Okay to be unhappy

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In keeping with my recent focus on happiness and passion, I want to let you know that it is perfectly okay to be unhappy.

Really. I promise.

If you’re unhappy, you have every right to feel that way AND to express your unhappiness.

Social pressures

We live in a society that is terrified of unhappiness. Our consumer ways are designed to give you everything money can buy to be happy.

When we see someone who seems unhappy, we try to get them to smile. We ask them what’s wrong.

And in more extreme cases, we try to medicate the unhappiness out of them, the premise being we would rather that you be an emotionless zombie than unhappy.

And rather than face being unhappy, many take to self-medicating whether through narcotics or alcohol, food or sex, or other social mechanisms to display an artificial happiness to the world.

We can be afraid to express our unhappiness with the world for fear the world won’t accept us, that they will take offense at our unhappiness as though we were blaming them for it.

Will my partner think I am blaming him or her? My family members? My co-workers? My friends?

If I tell them I am unhappy and can’t explain why—and often we can’t immediately see it—will they abandon me?

In some cases, with some individuals, the answer may be yes, and that is unfortunate. But in my personal experience, the answer is no.

My unhappiness

I worked for several years with friends on a sketch comedy show. It was a labour of love all the way around, but at a certain point in the project’s development, long after my creative contribution culminated, I became unhappy with my involvement in the process. But I was afraid to say something.

How could I tell my friends I didn’t want to do this anymore, that I didn’t want to participate in our dream project? Would they hate me? Would they tell me to fuck off and die?

I eventually worked up the balls to discuss this with them, to lay out my dilemma. They saw that I was serious and that I was struggling. They asked a few questions for clarification. And then they accepted my decision and continued to love me (and do to this day).

Knowing I was miserable working for one company, another friend got me a position in her company (we had previously worked together). My new coworkers were wonderful, the job was what I had wanted. But six weeks in, I realized I didn’t want to do this job anymore…I wanted to move on to a different dream.

How could I turn away from a wonderful job? How could I betray my friend who introduced me to this company? How I slap these amazing people in the face?

I told my friend I was unhappy and wanted to explore my new dream. She was delighted for me and knew I would be brilliant. I told my new bosses that I loved their company but had to follow my heart. They were thrilled and agreed that I had to pursue my passion.

We often don’t give the people in our lives enough credit for wanting what is best for us. We let fear get in our way; fear of rejection, fear of the unknown.

It’s okay

We are repeatedly told and have come to believe that unhappiness is wrong; it is an aberration; it is an affliction.

It is none of these.

It is a feeling, an emotion, a sign. And we must give it the same respect that we give our other emotions, from anger to joy, from sadness to elation, from frustration to fulfillment.

There are not positive emotions and negative emotions. There are no good feelings and bad feelings.

IT IS OKAY TO BE UNHAPPY!

Until we accept and embrace that we are unhappy, we can never figure out why we are unhappy or what we want to do about that feeling and those circumstances.

Love yourself enough to listen to yourself. Feel what you feel. Share what you can.

Ironically, being unhappy may be your first step to being happy. And if it isn’t, that’s okay, too.

See also:

Happy as a verb

Living happiness

Tales from the Other Side of Freedom (Effortless Alpha)

The Expansion Project

The Incoherent Blues

SONY DSC

As I rode the streetcar home last night, a streetcar busy with revelers heading downtown to party in the various bars and clubs, a louder-than-expected noise rose from the front. The sound was vaguely human and from its rising volume, I could only assume was approaching my area in the back.

Suddenly, an awkwardly rampaging bear of a man burst through the crowd, intent more on maintaining his feet than malevolence. It was just one of the many street denizens that populate Toronto, and this one was exceptionally inebriated, and loudly so.

Proving the theory that if you fall in all directions at the same time, you will stay on your feet, this tottering mass of humanity somehow lurched itself to a seat near the back of the streetcar, announcing to everyone—real or imaginary—that he had arrived.

His volume remained ear-splitting and mentally crushing, yet despite sounding like he was irritated with someone or something—Why are curse words so easy to enunciate under even the worst of conditions, while every other word remains a garbled mess?—he remained relatively harmless.

Had this been the extent of the interaction, he would have remained white noise in my background (I’m not sure, but perhaps I should be ashamed to admit that), and I would have blissfully gone back to contemplating the photos I had just taken at a hockey game or taken in the sights that passed outside my window.

But something changed.

SONY DSC

From somewhere within the mental and chemical maelstrom that struggled to maintain its physical if not social integrity behind me, beauty arose in the form of music.

Even though the man himself remained incoherent, magic happened when he placed a small harmonica against his lips. Riffs of Blues music poured forth in brief bursts.

Between these bursts, he continued his bilious bellowings; there was no attempt at lyrics to the best my ear could discern.

