The Pursuit of Happiness

With so many of us participating in NaNoWriMo, as well as having other IWSG blogs to visit, I’ll keep this short. I know, I know…you’ll believe it when you see it. Yeah, me too. How about I shoot for somewhere in the middle?

Pink RibbonMany of you know that my mom passed away in early summer, but most of you don’t know it was followed in mid-September by a breast cancer diagnosis on my twin sister—Triple Negative BC, if you’re up on the subject. Even its name sounds foreboding.

She will have to undergo several months of chemotherapy before receiving a double mastectomy.

Then there are health insurance problems, as in, she doesn’t have any insurance. So we’ve been seeking assistance, and it’s taking too much time. I’ve really been relying on faith—right now it’s all I have—and even that’s been running dry.

Meanwhile, I’ve been on a quest for answers. There’s been too much of too much happening all at once, leaving me in a negative space for far too long. I’ve spoken with friends and professionals, read websites and books on different philosophies, and have reached some conclusions in my search for the meaning of life—yes, the meaning of life—or some reasonable facsimile. Do I have a definitive answer? Of course not, nor will I ever, but I’ve delved into a deeper understanding than before, and will continue to journey further. My results thus far:

As creatures, we are a Triune.

Da Vinci's Vitruvian ManThis comes as no surprise, as I’ve believed this philosophy for decades, and specifically used the word triune today for its religious connotations. We are made up of three parts:

  • Spiritual (the unknown—theological, metaphysical): Truthfully, it doesn’t matter what you believe on a religious level—whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Humanism, et al—you are a spiritual being. That is to say, you seek answers on a metaphysical level.

You ask questions dealing with epistemology (origin of humanity: “How am I here?”), ontology (the nature of existence or being: “Why am I here?”), and cosmology (the origin of the universe: “From where did it all come?”). The answers you have gleaned or been taught heretofore, whether correct or incorrect, form your Belief System, which governs your thoughts, which in turn, govern your actions.

  • Physiological (the body—physical and chemical): This is self-explanatory; we are corporeal beings as well as spiritual beings. We have bodies. On an elemental level, only six components make up 99% of the body, the remaining are nominal or trace. Pretty cool, huh? We’re merely Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorus and a dash of salt, walking around as the product of one big, human-shaped, chemical equation.

So what makes us different from that rock on the ground? Was it once alive, too? For it’s due to the life force, the soul, the spirit that resides in us that we draw breath. From where did that spirit come? Again I get philosophical.

  • Psychological (the mind—emotions, thoughts, behaviors): At present, this is where I struggle. A rattling of my spiritual and physiological systems has upset my psychological well-being, and the result has sent me in a tail-spin—a place of sadness and depression. My mind tries to make sense of all this on a logical level, to find an answer to the question: “Why?” I’m at a loss. There doesn’t seem to be a greater good to any of this.

Which is what my post addresses—Positive Psychology. Turning the negative thoughts into positive ones: the pursuit of happiness.

A friend of mine, a psychologist herself, directed me to The Positivity Ratio by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D. The website has tools, such as various meditations, and self-testing to determine your positivity ratio on a given day. Dr. Fredrickson has also written two books: The Positivity Ratio and Love 2.0. I encourage any of you going through a hardship that is affecting your happiness to check out her site.

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With this insecure writer, a little doubt goes a long way. I begin to question everything, and nothing seems to live up to my scrutinous expectations, especially my writing. Do you find this to be true, as well?

At least all of this analysis into the intricacies of human behavior leads to deeper character development. That’s one thing to be positive about.

Until next time…

Peace,

ML Swift

MikeBeachML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.

An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.

He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.

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49 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Happiness

  1. I’m sorry to hear about your sister and will keep all of you in my prayers. As to doubt – yep, it’s a vicious monster which tends to crawl in everything it can, even in those areas which it definitely has no right to be.

    1. Thanks, Tonja. Every prayer helps.

      Doubt seeps into all aspects when it has taken a firm hold in one. It makes me question everything, and gets me down on myself. I don’t like that feeling, nor do I like to remain in the problem. So I search for a solution. Prayer and meditation, that’s the route I’ll take. Thanks for the visit, Tonja.

  2. Maintaining a positive attitude through all of that would be tough for anyone. We do like answers and we want to know why, and it’s frustrating when we don’t.
    Glad you found a site that is helping. Don’t lose the faith, Mike. Sometimes it’s all we have.

