Do You Want to be Happy?


Do You Want to be Happy?

The older I get the more I understand my father, God rest his soul.  And it saddens me that I can't talk with him and glean more from his wisdom by asking him questions.  But he continues to teach me.  My dad was the king of stories and old country spoonerisms.  Some of which honestly, I still don't understand (those are the ones I want to ask questions on). 

One story he told me several times that I often reflect on is the story of the old farmer with an ugly hound dog.  A stranger came calling and watched the old hound dog get up and move and sit on a nail.  Soon after, the old dog began moaning.  Curious the stranger asked the farmer why the dog didn't move off the nail as it obviously was painful. "Well, you see he learned long ago if he was moaning someone might pet him and if he moved, he wouldn't hurt no more, and no one would pay him no mind."

The circumstances the brought me to Amarillo were pretty dark and way out of the normal course of life.  And worse even after getting here with almost nothing, I met the biggest shyster who conned me out of what was left.  I was as broken in body and soul as I could be.  But then two friends who were wise souls hit me in the head with emotional hammers that changed my life.  Now keep in mind what happened to me (not important any longer really) was so far out of the norm and dark that it shook me to the core and made me question everything I believed in life.  I think most of us go through these things (if we are lucky).  These events are the fire the burns off the BS in our lives and makes us real.  But like that old hound dog, I was stuck on the metaphorical nail and was nonstop moaning.

A good liar knows the easiest lie is the one we want to believe.  And people lie to us all the time but friends, real friends tell us those painful truths we don't want to hear, don't want to believe.  Lies are the thunder that are impressive, but truth is like the lightning that really changes things, starts the fires and lights up the darker places in us.  And so, it was these two friends called me out to look at the darker places in my life.  I was gripping about what happened, using the events that changed my life so drastically as an excuse to stay stuck, not get on with my life. 

Now keep in mind, I was emotionally devastated by the things that happened.  And I realize I am being a bit cryptic about the events that happened, but they really don't matter anymore.  In everyone's life horrible things happen.  The ones we love the most betray us, we lose our jobs that we love and devoted a lifetime too.  Death happens to our loved one unfairly at the worse times, we get diagnosed with cancer or whatever.  LIFE throws us some really ugly curve balls.  What happened to me was several things all at once.  Any adult and a lot of kids can think of something that was completely unfair and life changing.


Within a few weeks of each other, one friend accused me (in hindsight accused me fairly) of being a professional victim.  The other friend told me that no one really cared about what happened to me because everyone is carrying around burdens and scars and that I need to stop looking back and what people who cared about me really wanted to know was where I was going, not where I had been. 

Both of those statements struck me to the core and frankly hurt.  As much as the events were still painful, folks, my closest friends were tired of hearing me moan and complain.  It was time for this ugly old hound dog to get off the nail and get on with life.  No amount of petting was going to ease the pain as much as moving on (metaphorically speaking).

Moving on ain't always easy.  Often just as soon as you step out, life will throw you another curve.  I swear, the universe often wants to know how bad we want things and throws at us obstacles just to see if we really are going to put in the effort.  Every time I start a diet, June seems to make a cheesecake for some one's birthday.  Talk about testing how bad I want to be skinny. 

This isn't always bad.  I have given up on things once I realized it wasn't as important to me as I once thought, kind of like a kid who isn't as interested in a toy as he gets older.  Other goals became more important to me as life threw obstacles, I realized how much I really wanted them.  Two goals in particular have become very important to me Peace and Happiness or joy.

One of the hardest lessons I have learned and am still learning (it's one of those truths you have to practice) is that I alone am responsible for being happy. 

Those unfair things in life that tend to rob us of our joy?  Well getting that joy back is like that hound dog on the nail.  At some point he stepped on the nail for the first time that was not his choice, it was an accident.  But staying on the nail, not moving on, that was a choice. 

Sometimes those metaphorical nails are so big and go so deep that it takes a while to get the nerve to pull our hinny off of them.  But there comes a time when if you stay on the nail any longer, well healing is a choice and often causes more short-term pain than the injury.  Something my dad said that rings true to me, most people don't want to heal (that often hurts worse than the injury) they want to be consoled.  I know, I am like most people.

Now lest you think I am pointing the finger at any one other than me, this blog is coming from journalling about an event that just happened where I realized I was still sitting on that nail emotionally.  The opposite of love isn't hate.  It is indifference.  When an unfair event happens in your life and you are no longer emotionally embroiled in it, when you shrug your shoulders and don't feel the burn that is when you have truly moved on.  No amount of water can sink a ship when it is outside the ship, it's when it gets in the ship sinks.    The storm can rage all it wants its only when the storm rages inside that it hurts you. 

I was at an event and there was one of the individuals responsible for some of the injustice that happened to me a few years ago.  Some really bad stuff.  I wanted to call him out so bad, confront him, that anger at the injustice rose, something else rose in me too.  The realization that I didn't have to sit back down on that nail.  I had moved far enough away to realize allowing myself to indulge the anger was a choice.  I could relive in my mind all that happened and get mad all over again.  Or I could let it go.  I could look back or I could look ahead, and I had the freedom to make that decision.  

I wish I could say it was that easy.  To be frank I sat on that nail a while and fumed.  But I didn't say a word to those around me, I smiled and carried on.  But then as if by magic I realized at some point I was laughing at the joke my friend told me.  She didn't even know the man was there.   No one on this earth is responsible to make me happy nor do they have that power to rob me of it.  Letting my peace and joy go is a choice.  Not always an easy one.  Keeping it in the storm takes practice.

Life will throw some horrible stuff at us and sometimes I have needed help, to be frank to make that choice to be happy. I have sought out the help of a professional counselor to help me move on, sometimes life sits you down on metaphorical nails that go so deep, you need help getting off them but the decision to get off of the nail, be it with help or alone is no one's but yours or mine.  I ask myself all the time when I allow things to get under my skin: "Do you want to be happy, or do you want to moan?"  Being happy starts with the choice to be happy, often it won't happen immediately, but it won't happen without the choice to do so.  Sometimes I have to moan a spell before making the decision but that is a choice too.  

Are you wondering what any of this has to do with photography?  Well, I almost forgot.  These photos all come from my 2023 Calendar.  To me one of the most magical places to photograph when I am storm chasing is that dividing line between the storm and the calm.  When the sun starts to peak under the clouds.  Trying to decide what to focus on is hard.  Looking to the storm is the drama looking to the sunset is the peace and calm.  The photographer has to point his camera at something.  He can't focus on everything.  The mind is exactly the same.  What you are focused on is a choice.  Often not an easy one with the storms of life making thunder and high winds and wrecking things around you.  But at some point, you have to choose what you are going to focus on.  As you turn away from the thunder and rain and choose the sunset, that choice gets easier.