Happiness is Independence

by Sandy L on December 27, 2010

The other day, I was blogging about Babci’s Mottos to Live By and the last one just really stuck in my head.

“Don’t Complain about not having something done if you can do it yourself.”

If I think about the people in my life and the ones that are the happiest and the ones that are also the most miserable, I see a distinct link between Independence and Happiness.   It reminds me very much of the scene from “Under the Tuscan Sun” when the lead character thought her life was a failure because she didn’t have love and children due to her bitter divorce.  She decides feeling sorry for herself is not helping so she goes on with her business and put all her energy into renovating her home. In the process, it gets filled with love, laughter, children and the sense of family. It may not have been the exact cookie cutter vision she had, but she realizes it was great nonetheless.  If you’re ever feeling sorry for yourself and your life, it’s one of my favorite uplifting chick flicks.  (To me, it’s like the girl version of seeing rocky where the underdog rises above adversity and prevails, except she does it with wine and cooking instead of blood, sweat and tears). I especially love the cast of characters and I’d like to think I have my own host of wild and wacky characters in my own life to continually inspire me.

Back to my point.   The people I know who are happy are always working towards goals that gets them to the next level of bliss.  If they are working too much, they are the ones who have their resumes polished and are job hunting. If they are away from family during the holidays, they either graciously accept someone’s hospitality or create an event of their own for their other transplanted friends.

In contrast, the most miserable of folks I know are waiting for someone to materialize to come  fix their problems. The second approach I often see is to do nothing, complain about it and either feel sorry for yourself or hope that complaining will make things change for the better. A third approach, my least favorite, is when someone sees another person with a better life, they believe they are unlucky and got dealt a bad hand.

I personally hate relying on fate to guide my life. I like to feel more in control over what happens to it.  It’s true that you cannot always control unfortunate events like the death of a loved one, but you can control how you deal with those events.  We all miss my father in law dearly (he died suddenly of a heart attack just months before we were married). He would be majorly PO’d if he thought his death affected his family’s ability to move on with their lives. Enjoying the memories we did have would mean a whole lot more to him than if he knew people were miserable because he was gone.

If you are lonely, or broke, or overweight, it is never too late to take steps to reach out to the community, get a support system in place and make positive changes in your life.  If you’ve suffered a great loss and want to do something about it, take steps to immortalize your loved one. Set up a scholarship fund or get involved with something that they were passionate about.  If you want to get out of debt, stop shopping and start selling.

My last bit of advice is that you should never assume that life is just handed to people as is.  The reason someone seems to have people lining up ready to give them a helping hand is because of all the times they helped others.   If you want to be able to take hospitality from someone, the first step is to offer it yourself.  This whole sense of community is not a one way street.  To me, community is like an extension of family. You can make it as big or small as what is appropriate for your life, but it is always there for the taking.  Sometimes just the act of helping another person is enough to make your own day worthwhile.

What do you think of my latest theory?  Think of the most miserable person you know.  Are they still waiting for that knight in shining armor? Are they wanting to return to a time that is long past?

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Moneycone December 27, 2010 at 8:33 AM

Absolutely! Be the change you wish to see in this world! (Was it Gandhi who said this?)

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Nicole December 27, 2010 at 8:35 AM

Ha! I just wrote a post on this last night (queued up for a couple weeks from now)… only the title of mine is, “Ambition.”

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Sandy L December 27, 2010 at 9:01 AM

Moneycone – yes, great quote. Instead of waiting for someone to do something for you, just busy yourself doing it instead.

Nicole – Cool. I can’t wait to read it. I will keep my eye out for it. I can’t believe you can write 2 weeks in advance. My articles usually get written the morning I post them unless it’s a heated topic. Then I usually put it on hold for a few days until I can edit calmly.

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Alison December 27, 2010 at 11:13 AM

Earlier this year I got a fortune-cookie fortune that said “Don’t wait for others to open the right doors for you” I kept it on my desk at work as a reminder, and it’s been a good thing to think of (that Ghandi quote is one of my most favorite, this fortune was like a nudge to keep it in mind).

