Saturday, June 6, 2009

My Perception of Happiness

Some days ago, I met with a good friend, and we had a blast talking about what it means to be happy. You see, I have been questioning the concept of happiness for quite a while now, like REALLY questioning it, you know? And I am confident that I have FINALLY settled on my own concept of it. Or perhaps it is contentment I have defined? No, it can’t be since contentment would be more like just being satisfied with what I have and is included in my definition of happiness, but happiness goes beyond what contentment is. Yeah, so, either way, let’s just please talk about happiness, k?

We often hear people saying, “Will I ever be happy?" or "I need peace!" Well, if we wanna live a life of happiness, we must first define happiness for ourselves (and the definition is bound to vary from person to person). If we wanna live a life of peace and satisfaction, we must first define these as well then -- i.e., what makes us happy, and are those our needs or wants or what? Can we be happy without them, too? When do we feel at peace? And, most importantly, how can we tell when we are at peace or are happy?

~ What is Happiness?
According to my new thoughts, happiness is a mental state in which our mind and heart are most at ease. We create this happiness ourselves, though with some outside influence (such as life circumstances and other individuals), but it is how much of a say we let this outside influence have that determines our happiness – or the lack of it. The happier we are, the more we're proving to ourselves that no one and nothing else controls us, that we can be happy in spite of the illnesses (sick people, sick ideas, etc.) that prevail all over us. We don't need anything or anyone else to make us happy, and IF we believe we do, then we'll never achieve full and sincere happiness; we'll always be unstable. And IF we choose to let others decide if we'll experience happiness or not, then we must be careful in WHOM we give that right (or privilege, I shall say) to. This is when choosing our circle of friends carefully plays a vital role: if we're with the wrong people, we'll never allow ourselves to be happy. Now, if there are circumstances in our lives that are causing our unhappiness and lack of satisfaction or denying us peace, then we should do something about it and try to get out of it. If there is nothing we can do about it, however, then we should just stay with them an find happiness within the confines of those circumstances. We should live up to them, unless we can do something about it, and all shall be well. It may sound too impractical or unrealistic and all, but that's where inner satisfaction / happiness lies. And, actually, no, it’s NOT impractical or unrealistic because I myself am feeling on top of the world right now for having decided that I am in charge of my own happiness; no one will do anything to take MY happiness away from me, and never shall I ever do anything to take someone else’s from them.

~ Giving Others Power Over Us
I have also gathered that happiness and inferiority go hand-in-hand. In one of the Princess Diary movies, this guy tells the princess, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." (I believe this quote was originally told by Eleanor Roosevelt.) I think it was from that moment (which was like, what, three or four years ago when I watched the movie?) that I started wondering if I give others the consent to make me feel inferior. When we let others make us feel down, we are submitting to other people’s wishes and expectations and thereby suffering from an invisible form of inferiority complex – yes, which would be that they don’t realize that they have the illness.

In essence, when we are happy – and I mean REALLY happy, like when both our heart and mind are at ease and relaxed – we have won the battle against those who think they have power over us, since the more unhappy we are, the more authority we have given others over us. The important thing, therefore, is to never let anyone – or anything – else have ANY power over us. Things will go wrong in our lives, and people will hurt us (but the secret is to just laugh at them for being such asses, LOL. k, sorry, that was a joke.), but it is how we interpret these happenings that can decide whether we'll be happy or not.

~ Sorrow and Happiness
However, I think I should also mention sorrow here since both sorrow and happiness go hand-in-hand, and we can’t expect to be happy all the time. Yeah. Well, let’s see. If we ALWAYS interpret our surroundings circumstances I mentioned earlier in a way that'll ALWAYS make us happy, then that's not real happiness, either. In order to feel real happiness, we must feel sorrow so that we know that happiness is basically the lack of sorrow. Naturally, there will come times when no matter what we do or think, sorrow will be taking over, and there’s nothing wrong with that except when we let it take control too much, too many times.
But ultimately, we all have our own source of happiness, different for each person. What makes one person happy may not make another person happy, or at least in the same way or to the same extent. Similarly, the way we deal with our happiness, as with our sorrows, differ, or even what gives birth to these two. So it's just a matter of figuring out what those sources and ways are and then learning to deal with them in a way that will give us some power in our feelings.

