I don’t have a lot to be happy about this week. After two days of driving around the country on a work trip, my car broke down. What’s worse, I was unable to make it back to my home, had to stay an extra night on the road, and had to leave the car 100 kilometers away at a mechanic in Sarajevo. In addition, I have to drive my mother-in-law to the airport tomorrow, 200 kilometers in the other direction, and I will have to try and borrow a car. The baby keeps waking up in the night, my daughter refuses to use the potty, and my son refuses to keep his Legos in his room and off the living room floor.
Sometimes it seems life is just a series of crises that flow one into another, producing nothing especially memorable, but obscuring memories of anything else.
Willing Makes Us Happy
A while back I wrote about the idea of being willing. There are people who have very difficult lives, and some of those people, through all the difficulty, become inspirational people. I haven’t solved any great mysteries of life, but I have a theory: the reason these people are attractive is that they are willing.
Out of your control.
I must be willing. What does that mean? It means that, whatever one faces, be it hard or easy, that person willingly takes it in. The situations that are out of one’s control, that come without warning, and leave us wondering about the meaning of life — everything is faced with a willing spirit.
Willingness does not imply approval. Willingness is not approval. Being willing doesn’t mean you approve. I hope I made that clear.
When I see willing people, I don’t see people who live lives of happiness in every situation. I don’t believe anyone approves of all the things that happen to them. In fact, I see real sadness. I see real regret. But in the midst of the mud, I think the thing that makes these people attractive is that they trudge on, and face this sadness and disappointment willingly — they acknowledge its existence and respond appropriately.
You Have to Love the Truth
There is a mentally ill man who lives in my neighborhood. I see him almost every day. And every day, he tells me, “I’m not crazy.”
One of the hallmarks of mental illness is that those who have it are unaware of their condition. They must be made aware. But then, after being made aware, only a few are brave enough to acknowledge it and respond appropriately.
There is something about this facing the darkness and acknowledging its existence. One doesn’t have to be insane. There are plenty of other things in life that we are unwilling to face.
Usually, I think people just attempt to act as if the darkness in their lives doesn’t exist. I know that because that’s what I do. It’s like the crazy man, telling everybody, “I’m not crazy.”
The difference between facing the darkness and hiding it is the difference between willing and being unwilling. It is the difference between having true joy and being joyless.
So be willing, then.
You know, there aren’t that many people who are willing in the way that I have described. One reason is probably that you can’t make someone willing. There is nothing on earth that anyone else can do to make me into a willing person. The will is something that is inside of oneself, separate from prescriptive statements and maxims, not free from influence, but separate nonetheless.
Quit depending on others
Everyone knows someone who blames their circumstances for their lack of happiness. Lots of people do that. And I’m afraid that a lot of the time, I might be one of those people.
And somewhere at the base of all this is a simple decision — I will be willing.
The problem is, underneath that one decision is a paradigm that is hard to swallow.
I will love the truth more than fantasy.
I will accept things that are true.
I will do something — and not do nothing — about that which is true.
I will not deceive others into thinking better of me.
I will not deceive myself.
I believe these are some pillars of willingness. It is probably unfair, then, to imply that the result of willingness is happiness.
Happiness may, after all, be an insignificant goal.