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Sandy L December 28, 2010 at 6:53 AM

Alison – the most interesting people I know are not the “go with the flow” type. They actively seek out change and are not afraid of it.

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Carla December 29, 2010 at 3:21 PM

Its is a little discouraging when you constantly seek out the change and life constantly hits you in the face. I wonder at what point is it OK to quit.

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Sandy L December 30, 2010 at 6:16 AM

Carla – it’s never okay to quit. Hope springs eternal. I have my mother as inspiration. The first 55 years of her life were hellish, but the last 22 have been pretty good. She always had hope that things would get better and they did. Luckily most people don’t have to have rotten lives for that long and during those first 55 years, there were moments of fun and joy that cannot be forgotten.

It may take years to get to where you want to me, but a few years over a lifetime is a drop in the bucket. Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you again.

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Carla December 30, 2010 at 6:34 PM

What if nothing EVER worked for you? Career, family, health – nothing? Do you keep trying even though you constantly fall flat on your face? Serious question.

Nicole December 27, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Sandy– It’s a lot easier when there are two people writing articles! Look for it on Jan 11th unless Maggie finds stuff she must post between now and then.

Here’s the ending quote: “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”–Les Brown

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Molly On Money December 27, 2010 at 6:03 PM

Great post and I love all the quotes!
I’ve been going over this idea in my head for the last few months. My belief is that you do have some control over your life. Getting out and trying, failing and trying again is part of life. Good things happen and bad things happen. How you move on from those things will determine your happiness.

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Sandy L December 28, 2010 at 6:55 AM

Molly, you were actually one of the people I thought of when I wrote this. Your happiness article was about debt reduction, but it was also about action…and it allowed you not only to pay down a butt-load of debt but quit a job you hated.

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Molly On Money December 30, 2010 at 1:07 AM

You’re so kind-Thank you!

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Squirrelers December 27, 2010 at 6:55 PM

Really good post. I think that it can be really hard for people to get out of negative cycles in their lives, and not everyone has positive role models in that regard. To the extent that people can be jolted out of this pattern, and see the positives that they can make for themsleves, the sky is the limit. We can learn from the past, and realistically, we are no doubt influenced by it. That said, it doesn’t have to hold us back. We can learn from the good and the bad, and use that experience to help us have the best future possible.

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Sandy L December 28, 2010 at 6:57 AM

Squirreler – you are right. As I threw out my back yesterday because of my lack of exercise, I was kicking myself for not getting on the wagon sooner . Then, the more pain you’re in, the harder it is to start. Still starting and believing you can change is the hardest part of the whole process.

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Lindy Mint December 27, 2010 at 7:27 PM

Okay, you just reminded me of one of the mottos I grew up with. My parents always said if it’s in your power to change it, then do it (maybe not so clever, but they’ve been good words to live by. A lot of good points in your article. I like your theory – and I’m impressed if you wrote all of this this morning!

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Financial Samurai December 28, 2010 at 12:34 AM

Have you watched “It’s A Wonderful Life”, a black and white movie shot 60 years ago? It’s ends in a similar and touching way.

The harder one works, the luckier one gets!

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eemusings December 28, 2010 at 4:38 AM

I love how you compared it to Rocky!!

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Sandy L December 28, 2010 at 7:05 AM

Lindy – I love that motto. This is an article that took two sessions because I didn’t want it to sound like a bitch session about the lazy people I had in mind when writing this. Instead, I wanted it to inspire people.

Sam- Great movie but I didn’t see it on this season.

eemusings – yeah, I do have some male readers and I didn’t want my chic movie reference to be lost on them.

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Aloysa December 28, 2010 at 4:58 PM

I do believe that we get out of life what we want to get. There is no simple and easy way, but if we know what we want, where we are going, we can achieve a lot. Maybe not at once, maybe it will take a long time and a rocky road but “yes, we can.” :-) Great, great post!

