DISTRACTED

On the Bright Side, a column I write for the newsletter at work

golden statue

….by Jason D. Goodnight

Have you ever been around someone who was a constant complainer? I’m not talking about you; of course, we are all joyous and perfect ’round here. Truth is, being dissatisfied and complaining can be a contagious and depressing state of being; one which none of us are exempt from. It’s easy for us to see someone do something less that perfectly and immediately point out their mistake. There are some complaining types that love finding faults in situations and in people. It’s become comfortable to them. Everyone around them is sub-par and lesser than. They never have enough, they aren’t happy with themselves, nor are they are happy with their position in life. And it’s always someone else’s fault.

It may shock you, but I have been “that guy”. In fact, I am tempted to be “that guy” most days of the week. I often see all the chores around the house that my wife neglected to do and get agitated with her. Some mornings I clean for an hour or so using my frustration as my motivation. Then when I finally interact with her I act passive aggressive and self righteous. Somehow my hour long cleaning rigor exempts me from recognizing my failures.

In reality we have enough, we have safe places to live where our lives are not in imminent danger, warm beds to sleep in, food to eat, clean water to drink, and people around us who care about us. We do not have valid reasons to complain, much less to be complainers. Compared to many across the world, we’re wealthy. And yet many of us are unhappy. We Americans go to third world countries and see people in other cultures full of joy and happiness with little to no possessions and we feel sorry for them. We equate money and possessions with success and happiness.

When I’m in my funk with my wife about the chores the one thing that dissolves the frustration in me is that I look around at the mess that I made and the chores that I had neglected. I recognize where I failed, and I begin to let my wife off of the hook. I remind myself that the real reason I’m upset has less to do with my wife and most to do with the dissatisfaction with myself. My complaints are mostly related to my internal perceptions and not what’s happened outside of myself.

Owning up to our own hang ups can be hard. Many people live completely oblivious to way that they are sabotaging their own lives. That’s why seeing and owning up to our failures and our bad perspectives can be such a huge accomplishment and can lead to great growth, achievement, and satisfaction.

In the children’s story of King Midas, the king’s love for gold and self accomplishment blinded him to what was really valuable, allowing him to be dissatisfied with what he had. Eventually his desire ruined everything that he loved, by turning it all to gold. After being blinded by his love for gold he wished that everything he touched was gold. He tried to eat and before he had a chance to chew food turned to gold, he kissed his daughter and she turned to gold. Then King Midas realized he had misperceived what was truly valuable to him. And thanks to the timely arrival of a Fairy all that was turned to gold was restored back to its original form, along with a rediscovered right perspective.

Although we may have to use our imaginations a little, I think we all can relate to King Midas. I think we’re in some ways blinded by our situations and we may be missing what’s really valuable in our lives. Maybe it’s not what we have or don’t have that satisfies us? Maybe possessions and satisfaction are completely unrelated? And maybe now we can recognize that what we’ve been pursuing and spending our time thinking about can never and will never satisfy us? Johnny Cash sang these lyrics, “The wealthiest person is a pauper at times compared to the man with a satisfied mind.” At the end of Johnny Cash’s career he recorded multiple songs that alluded to the dissatisfaction he received from his experiences of fame and wealth. It seems sad to me that it took him so long to wake up and make this realization.

What will it take for us to wake up from our complaints and from our passionate pursuit of misguided goals? For Midas it was realizing what was of real value to him; his family and the simple pleasures of life. That is what satisfied him. Although it may seem elusive to try and grasp a hold of our own wholeness and satisfaction, when we own up to our internal failures and make the proper adjustments we can live satisfied lives and hang up all our complaining. Chances are what we we’re going to need to satisfy us is right in front of us. We’ve simply been too distracted to see it.

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