Friday, July 11, 2014

Happiness Without Reference

School years were tough. Not academically; I'm what my mother calls a "professional student." What was hard for me, in retrospect, is that one is thrown into a classroom of girls, and chances are that a large chunk of them is not one's type, and the ones that could potentially be one's type are usually all too aware of the "ranking system." 

When 12th grade ended and I was finally released into the wild, I reveled in my freedom. The morahs weren't the worst, really; whatever inaccuracies they attempted to impart were casually undone by my parents every night. Rather, no matter how I tried or didn't try, I never really found my niche amongst this haphazard selection of classmates I had no say in. 

As it turns out, not being reliant on others for happiness is the way to go. Instead of being slavishly devoted to whatever goodwill others' may or may not choose to grant me, I have found personal contentment and self-esteem. 

If someone my age attempts to insult me, I no longer know how to take it. I haven't had to humor or cajole social acceptance for years. I respond sharply, casually cutting the conversation short, because I have no desire to share the company of she that can belittle me. If someone older than me attempts to insult me, I respond as politely as I can, casually cutting the conversation short, etc.

There is one segment from Laura Munson's book that stuck with me. 
My twelve-year-old daughter comes in crying because one of her best friends won't talk to her. It's been going on for weeks, she says, and she can't stand it anymore. It's eating her alive. She needs advice.
And I tell her all of this. The theory, that is. The stuff about suffering . . . 
And she gets it. She's suffering because she has chosen to base her personal happiness on things outside of her control . . .
What if someone told you that when you were twelve years old? What if you'd spent your whole life understanding that we have a choice?
One of my favorite scenes in Pride & Prejudice is when Lady Catherine, fearful that Darcy plans to marry Elizabeth rather than her own daughter, bears down on Longbourn to browbeat her into submission. 
At one point, Lizzie states: 
". . . I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me."
How often do we let those who are "wholly unconnected" to us dictate our peace of mind? Why do we care? Why do we let the seemingly gleaming lives of others tarnish our own?

I choose not to be on the lower end of a friendship. I choose to spend my money the way I want to spend it, not how others do. I choose to dress the way it suits me, as opposed to any unflattering trends. 

For too long I projected unhappiness onto an external cause. But why should I abdicate a personal right to others?  


Daniel Saunders said...

I admire you for this. I was bullied a lot at school (by the girls as well as the boys, and even by younger kids). Even once the bullying stopped, I found it hard to fit in, easy to fear what others thought of me. This is still the case: I fear there are numerous reasons for people to judge me negatively, especially in frum society.

Still, I may be improving. Last week someone lectured me at great length over some trivial thing he perceived as a major error on my part. I won't say I wasn't annoyed, but I was less annoyed than I would have been in the past, more able to see the problem was with him, not with me.

Princess Lea said...

Yes, isn't it amazing? Once I would have taken such a speech at face value, and sob myself to sleep.

Now, I just lift an eyebrow and smirk. Well, maybe not to their face.