There’s a very thoughtful article in today’s NY Times regarding a plague of heroin addiction in Bennington, Vermont. It made me think of something a friend of mine told me a few weeks ago about addiction: “Well, I had an addiction, too–my drug of choice was work.”
That really resonated with me. I am a recovering work-a-holic.
It’s been said that everyone worships something, it’s just a matter of “what”. Some people choose career success, such as a promotion, a raise or a new start-up. Others choose social success, such as going to, and hosting, hot social events. Some choose relationships, going in and out of encounters with others, whether short-term or long-term. And, others choose alcohol and/or drugs, to escape from boredom, past trauma, or extremely difficult situations.
I write about this because of my reactions to the NY Times article, as it profiled person after person in the deep throes of heroin addiction. I felt a lot of empathy for them, and, then, I started to think about: “Man, could I have been one of these addicts?”
If I didn’t have great parents, maybe I too would have picked a dangerous “drug of choice”? I’ve read somewhere that it only takes a few majorly bad decisions to completely alter the path of your life. I believe that.
Once we think we’re immune to adversity, I think, that’s when we start to make bad choices.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I will be giving up again alcohol, abstaining from meat on Fridays, and most important, trying to self-reflect more.
Also, I’m really excited about Pope Francis’ emphasis on humility, service and social justice–and, want to focus on these themes as I ponder next steps on fighting sex trafficking (more here).
It is hard to explain, but Lent means a great deal to me. Nearly all major developments in my adult life have come during Lent. Examples include: ending a serious relationship, undertaking three career moves, starting Kepha, forgoing ministry work to go to b-school, and starting to date the person who is now my spouse.
For some reason, many faiths incorporate fasting. Muslims fast during Ramadan, my Jewish friends have Yom Kippur, and some Buddhists permanently avoid meat. And, many Christians have Lent.
For me, the fasting creates more clarity in my life. Somehow, life feels less cluttered, and at the same time, more meaningful. My senses are sharpened.
I’m looking forward to Lent.
Happiness can be elusive.
Ask people what they want from life, and the answer usually is: “I want to be happy.” Then, ask them how to define happiness, and you get a polyglot of answers.
I write this because I went to a really fun Mardi Gras party Saturday night. Amidst the masks, live jazz and cocktail chatter, our party of four couples sat down for dinner. One of the late-night conversations focused on: “what is happiness?”
Now, it sounds like a simple question, but as we got into it, I found for me that it wasn’t. Happiness can be commingled with things like: satisfaction, joy, accomplishment, and contentment.
Also, happiness is often concurrent with negative feelings. For example, I was happy when our children were born. But, I also was simultaneously feeling relief (everyone was healthy), stress (man, it’s the middle of the night), the jitters (hoping that I will be a good father), etc.
Moreover, as one friend mentioned, happiness is a multi-variable situation. You may be happy with your job today, but also, squabbling with a family member. One day you’re feeling great about your mother, only to find that you’re also feeling not so great about your father.
So, I pondered all this during dinner and the next day. And, I asked myself: “What makes me happy?” No, not just feeling good about things, but deep, unshakable, and spike-the-football happy?
For me, I am happy when two things happen. First, I feel that I am “on the right track” in my life. It’s hard to explain, but I know when I am on track or off. When I’m “on,” everything in my life is in sync: professional, personal, physical, spiritual and emotional.
Second, and, it’s hard to explain in one post, but I think happiness comes from being to able to find joy in suffering. In other words, finding meaning when things aren’t going well. If you can ascribe personal or spiritual meaning to suffering, then a new consciousness arises.
I believe this is what Buddhists call “transcendence.” Christians call this “joining your suffering with Christ’s” (cf. Col 1:24), something about which I’ve been thinking as our family preps for Lent.
A fun night.