  3. Hang in there, Mike. I’m sorry you are going through such a tough time. I can assure you one thing, though. If your blog is any reflection of your writing, THAT, at least, is doing well.

    Sending prayers and hugs your way, my friend.

    1. Thanks, Melissa. Seems like tough times are hitting many of us at the same time. Is it for growth? I’d rather just get fat. 🙂

      Prayers and hugs out to you, too. Whatever your issues, your blog also reflects your talent in a splendid way.

      Hugs,
      Mike

  4. You are getting hit with multiple whammies, Mike. I’m so sorry to hear about your sister. I can attest to the overwhelming feelings of negativity and depression when we are hit with the tidal waves. I’m swimming right alongside you. 🙂
    I have one word for you…

    Salmon

    Made you smile, didn’t I?

  5. I’ve had to dig deep too lately. For me it’s meant rediscovering my spirit and what I believe and even reshaping it a bit. It’s meant being still in the midst of the storm (not my strong suit), and staying focused on my goals and moving forward. This has been a long chapter for me (longer for you!). But I choose to believe there is purpose, meaning, and a new chapter coming. Hugs. May you find Peace in the storm

    1. You have hit the nail on the head with your second and third sentences. I’m doing the same. Sometimes successfully, sometimes, not so. But yeah…a lot of reshaping going on.

      Peace back to you. 🙂

  6. Oh gosh yes, I can be crippled by doubt, too. That’s where positive psychology really helps me. I haven’t read Dr. Fredrickson specifically, but I know and agree and have read about the basic idea behind it: be positive, put positive intentions into the world, and positivity will return to you. There’s a Bible quote that is related (although it’s also about begin charitable and generous) that I love: Cast your bread on the waters; for you shall find it after many days. (Ecclesiastes 11:1)

    But Mike, good Lord, what a time you’ve been through. Life will inevitably throw us pain and hardship, and when it does I try to let myself grieve, and be angry, and to question WHY. And if I do that, if I let myself feel all of this terrible stuff, I emerge on the other side a stronger, wiser, and better human being. At least, this is my hope, the hope I hold to. It helps me when life is dark and hard. I know that suffering doesn’t always ennoble us, but maybe it can help us somehow, too.

    Hang in there. I’m thinking of you, and pulling for you, and hoping that bread comes back to you with love and success and peace, soon.

    1. Thanks for the scripture quote, Liz.

      When you say, “What a time you’ve been through,” I think to myself, yes, true, but nothing compared to what Sis must be feeling, or Mom with her forgetfulness. My heart is wrenched.

      But I agree…what does not kill us makes us stronger.

      Time to go find my soggy bread. Thanks for coming by!

  7. What you wrote really resonated with me. They recently found a tumor on my grandmother and it makes you think and ask, but definitely in the end leaning on faith is what we have to do.

    “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” Uchtdorf

    1. Faith isn’t faith until it’s all that you’re holding on to.

      Sorry to hear about your grandmother, Eric. Prayers that everything turns out okay.

      Loved the quote you ended with. Inspiring. Thanks for that.

  8. Oh, Mike. I’m winded after reading about your twin sister. I also feel at a loss since the last thing I want to do is post a platitude in response. Can I just let you know that I will be among the bloggers who keeps walking this path toward the positive with you?

  9. I’m so sorry to read about your sister, Michael. You’ve already been through so much and I can’t imagine getting the news of that diagnosis. I admire you for continuing to try to keep your thoughts positive through all of this. And thank you for sharing that site, I am going to check in with that one for sure.

  10. I’m so sorry to hear that your sister is sick. I hope that a miracle happens and people come forward with plenty of money to help her and that she recovers quickly. My thoughts are with her and you in this difficult time.

  11. Yes, I’ve been there in that doubt, analysis, seeking answers place. It’s not a whole lot of fun when there’s serious pain going on in life. I’m glad that you’ve found some positive help, and that you have faith. I’ll be praying for you and your sister.

    1. Thanks, Tyrean. No, it’s not a lot of fun to see loved ones suffer and not be in control of the situation. But praises for the fact that today we got the finances of the situation taken care of (I think). It should all be covered, now.

      Thanks for the prayers. We need them.

