“How do you even function?”
I get asked that question a lot these days. After I got back from a week long work trip (my first time out since Rebecca died), some people were shocked that I’d even consider leaving home. To go to work, travel and in general try to function at a previously normal level is apparently so…not normal?
Viewed one way, Rebecca’s death was the latest in a string of crappy events in my life. Before that, my wife had a crappy pregnancy, including finding out about a heart defect and having a doctor essentially recommend we abort her based on a crummy medical test. Even before that, I had a crappy job in Hawaii, my dog died while I was on island, and my master’s degree almost didn’t happen due to the government’s continuing resolution. Hawaii was not paradise for me. I had plenty to be depressed about.
But I don’t view my life as a string of unfortunate events. While I don’t ignore the hard stuff, I certainly don’t let it control me. I think about what I learned from it and move forward. More importantly, I look for the good things that happened, and if you look, there is plenty to be happy about.
It worries me that I’m apparently the exception to the rule. I worry that we’ve become a clinically depressed society, where we simply medicate our problems away or worse, insist that we live our day to day life unable to maintain a consistently positive view on our future. I worry that our young people get told to seek happiness in free sex, material goods, a college education, or a variety of other fleeting escapes, and then are shocked when they are truly not happy. I worry that the depression causes people to damage themselves in long term ways.
We had two things that worked quite well to break depression: a strong faith and strong personal connections. But it isn’t cool to have faith anymore (unless it’s the kind that doesn’t have all those pesky rules), and our Facebook and smart phone culture is breaking down our personal connections. Those solid connections kept us steady during the storms in our lives. Now, instead, we drift through life, blown around by whatever the latest whim or fancy is.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We can turn back to the foundation that made us strong before. Over this past weekend, I stopped checking my Facebook status and started calling people I hadn’t talked to in months. You know those conversations you have where both parties don’t want to stop? I had a bunch of those. It made me look forward to the future.
Happiness isn’t going to find you. It’s going to require you to find it.