But the man mountain’s inner song rose slowly, incidental music to a life of struggle and dysfunction, signs perhaps that at one time, this free-range citizen was more free spirit.

The tide of revelers ebbed and flowed around the music man for several minutes as we continued our way across the city, most doing their best to ignore the intruder other than to throw incredulous glances or bemused smiles to one another.

Eventually, the music stopped as the human-encased chaos plunged out the back door into the night.

And if only in the smallest way, he left me changed as what otherwise would have been a self-indulgent ride across the city became a wondrous duel between incapacity and limitless capacity.

I hope he found repose.

SONY DSC

Bliss

mourning-cloak-butterfly

I had an amazing moment earlier today that I wanted to share, a moment of complete peace and sheer bliss.

As I may have mentioned before, I am an amateur photographer and a lover of nature. In wandering along Toronto’s waterfront this morning, I passed some butterfly gardens.

Not my first time visiting these small gardens. I’ve even taken photos there.

But for whatever reason, today was magical because there were dozens of butterflies having the time of their lives flitting from flower to flower.

The movement attracted my eye and I wandered over to the gardens to enjoy the sight and grab a couple of shots with my cell phone. But as I stood there, the world fell completely away, and it was just me, the garden and the butterflies.

And rather than flit away to keep their distance, the butterflies accepted me into the moment, a few even briefly landing on my arms and shoulders.

I had somewhere to be, so the moment couldn’t last too long. I have every confidence, however, that if I had had the time available to me, it would have lasted as long as I chose.

Complete bliss, joy and comfort.

I’ll visit the gardens again. Maybe the moment will happen again; maybe not. But I have available to me this one time that it did, and that will sustain me.

monarchs

12 Days of Gratitude – Kevin (different one)

Kevin

I’d like to introduce you to my friend Kevin…no, not Sweetums from a couple of days ago…this is a different Kevin, although just as loving and sweet.

Despite not knowing each other for more than a handful of years, Kevin has welcomed me into his life, opening his heart to me in a beautiful sign of trust. Playmate, jokester, nerd-boy, gentle crusader; Kevin’s gifts know no bounds.

It is well worth trying to get to know this gentle soul who offers so much love and understanding to an oft hardened world.

P.S. If Kevin is reading this, he just raised an eyebrow and smiled.

 

(Part Nine of my 12 Days of Gratitude…because the rest of the news sucks)

Race in writing

One race, many peoples (from mediadiversified.org)

One race, many peoples (from mediadiversified.org)

I’ve spent a few months now reading dozens of teleplays, and one thing that stood out as a new trend for me was the phrase “mixed-race” when describing a character.

“Attracted to the noise, JOANNE (27, tall, mixed-race) looks up from her laptop. A smile blossoms across her face.”

Now, lest anyone take offence, I really don’t care to what race a character is attributed. Nor do I care if the character has parentage of different races or even different species (looking at you, Spock).

Instead, what struck me was that in only one of these teleplays did the fact that the character was mixed-race in any way influence the story and/or the character’s worldview. Which begs the question:

Why mention race at all?

In a screen- or teleplay, you should only be telling me things I need to know to understand the story or interpret a character’s behaviours and attitudes. Unless being 7 feet tall means a character can do something no one else can do and the plot in some way turns on that ability, then I don’t need to know the character is 7 feet tall.

Likewise, if a character is a Korean-Italian and the only thing this fact influences is possibly his or her name, who cares? Where are the subtextual or textual influences of this genetic melange?

Spock was every bit his warring human and vulcan sides

Spock was every bit his warring human and vulcan sides

In the case of Spock, entire stories were built around the internal and sometimes external conflicts arising from his mixed heritage. He fought constantly to suppress his human side and that influenced his relationships and reactions with everyone else.

In the single teleplay I read where the character’s mixed lineage did matter, the character struggled with being treated as an outsider by both communities. Thus, in being ostracized by both cultures, she built the defence of being a rebellious loner and responded to her world thusly.

American father, Chinese mother, Kwai Chang Caine lived conflicting cultures

American father, Chinese mother, Kwai Chang Caine lived conflicting cultures

In none of the other teleplays was anything like this even remotely the case. In none of those scenarios, did the writer use the choice to inform the character. In fact, in almost every mixed-race teleplay, the writer never specified what races had been mixed.

That’s how unimportant this fact was to these writers. And there’s the real shame.

Although I don’t know what the writers intended by making their characters mixed race, I suspect it was simply to make themselves look socially conscious.

What they achieved, at least in my eyes, was the exact opposite.

Walking with Pride

Sister Twisted, who invited me to walk with her group. (Credit: Toronto Star)

Sister Twisted, who invited me to walk with her group. (Credit: Toronto Star)

Well that was different. Just spent several hours in a misty rain wandering the streets of downtown Toronto, waving at colourful people on the sidewalk while screaming my head off.

