What’s happiness got to do with safety anyway?

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She was driving me absolutely fucking bonkers. I was trying to get to sleep and my little daughter was not sleeping. Actually she was wide the heck awake. She was jabbering on about her toy pony. Then asking me to make another warm bottle for her. Then she wants to help with the bottle, doing everything but the boiling water. This of course means it takes 3 times as long to get done and get back to bed. Like I said, bonkers. But the thing of it is, I love it when she does stuff for herself. I love to see her being grown up and taking responsibility. So when she does the milk and spills, I’m normally smiling while she does it, and while she gets the mop to clean up (and sometimes makes things worse). And even when she spills a bit while putting the lid on her bottle. This stuff truly thrills me to watch. I love it even when it’s 2 a.m. and I’m completely knackered. Yes, really. So why was I so pissed off this time?


Well, I was planning on getting up early to go to the gym… But here’ the thing, I almost always get up early. I go to the gym (or do my sprints) about 5 days a week. And this little lady often stays up late – but it doesn’t usually bother me, I’m usually calm about all this. So what happened this time?


There was no physical difference between this night and many like it. The difference was that for whatever reason, I was focused on going to the gym. I was telling myself how much I’m going to manage to lift this time, about the nasty strongman workout I was going to do after trying for a PR on the squat. And this excitement became “I should get to sleep early so I don’t feel so crappy when I wake up”. The dialogue in my head became the importance of getting to sleep. This meant that my daughter, instead of being the usual source of joy and wonder in my life, became an obstacle to my goals. The way I was explaining things to myself made it a “me vs you” thing.


In my head I stopped describing her as this super-cool person who challenges me and knocks me on my arse in awe on a regular basis, I started describing her as being in my way of what I “needed” to do.


In fact, now that I think about it, I realise that I even stopped telling myself how unpleasant and painful and sore and therefore cool it was going to be under that barbell, and I was ONLY thinking about getting to sleep and my conflict with this otherwise cool little chick.


And here’s what pisses me off most – I know better. I’ve been here before. Heck, I was pissed off and grumpy for the first year and a half after my son was born (he’s the eldest). It took me a long time to figure out that I am responsible for my own happiness. That I control what I think about and how I present circumstances to myself. I can interpret a bad day at the office as either “my boss crapped me out for a mistake”, or I can describe it to myself as “my boss is obviously used to high quality stuff from me otherwise it would’ve just been a sigh as if it’s normal for me to screw up, being pissed off means the boss was obviously disappointed that I actually made a mistake”. I can also choose to sit and fret over pill-pushers and barzaks and getting shat on at work (and very small portion of the 24 hours of that day). Or I can CHOOSE to smile at the memory of having watched the squirrel that was climbing around the tree outside my window at work. Or having gone swimming with my kids.


The point is this – I control the conversation in my head, so I control what words I use to describe things, so I control how I interpret things. So I control my happiness. Sitting around waiting for the world to make me happy is NOT accepting responsibility for my self (not a typo). It’s a road to bitterness (when the world constantly disappoints) and entitlement (because I have no say, so somebody OWES me, I “deserve” it). This is a path away from happiness and away from self-responsibility. And this is a sure-fire path to danger.


If I tell myself that somebody else will provide happiness for me, it’s a short step to expecting somebody to look after me, to keep me safe. Which means, you know what, I shouldn’t have to be aware, I shouldn’t have to focus on my surroundings, I’m just going to read my Facebook posts while I walk down the dimly lit street that marks to border between 2 rival gangs. And statism sounds good now doesn’t it? “Someone” (i.e. the state) will give me a job, and a salary, and keep me safe, and keep pollution away from me, and, and, and…


If I’m aware of my surroundings, but I don’t have specific things to look for, then I’m just wasting my time in paranoia and fear and uncertainty. If I know to keep an eye on the self-talk that’s going on in my head, but I don’t know how it affects things, I’m also wasting my time, just observing what’s going on in there instead of control and directing it – making use of it. But if I know to watch for how I describe things to myself, if I know I can choose to reframe things, then I also know that I can choose to switch off the self-talk while I walk to my car. I control it, I’m not reacting to it. Self-responsibility requires self-awareness. Responsibility for the self is awesome.

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