~ Summary
All in all, our happiness is up to us, and if we let others define or decide it for us, then we're in a way submitting to their will; and when we submit to the will of others (unless it is to God's, of course), we'll never find the ultimate state of happiness. And this is achievable because – as I shared earlier. Still, we should try to balance our feelings and emotions, however, so that it's not JUST happiness that is ruling our lives but also some sorrow. After all, how can we know we are happy -- or appreciate it -- when we have never felt its opposite?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When I Look in the Mirror

What, or who, do I see when I look in the mirror?

This is a question that I think everyone should ask him/herself at different stages in life. Maybe it would teach us who we are, who we want to be, what is wrong within us, what is right within us, and how to work on bettering ourselves.

As for me, when I look in the mirror, I think to myself, "Yeah, okay, I’m not the most beautiful woman in the world, but I am not ugly either. Not at all, in fact. And that's all that matters." Obviously, my face is the first thing I notice, and what defines external beauty is much of what is found in the face, not exactly the rest of the body. If I didn’t think I was beautiful, I would not be the person I am right now because I can imagine the many problems that would be glued to my lack of self-esteem. Thinking I’m not ugly at all solves my problem of self-confidence as well.

But the first and MOST important person I see in the mirror is ... a Pashtun female who is frustrated with several of her traditional standards. These standards don’t affect me personally or directly, but they affect other women of my race, and the frustration has predictably evolved into a smothering disturbance that is compelling me to speak up for those whose voices have been silenced for centuries, if not millennia. The woman I see in the mirror is a potential reflection of the woman whom my culture may breed were it given permission and provided opportunity, by women and men both, to do so; unfortunately, society is not given this permission -- yet. I see myself as another burden on my Pashtun society, a burden like Malalai – an Afghan female police officer who imprisoned and punished men who abused their female family members; she was murdered by the Taliban in October 2008. But I am convinced that only through females like Malalai will our society be able to become tolerant towards outspoken women, and what better way to see that happening than to be such a woman myself?

I see a confused student who is unsure of what she wants to do for life – become a lawyer, a journalist, a women’s studies professor, an Islamic studies student who would study Arabic enough to be able to interpret the Quran for herself, a researcher on Pashtun women, or all of these (maybe at different stages).

I see a Muslim female who is more than certain about her religious beliefs, which are extreme neither in the liberal nor the conservative sense. I a Muslim who has developed, constructed, and embraced her own conception of the Invisible Divine Being she calls God and couldn’t be any happier regarding her relationship with Her God.

I see myself as all of these above anything else because my race and religion are the most prominent characters that make up who I am. Realizing this now makes me feel like an ingrate for not mentioning the many other things that help complete my whole being, such as my being able to walk, talk, think for myself, see, go to school, and so on. It is as though these latter points are a given, as though I have to be able to do these anyway. This is not the case, though, practically speaking. There are many people worldwide are denied the opportunity to be educated, many religious believers are forbidden to ask questions and/or think, and many humans lack the faculty of seeing or hearing or some others. Is this why a physically disabled person is looked at as a different being, and he/she has a different place in society (and usually low one in eastern cultures)? Yes, the difference between "normal" and "abnormal" people is evident and should not be denied, and I’m not implying that there should be no such gap, but perhaps we take our privileges and rights for granted sometimes? Maybe not necessarily on purpose, as privilege is invisible, but without realizing it.

A few months ago, or actually a year ago, I would not have seen myself as a Pashtun woman because I denied myself this ethnic title of mine, this blood. But as I learned, read, and pondered over my history and culture and people, I realized I had nothing to run away from and that the problems that my people are facing can only be solved by those who realize and understand them and plot practical solutions for them; running away from them and denying my own identity was not the solution to anything but would only keep me a confused woman for the rest of my life, until I accepted who I was. So what has changed that today, the first thing I see in the mirror is a Pashtun? I’m not sure. Does one have to know what one really is, or is not, in order to see, like, and appreciate oneself? Do people who think they are ugly see themselves as ugly first, or do they consider their other qualities as well?

Yes, it would do most of us much good if we asked ourselves this question more frequently, just to appreciate who we are and to work on bettering ourselves when we are displeased with the person we meet in the mirror.

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