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Everyday Tips December 28, 2010 at 8:10 PM

I totally agree with you! I have had people tell me how ‘lucky’ I am for this or that. Well, I decided I didn’t want to settle for things in life and I went after what I wanted. (I chose not to work at Kmart after high school and went to college instead.)

There are so many people out there that are just waiting for someone to come and fix all their problems, but their problems are really someone else’s fault in the first place. Luckily for many of them, bailouts did come in and fix some of their problems. But there will be new problems that they will wait for someone to solve. Argh!!!

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Sandy L December 29, 2010 at 3:58 AM

Everyday Tips – Ugh. I hate the lucky comment. One of the people I was thinking of is my mom’s long time tenant. When I was moving out of town and the movers came, she told me how “lucky” I was to get such a good job that paid for movers. Um, did you not just witness the last 5 years of hell of going to school full time while working 35 hours/week? I was never home. Maybe she assumed I was partying with my college buddies, but instead I was working or studying. That’s the thing is people just see the results, but are often blind to the work you put in to get there.

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Jennifer Barry December 29, 2010 at 2:58 AM

I do believe that bad things happen to good people. I also believe that most Americans are blessed compared to the vast majority of the people in the world. We really do have more control over our lives than we think. I remember going through a really miserable time in my twenties. I ended up breaking up with my boyfriend, meeting new people, quitting the job I had dreamed about for 10 years that became a nightmare, and eventually moving across country to a new city.

These changes weren’t easy, and they took 4 years to complete. However, the first step was telling myself that I could do all of them, and that I would be happier if I did.

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Sandy L December 29, 2010 at 4:01 AM

Jennifer- thanks for stopping by. I agree and I love your story but you didn’t say if you are happier now. I’m assuming it’s a resounding yes. I totally agree about the control. I mean I know people who’ve up and moved to the other side of the world. It’s not easy but it’s certainly possible if you want to put the effort in.

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Jennifer Barry December 29, 2010 at 2:01 PM

Ooops, good point Sandy! Yes, I am much, much happier now. :) I am now at the point where most of my goals involve what I want to do, rather than what I must do.

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101 Centavos December 30, 2010 at 8:31 AM

Good thoughts, Sandy.
Independent, can-do, proactive, self-reliant, productive, all equal happiness.
Like taking a to-do list, and crossing out items one by one, after they’re done.
Like growing a simple tomato plant in a patio container (add some basil, and you’ve got Caprese!)
Like renovating a country house, all by yourself.
Hard work = good luck.

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Sandy L December 30, 2010 at 5:07 PM

101- I couldn’t have said it better myself. People want the lifestyle handed to them but that’s just not how it works..at least not for most of us.

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retirebyforty December 30, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Life is what you make of it. If you have a bad hand, you still have to play as hard as you can. There is no use complaining about it. Well, I complain a lot too, but I am also working on improving my situation.
Happy New Year!!!

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Sandy L December 30, 2010 at 5:08 PM

Rb40- Perspective helps too. Your bad hand is probably still better than most of the rest of the world’s.

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Sandy L December 30, 2010 at 6:58 PM

Carla – I would look towards the things I could control and focus on improving those. I’d also call a close friend to talk me off the cliff and remind me that things will get better eventually. If I didn’t have any close friends, I guess I’d join a support group of people in a similar situation to remind me that I’m not alone in my struggles. It’s hard to think clearly when you are in a dark place, so having a support system is key for me. Also finding a role model that has gone through a similar situation and survived it is comforting and will give you hope. I don’t know the specifics of your situation, but people do get over some horrific experiences and still end up with lives that are worth living.

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Invest It Wisely January 3, 2011 at 11:25 PM

I think that this post is so spot on. Regardless of whether circumstances are bad, weren’t your fault, people were mean to you, etc… things can be really unfair, but in the end, feeling sorry for yourself is a dead-end path. It’s a normal reaction, sometimes, but we need to learn to move past it if we are ever to move on and get somewhere. Something I need to work on myself from time to time!

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