Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Choosing Happiness

Triumph means different things to different people, even different things to the same person.  For me, these days, triumph is about finding solutions.  My wife, Lucia, and son, Eldar, have returned from a month in Russia, visiting my in-laws.  I remained here in Budapest, working and taking a bit of a holiday.  Now challenges are making themselves known.  First and foremost, I am very happy to be alive and healthy.  The joys of this life cannot be overestimated.  Simply to sit here and type these words is an experience so amazing that when I give a moment's consideration I can hardly believe it's happening.  To think that I own a laptop computer (to think that even such a thing exists!), that I write for a newspaper in Budapest, Hungary; that I have a son!  These are all miracles.  But my very breath alone is a miracle.  All the "troubles", the hangups, the difficulties (call them challenges), these are minute, the stuff of jokes compared to the wonder of life!  How absurd it would be to allow such minutiae to spoil the joy of being alive!  No matter what happens, no matter where I go on this earth, to be alive is an incredibly fantastic gift.  To have a body, a human body!  How nice. 
I wish Lucia could feel this way.  She has a history (most recently an hour ago when I phoned her) of devoting so much effort and energy to being miserable and attempting to make others (e.g. me) feel miserable, too.  She has told me that she does this, in part anyway, because if she is nice to me then I won't do what she wants.  There must be a flaw in this thinking.
She says I remind her of an old man. (never mind that my recent sexual exploits prove otherwise)  She goes to such lengths to paint the most wretched picture of me in her mind and describe to me in detail, it's a wonder i'm still here.
She told me about her trip to Russia and how aweful it was to be around her mom.  Her family lives in a neglected mining town some 200 km away from St.Petersberg.  Lucia told me how her mom feels trapped and disappointed and takes it out on her family in torrents of abuse.  Lucia's dad's response it to get drunk and beat her.  This spins the cycle further, giving her mom new ammunition with which to continue the war.  It's such an unltimately self-destructive behavior.  Unfortunatley it takes a special person not to be affected by it if they happen to be nearby.  Lucia recognizes and condemns such behaviour in her mom, but then practices it herself, without the awareness of the harm it does, or even that she's doing it at all.  She finds so much to complain about, especially regarding me.  It's so tempting to fire back.  But of course this would only make things worse.
She seems to lack a basic understanding of economy, a misunderstanding I find endemic in people from Central and Eastern Europe.  I built a microphone stand form a winebottle, carving the cork so that it fits to the mic mount.  I made a jacket for the bottle out of brown paper.  It was just right size for the desk upon which sits a computer.  Lucia knocked it down, saying "what is this piece of shit!?" or something similar.  Friends of mine, on the other hand, remarked on my ingenuity.  There's something inside her that won't allow her to see the beauty in such a thing.  It's the same sort of barrier that prevents her from taking public transporatation rather than a taxi home from the airport.  It seems to escape her that spending money comes at a cost and that finding a way to enjoy cheap or even free alternatives makes a person richer, both in terms of choices, time and disposable income.  If you spend money, you have to make it.  And making money does not always mean doing what you want.  She curses and belittles me for being cheap.  But to live one's life in order to pursue minor luxuries is to squander the greatest gift of all.
Of course there are things I can do to make our life together better.  To persevere in those things which I have to with a smile on my face, making the best effort I know how, forgiving myself and others for our shortcomings.  To understand the self-evident logic in foregiveness.  People, being creatures of dust, of course fall short of plans, expectations and desires.  If one cannot foregive, one obviates the value of planning, expecting and desiring!  Anger, hatred, bitterness; these do no good for anyone.  So long as we are alive, one is better off happy.  To distress over what others might think is madness!  How much control can one have over what others think?  Very little, I assure thee.  What's more, how do we know what they think or even if they care?  Much better to practice kindness, happiness and foregiveness.  To focus on perceiving the goodness in others and to affirm this; these are the ingredients of triumph.
How I love my son and his irrepressible smile.  And how I love when Lucia is able find her child-like smile!  Optimism, happiness are decisions.  Plans and desires are fine, but not to be taken too seriously.  Live for the joy of living.  Pursue plans, but one ought not to wager one's joy and peace of mind on their specific outcomes.
She would do well to pursue projects which make her happy, that give her a sense of total accomplishment and pay her in money.  I would do well to help her in this regard.


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