Growing up, my parents had a sign on their living room television cabinet that said, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
It was funny. Come on, you know it is, and you chuckled a bit.
Funnier still was when a friend of the family gave my parents a second sign that said, “If Dad ain’t happy, nobody cares.”
It sort of completes the set, know what I mean?
Unfortunately, I’ve got a little bit of a problem with the whole sequence. Maybe it’s because I’m a Dad now and, on the surface, it feels dismissive.
Maybe it’s the male chauvinistic undertones of the first part suggesting that a woman, specifically a mother, should not be concerned about forces outside of her control, and yet ironically, it is those very forces which constitute her existence as a mother and thus, are the elements of her life which determine a sense of happiness and, therefore, exist as her greatest concern.
In other words, Mom won’t ever be happy unless we are all happy and so we all must continue to lie to each other, including Mom, even if we are unhappy, just so that Mom is happy, thus allowing the rest of us to be happy. I feel like I’m describing every Eugene O’Neill play I’ve ever read.
On top of that, the underlying sentiment of part two is that moms are hard to please and it suggests that dads, as the traditional head of the household, must, once again, suffer the burden of holding together the family unit by making sure his little woman is happy, even if at the expense of his own happiness. Ouch, I think we just ventured into some pretty deep cisgender, white male exceptionalism territory.
Then again, maybe it’s just the poor grammar.
Either way, I’m pretty sure a dude wrote those signs because he was trying to be funny and looking to get an underhanded pat on the back.
“Oh, Dad, we love you and we truly hope you are happy.”
Look, dudes, we have had it made since the agricultural revolution. We’ve owned the world, we’ve fought over the world, we’ve basically burned the world down. So really, who would care if we are happy or not other than a bunch of other dudes.
But that’s rather myopic and pretty dismissive too.
I think at the heart of the problem is our tendency to focus on being happy at the expense of everything else. Like the weather, the ocean, or the perpetual motion of the planets, happiness is beyond our day to day comprehension and worrying about it serves no purpose.
The sun rises each and every day because from our perspective, it appears as if the sun is coming up over the horizon versus the Earth rotating about its axis. Similarly, happiness is but a slight shift in perspective and expectations.
Choose to see your life from one direction and you are dissatisfied, unfulfilled, unhappy. Ground yourself in the moment, place your feet firmly on the ground, and perhaps life is a beautiful sunrise.
Now it’s not lost on me that I am speaking from the self-centered, narcissistic perspective of a cisgener, heterosexual, white American man who basically has spent his life owning, fighting over, and burning down the world.
I mean, who knows, maybe I made up that whole story about my parents’ signs just so I could have something to write about for this week’s blog post. I mean that would be such a dude thing to do.
So, if we shouldn’t worry about our happiness or the happiness of each other, then what should we do? We HAVE to be doing something, right?
Well, what if we just loved each other? What if, instead of trying to make each other happy, or worrying about whether we were happy, we just loved ourselves and those around us as if it were the only thing that mattered?
Too sappy? Too simple? Too 1960s hippy-dippy? Ok, don’t listen to me, listen to her…
“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
– Mother Teresa.
Don’t buy what she’s selling? That’s cool, listen to her…
“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
– Maya Angelou
Too word-nerdy? Maybe this is more your style…
“I believe that every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear.”
– Oprah Winfrey
Here’s my bottom line folks – you can’t go wrong putting a little more love in the world.
So for myself, for my fellow fathers, or for anyone looking to see things from a slightly different perspective today, find some time to sit, be still, take a few deep breaths, and repeat after me…
I am a sacred, worthy, luminous being who is loved and who’s love is FOR giving.
Take a few more deep breaths. Feel yourself settle into wherever you are and say the words again, this time from inside your heart.
Take a few more breaths. Say it again but now imagine or see someone in your life who needs a little kindness in theirs.
I see you as a sacred, worthy, luminous being who is loved and who’s love is FOR giving.
Spend some time with that person in your heart…or maybe a few people…or maybe even a group of people outside of your immediate circle. Let that feeling of love spread out as far as it can before you begin to wander off into thought.
If you get lost in needing to control how happy you feel, let it go. Go back to your breath. Start again with yourself and let something deeper, more honest take the place of that need to control your feelings. See if you can let in whatever comes your way…anger, sadness, anxiety, or maybe happiness, joy, contentment. Love it all and see what happens.
I don’t know what those signs on my parents’ TV cabinet should have said but I hope to someday figure out how to let go of my own ego a little more often and not be so worried about whether everyone, including myself, is happy or not.
I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day with all the people in your lives because we are all sacred, worthy, luminous beings who are loved and who’s love is FOR giving.
See you on the creek.