There’s a great line from The Avett Brothers song “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”:
“Decide what to be and go be it.”
The key to a happy and fulfilling life is really just that simple.
And it’s also that complex.
In fact, just deciding who I want to be is often a struggle. Sure, I’ve always known who I am and who I want to be in a general, broad sense. But I haven’t always been so clear on a daily basis – never mind moment to moment.
And no, I’m not saying I struggle to live my everyday life well (though I sometimes do)or that I’ve been a bad person. Sure, I’ve made my share of mistakes, but I truly believe, I’ve always been a good person.
But have I been a good person for myself or for others? Have I decided to live a life to try to make others think I’m good, or have I simply lived based on what I know to be good?
For me, there is an all-important difference there. If I’m living trying to gain other’s acceptance, then I’ll always be chasing something outside of myself. But, if I know who I am, and who I want to be, then I can live a life on my terms, based on my own criteria.
I really think an entire book can be written on this topic. Probably there are many books already out there. Because there are so many topics that run from this.
One big one is this:
Is it okay to do good for others to make ourselves feel good?
I remember a couple different times with Wildflower when I really got stuck about this.
The first was after she got out of the hospital. I’d been there with her the whole way. I was there because I wanted to be there. I was there because I had to be there.
But a few days after her discharge, Wildflower told me that we had to be careful because me being there for her clearly did something inside of me that wasn’t healthy.
What she meant was this:
Me taking care of her and being there for her, made me feel some kind of selfish goodness that was not good.
I remember asking myself that over and over. And I remember thinking that maybe she had a point.
But she didn’t.
And then a few months later I wrote her a poem or something to tell her how much I loved her. And I remember she thanked me and then told me I’d written it for myself and not for her.
What she meant was this:
I wrote her that poem to make myself look good and not to make her feel good.
Again, she was wrong.
But that really threw me for a loop too.
But I did those things for her. I did them to help her. I did them to make her feel better or to feel good. Did it make me feel good to help her or to make her feel good? Yes, of course it did. But isn’t that why good people do good things?
Now, I get that some people just do good things so that others will think they’re good. These people hate what they’re doing but they do it anyway to get something in return. Something more than just feeling useful or needed or loved. They do it for a selfish reason.
But that’s not what I did. To this day I’m so happy I was able to be there for Wildflower. I’m so glad I was able to be by her side that first night when she was in critical condition. And I’m glad I was there every day or evening (except one) for the next 17 days that she was in the hospital.
I didn’t do it to be good. I didn’t do it to feel good. I did it for her. And that’s the key. Yes, it made me feel valuable and useful. But I did it for her.
Okay, I feel like Ive gone off on a tangent. Let me see if I can being this back for this weeks’ Ted Talk .
Oh yeah, having courage to be ourselves. In order to do that, we first have to know ourselves. And then we have to have to courage to live how we want and need to live.
And that’s the key. It’s a struggle sometimes, knowing who I want to be and remembering to be that person. And also remembering that I am the type of person who is there for the ones I love. But I get now that I get to decide who I want to be. And I have an obligation to be myself.
And that’s pretty much what this week’s Ted Talk is about…