Welcome to Pride 2015 in Toronto, folks.

What's a religious theme without my beloved Toronto Marlies?

What’s a religious theme without my beloved Toronto Marlies?

While I have always been a strong supporter of human rights in all forms, I have generally avoided Pride Week in Toronto simply because I don’t like crowds. But this year was different.

This year, I was invited to participate in the parade itself by my friends The Toronto Sisters of JOY (Jubilant Order of York), a group of amazingly loving, life-affirming people who seem to work from the premise that to be heard, you must be seen (my words, not theirs).

The Sisters pose with their banner

The Sisters pose with their banner

How could I say no? Hell, why would I say no?

So, early this morning, I pulled together a costume of sorts (not my forte) and headed downtown to meet with the Sisters and some of their other disciples, and into the parade we went (news video).

Two Sisters plan the next few hours

Two Sisters plan the next few hours

Well, into the court yard to meet, then into the parade to wander like the 12 tribes to search for our place in the parade, to wait in the drizzle to walk a few blocks and wait some more and then past the float until… well, you get the idea.

But once the parade started, it was so much fun. Never have I ever felt surrounded by so much love. Every colour and every letter in the alphabet came out to show their support of just LOVE and FRIENDSHIP. It was amazing.

I am Canadian, too.

I am Canadian, too.

Everyone shouted their support.

Everyone shouted their support.

Drizzly day in Toronto didn't dampen spirits

Drizzly day in Toronto didn’t dampen spirits

And when the parade finally ended, I was ready to keep walking…instead, I went to Fran’s Diner for a late lunch.

I am proud to call myself a friend of The Toronto Sisters and of several communities of people whose only requirement for entry is acceptance. That’s pretty cool.

You’ll see the Sisters a couple of times in this video of Saturday’s TransMarch (language).

I also recommend learning more about the You Can Play Project, which promotes inclusiveness in sport.

Know when it’s over

Writing a screenplay or novel is a lot like being in a long-term relationship as you largely go through the same steps.

At first, you’re unfailingly passionate about your partner, flush with love for an incredible idea. You dive into her with a zeal you have never felt before and are certain you will never experience again. You embrace every inch of her, her very essence and when finally forced to surface, you just want to show everyone how happy you are.

As time goes on, however, the initial zeal diminishes, if not in scale, at least in monomaniacal focus. You become more comfortable with her. You spend more time contemplating her rather than just diving in. You are caring, loving, nurturing. And even if not everything proceeds as smoothly as it once did, those are just the little maturities that slip into life.

Eventually, you grow into each other. There is love, there is care, but it’s mellower, more set in its ways. She isn’t as all-consuming as she once was, but you’re both okay with that. You might spend time with other couples, sharing common bonds and then making fun of them on your way home. Life is good, it’s right, it’s comfortable.

Now, if you’re fortunate, this goes on for the rest of your time together. You mature with each other. You fulfill her needs until that fateful day when she passes on to the other side. You’re wistful, but satisfied that you had a good life together.

Not every couple is so fortunate, however.

Sometimes little inconsistencies or minor difficulties can inflate in importance. What was once just a tiny tic, becomes this really aggravating feature that just drives you up the wall. Oh, you try to work through it. You try to convince yourself it’s nothing, that you’re just being paranoid, but after a certain point, she just seems to do it all the time and damn it, on purpose.

You soon find yourself coming up with excuses to go out for a little bit to clear your head, but the moment you leave the house, you find your mind wandering off to sexier screenplay ideas. You’re fantasizing and you can’t help it. And damned if, the minute you walk back into the house, there she is, staring right at you like she can read your mind.

“What do you expect?” you scream. “You knew I was an artist when we started.” And she just lay there, letting you stew in your self-incriminating guilt. It’s the silence, the inertness that just gets under your skin.

If you’re lucky enough to calm down, you may decide that you just need a little time apart. Both of you. A little time to remember why you came together in the first place. A month, six months, a year later, maybe those petty little problems won’t be so big. Hell, you might even have found a way around them. But right now, you just need some space.

Time goes by and maybe you do get back together to solve your differences. But maybe you don’t. It’s tough, but you realize it’s over. It’s time to move on.

It’s okay. You’ll live. You can’t beat yourself up over it. You tried and it just didn’t work out.

You may not think it right now, but there’ll be others. You’ll try again and maybe that one will work out differently.

You didn’t fail. You’re not a bad person. It just wasn’t meant to be.

You have to know when it’s over…but nothing says you have to know any sooner than is absolutely necessary.

 

PS If screenplays and novels are long-term relationships, I guess that makes sketch comedy a quickie in the alley. No wonder they’re so much fun, but rarely fulfilling.