Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Competitive Misery

My blog is usually all crafts, baking, gardens, animals and projects, but I'd like to make a little social commentary today about something that's been on my mind.

I don't know if this is something that goes on everywhere, or if it only seems to be within the circle of people that I know, but I've noticed lately that there seems to be a kind of taking pride in unhappiness going around.  As though people, women especially, seem to prove their worth by being put upon.  I've grown up with this sort of expectation.  If your life isn't super difficult, you don't really deserve to be happy, and if it is, well, then you can't be!

I even fell for it the other day!  I was talking to a new aquaintance, and she said something about being bored staying at home being a homemaker.  I responded that any given moment, I could think of about ten really big jobs, and a million smaller ones that need to be done.  Well, sure, this is true.  It's spring time!  The garden has to go in, the weeds are growing at about ten times the rate of the veggies, etc.  And there's all my crafting, the housework, you get the idea.  BUT, what I failed to mention is that all of those things (with maybe the exception of mopping the floors, but even that I'd rather do than commute or something) are lots of fun!

I live a blessed life, where I am free to create and grow.  I can learn and try new things.  I nuture animals and plants and a homelife that's fulfilling to myself and my husband.  I have the constant opportunity for hard work, and not much of it seems like drudgery to me.  I also have the luxury of time afterward, to rest and recooperate.

This is the kind of life that we should all aspire to!  Instead, I'm ashamed to admit that I'm content.  Uncomfortable sharing my hapiness with my family and peers.  I feel guilty in my rest, even though it's obvious that everyone really does need time to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors.  Why is misery, stress, busy-ness, resentment, and anger a badge of honor and courage?  Why are happiness, contentment, and the desire to take things at a slower, more measured pace, see as weakness and selfish greed?

I'm afraid I don't have any helpful conclusions in this line of thought.  Other than the simple fact that I truly believe that if more people would try living with less, and simplify their lives, they might also find the same kind of days that I have.  It's easy for people to say that I'm privledged, and spoiled, and it's unrealistic to think that other women could become homemakers.  I won't argue with them, because they have their minds made up and because those people don't know our household budget and spending.  I do know that lifestyle changes are big, and that it takes a big decision for people to come to them.  But I also know they're not impossible.

New homes, cars, big parties, lots of toys and clothes, furniture, "outdoor living spaces", electronics, all the things that people pour money into... are they good for you?  Can they make you happy?  Or do they leave you weighed down?  Like you'll never be good enough, because you can never afford good enough?

Anyway, even if you can't have more time, or become a homemaker, or express your creativity, does that mean you have to compete in your unhappiness?  People should rejoice in the happiness of others, revel in the things they have in their lives that do make them happy and content.  If you find yourself trying to one-up someone with your stress or misery, please, try to make the world a little better, and sympathize and count your blessings instead.

Maybe we can start a bit of competitve contentment instead... I think there wouldn't be a loser to that game.

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Alison said...

I know what you mean. Often times when someone new asks me what I do for a living, I pause before answering that I am a nanny. As if it's something to be ashamed of, and I often get that feeling of disappointment from the other person after revealing my job title.

It's so ridiculous! I have no reason to be ashamed that I am not something else. I love my job, I love the people I work for, I have mass amounts of free time, I get paid very well, and I get to travel to places I would not have otherwise been able to. This is an amazing experience in my life and while it may not be what I want to do forever, I can guarantee I am so much happier with my job than so many of the people who look down on me because I am not a college grad with a high ranking career.

I decided quite awhile ago to be happy and not ashamed. I am thankful for this opportunity and I don't care what others think of it.

Mrs. Mordecai said...

That is such a good point. What's wrong with being happy?

Alison said...

Additionally, you live the kind of life where you can be proud of everything you have because you know that you have worked hard for it and saved for it. In order to be a stay at home wife, you have learned to live on a budget and found many ways to save money, that is a hard transition for many people. So, your "charmed" life as many people might see it is not without hard work or sacrifice.

Bethany said...

That's what I mean! It's not a big shock that no one's life is perfect. I could find a lot of things about my lifestyle to complain about. I get lonely when Ben travels, we never have a day off from getting up at daybreak, etc. But really, why are people trying to win the "prize" of having the hardest life? What do you win when you win a session of "I have more stress and misery in my life than you". To me, if someone is miserable, that's a big indicator that there's some real change needed in their life. Not something to brag about.

Anna said...

I think it's all about your perspective. I've discovered that I can be really unhappy in glorious circumstances and really happy in awful circumstances --- it's all a state of mind.

That said, I do agree with you that people would be much happier if they were willing to simplify their lives. I know my life got a lot better when I moved to the land!

Marion said...

Bravo, Bethany. You are very right. I fall into the same trap myself. I have to remind myself that no matter how much of a pain the yardwork or my job or whatever is being, it is a blessing to have a home and a job and the life I have. Thanks for reminding me!

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