Jun 24, 2006

On Greener Pastures and Happiness

(Toledo, OH) A person I know has made a decision to leave her spouse and children for another relationship. The details are unimportant, as similar stories have been told many times, and this person is unlikely to read these words.

I write, however, for those who might be on the fence, blinded by the infatuatory rush of a new love that hits the nervous system with a kick greater than any opiate.

I have screwed up more than a few things in life, but I have learned at least one thing from my mistakes: happiness can be achieved no matter where you are. It is an individual, conscious decision to find reasons to be glad for the day.

I had a perfect moment today while my children were splashing at a community pool. A red-bellied woodpecker landed about ten feet away, staring down at me from a nearby tree. The bird preened, looked about, and flew away about a half-minute later.

There was nothing particularly noteworthy about the event, and yet I knew that I had momentarily achieved that elusive state of kensho taught in Zen Buddhism.

Perhaps if you invested an equivalent amount of time and effort in your current relationship you might find that life with your significant other is not such a burden. Better still, look for the redeeming qualities in your relationship instead of dwelling on petty faults.

For one moment, consider the fact that your decision to end a relationship may have long-reaching consequences that affect many other people. Can you honestly say that any children in the picture will benefit from a divorce or separation? If not, your decision might be selfish in nature, and maybe you might want to think about putting other people first.

I know that there are some abusive people on the planet, and I am not advocating that people should be forced to stay in a situation that is dangerous or unhealthy.

Such scenes, however, are not the norm, and most of us know at least one relationship that broke down because one (or both) parties became so self-absorbed that the union collapsed under the weight of inflated egos.

Remember: the relationship is not always about you. When is the last time you gave your spouse a back rub, or cooked a favorite meal for that person? When did you last walk up and whisper in your lover's ear: "I think you are REALLY sexy today!"

Finally, consider that kindness extended to others without expectation of reward can be a path to happiness itself, and that taking steps to improve the lives of others is the mark of the divine.


Anonymous said...

Whoa - Mike turned into Dear Abby. Nice work, though.

Mrs. Phoenix said...

How can we say we love God (whom we've never seen) and hate our (fill in the blank) whom we see everyday? ANSWER: We forget that the essence of God is in all of us, but ESPECIALLY in our spouses, children and family members.

liberal_dem said...

Mrs Phoenix: "How can we say we love God (whom we've never seen)"

Good point and a great question for humankind. Is "God" actually "good" single 'o'? The good in people of which Mike writes? The good of giving and of forgiveness, of tolerance, laughter, and friendship?

God does not dwell somewhere in outer space and God is not some judge who stands above us with a scorecard to record our failings.

Good dwells in all of us and this Good can, as Mike has penned for us, give comfort in times of affliction as well as peace when we are at one with nature, our selves, and those for whom we have a special love.

Thank you for the inspiration.

Mrs. Phoenix said...

liberal_dem, thank you for the "God and Good" comparison...so true. Know what's funny? We (as humans) treat new clothes the way we SHOULD treat our fellow man, and vice versa. Meaning this: The pair of jeans we bought at The Gap but can't fit or just had a change of mind will STILL be hanging in our closet a year from now. We don't return it; we don't throw it away; instead, we attempt to CHANGE ourselves (i.e. lose weight) so that WE can fit IT. With our fellow man, as soon as he/she disappoints us in some way (superficial or not), we are quick to "drop 'em like it's hot" from our lives.

Mrs. Phoenix said...

And Mike, your friend will soon find out that the grass was no greener than her own lawn. But by the time she returns to her lawn, SOMEONE ELSE will be tending to it!

Mrs. Phoenix said...

I usually don't post so much on 1 topic, but THIS one is personal for me. I hate to see someone get hurt from another's fucked up decision making!

Newsguy said...

Good one, historymike. For some personal reasons.

historymike said...

Thanks, all. I needed to vent a few things, even if the person who inspired this missive will not read these words.

Maggie Thurber said...

Finally, consider that kindness extended to others without expectation of reward can be a path to happiness itself, and that taking steps to improve the lives of others is the mark of the divine.

nicely said, and thanks!

Do said...

Tremendous message, Mike.

Sometimes life will seem 'unfair' overwhelming and we all need to remember that if God leads you to it, He will lead you through it.

Thanks for this one. :)

McCaskey said...

People, and their expectations for what they want out of life, can change dramatically as they age and evolve.
If a relationship that once was fulfilling and fruitful to both spouses turns empty and unrewarding to either (or both)I find it understandable that they seek that fulfillment elsewhere.
Having said that, if there are children under 18 in the household, their needs and requirements should be met first and foremost, and divorce in those cases should be difficult to grant, barring a sustained and provable pattern of abuse/neglect. In my opinion, from a moral and obligational standpoint to your children, you wait until they are at least college-age before one officially ends a marriage.
I would go so far as to say that if one needs to find fulfillment outside their marriage, while keeping the marriage officially intact, that route is preferrable to ending the family relationship as your children know it. I'm NOT speaking from personal experience.
Marriage is a grind, and I don't mean that in a negative sense. It means that LIFE is a grind, in that there are of course good and bad, positive and negative events during the course of every day, and our ability to handle those flucuations with a steady, mature hand is paramount to happiness.
Same with marriage. Every day is not wine and roses. Just like life in general.

Kate said...

Wow. Powerful post. One of my best friends also left her husband and one daughter for another man. She took one of the girls with her.

Needless to say the 'other' man is gone, both kids and the original couple have all been harmed beyond description. This once thriving family has given way to two damaged young women and two adult and single alcoholics. That's 12 years down the road from where your friend is at. Sad stuff.

You know - with MM becoming a Dad and your post - the thought that my son was going to be killed in the tornado the other night -

My hat is off to all of you men that stay. You stay when it would be easier, more fun to go. You stay and weather the times you and your spouse drift apart and work on things instead of abandoning them. You stay with your kids. Your kids never have to wonder if you are leaving. Your kids never have to defend one parent to the other. They're not ripped apart because they're not being tugged around.

You are the real men in the world :-)

Hooda Thunkit said...


That's some heavy stuff to think on a bit.

Great post Mile!