Every once in a while, my eyes are suddenly opened to life lessons that I have a sneaking suspicion most other people have already learned. For example: today, with astonishing clarity, a phrase I have heard and read hundreds of times just made sense.
I cannot control others' happiness, and others cannot control my own.
More often than not, I feel deep guilt and obligation when others are down, frustrated, or angry. My body tenses, I experience a wave of overwhelming concern and worry passing over me, and I feel that my very top priority has suddenly become to lift their spirits at any cost.
Perhaps it is because I understand what deep sadness feels like and I have great compassion and empathy for those who are struggling that I do this. But perhaps it is a lingering side effect of, as a child, bearing the blame for my father's deep unhappiness – and the learned assumption I had great power in stirring unpleasant emotions in others.
Now I tread carefully, trying to please others often at the sake of my own happiness. Indeed, often it is only when others are content that I feel safe, and safety at a human level is a higher priority than joy.
The amount of energy needed not only to be on guard around others' emotions but to bear the heavy responsibility of keeping them happy is exhausting, and I find myself resentful of the unrecognized sacrifices I make to please others, even when they are completely unaware of my motivations.
I deserve to recognize my own dreams and chase them in spite of others' feelings, and I deserve happiness without fear of their disappointment. I will release this unnecessary burden into the cold February wind and commit myself to my own happiness, knowing that it is all that I have the power to control. And indeed, I will do my very best to ignore the gremlin in my mind that tells me this is selfish.
And most importantly, I will remind myself that my existence does not determine the happiness or anger of others: I am good enough, I am whole. And I don't need to make others happy at the expense of my own happiness in order to prove it.
* Washi tape is from Cute Tape.