubbing alcohol for mosquito control; and the most kick-ass long loppers you ever saw. They actually ratchet! I mean, I had no idea! Never even heard of 'em before! Wheeeee!!!

heh heh heh!

Now you can see why I absolutely must get my camera in order. How can I brag about my fabulous new gardening tools and not post their pix?!? Sheesh!

And you can see why once again, I find proof that together with the hardships and pain in my life, I was granted - through no action or special merit or earned deservedness of my own - real blessings. The exact sorts of blessings that make those hardships bearable. And along with blessed things like an oddly twisted sense of humor, a desire to refrain from taking myself too seriously too often, the will and need to think for myself, oh so much more - together with all that came this settled certainty that happiness is good and right and belongs to us, that we can and should understand it and seek it out.

Our country's founders recognized our innate human right to the pursuit of happiness. And no cynical shrink - or pastor or parent or teacher or doctor or anyone who thinks they're somehow in rightful absolute charge of our souls - not with all the well-honed manipulative skills they may possess, no one can ever succeed in taking away that right. They might - if they're bitter and destructive and mean-spirited and so inclined - try pretty hard to do it. But the most they can ever achieve is making people believe something that's incorrect. Don't you let them. Never forget that they can't take your right to happiness away.