  12. I was completely in that head space back in September. We had these devastating flash floods here in Colorado that affected not just my town but my parents’ house. They ended up living with me for a couple of weeks while we cleaned up, and I was able to see the deterioration of my mother’s condition up close and personal. She doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, but in every way her condition is the same. She fell twice and hit her head a few years ago and now has no short-term memory, she has mood swings, and a loss of control over her bladder at times. Several times she asked me who my mother was or where I grew up, things like that. It really was the biggest trial I had ever gone through when I had to take care of her for two weeks. I don’t know how you managed years of caring for someone in that state. But they’re our parents, right? Gotta take care of your family. Really hope your sister finds the care she needs.

    1. Oh, that’s so awful about your mother, LG. All from a fall. When I first moved here, my mom slipped on a throw rug and broke her hip…it was one break after another after that. Osteoporosis.

      It seems as though we found the help yesterday afternoon that we needed for Sis. We had most of it covered, but not the cost of the chemo drugs, which are muy expensivoso. That’s now being taken care of by a not-for-profit agency. WHEW!

      Thanks for coming by. 🙂

  13. Been reading through your comments too Mike, and it seems you might have some hope for the cost of your sister’s treatment, hope it all goes well for her. Fortunately, she has you for support.

    1. Hi Michael,

      I shall be but brief in my response. You and your loved ones have been going through some very tough times. Now your beloved twin sister is going through her own personal challenge. I do find it sad that in America you have to worry about having the right medical insurance. I have never been able to comprehend that. Healthcare is a right and not a privilege.

      We learn from the diversity of others. Indeed, it does enhance our own personal development. That’s why the positive, encouraging interaction we share can be a force for the good in a more caring world.

      With respect and hope,

      Gary

      1. Obama is trying to make it to where medical coverage is had by all, but is meeting so much resistance by the Republicans, who seem to talk a good game about family values and other buzzwords, but when it comes down to it, only care about themselves and getting richer. Pharisees.

        Thanks for coming by.

  14. There’s no other way to say it other than, that sucks. I loathe cancer. It’s a nasty beast. And I hate the fact that in the midst of dealing with that, there is the stress of the medical/insurance red tape. A friend of mine was a private business owner and had a major illness (so by owning a business she had too many assets to get medicaid) and was told to just keep accumulating bills, as soon as she had enough accumulated (there was a spend down formula) she’d qualify for a medical card. That’s what she did. The hospital wrote the rest off. Can’t get blood from a turnip. And my dad’s chemo was paid for by the drug company on a compassionate release…so there is help out there.
    Prayers for you all. I know plenty of people who have beaten breast cancer, so it can and will be done again by her!

    1. Yes, Sis was helping out here at the house w/Mom and just recently landed a job about two weeks before the diagnosis. She was still going through training and has a 90 day probation period before even qualifying for insurance (if they even will offer it to part-time).

      Medicaid will only cover you (in this state, at least) if you are disabled, 65+, pregnant, or have children under the age of 18 in the house. We’re set up with an agency that coordinates doctors who donate a portion of their time/services, and received a wonderful surgeon and oncologist.

      The original cardiologist pulled out (tests needed to be run before chemo) after the consultation, causing a delay. But we found another. And the oncologist would donate his office visits, but not the chemo drugs. Didn’t find that out until we went up there for her first chemo treatment.

      So, I was a little freaked out when I wrote this post…hadn’t found a way to get the medication, and that was costly. But it all worked out in the end. I guess I shouldn’t lean unto my own understanding of things. Trust. Have faith.

      Thanks for coming by, Elizabeth.

      1. Mike, your third sentence from the last is one of my most comforting bible versus. “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, lean not to they own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy path.”

        When I’m focusing too much on the negative or get caught up in the “why” game, I reassure myself with that scripture. It calms me.

  15. I send positive thoughts to your sister and you. How wonderful you are to help out as you are. Your sister must feel better for having you around.

    I do know that when I’m really stressed with larger life issues, that I tend to view everything very negatively. Although it doesn’t seem likely to work, I can say that regular exercise [especially yoga] and regular writing [even if it’s just short bits in a journal] can help me even out when I need to even out.

    I’ve been hiding some mega stress in my life and some days I just want to sigh myself into a whole. I let myself wallow, then regroup, and forge onward.

    I do hope your sister ends up recovering. Then I hope you have a very long break from life’s dramas.

  16. From your lips, or fingers, to God’s ears, Mary. Thank you so much for your concerns and suggestions of yoga (although I try, my dogs think whenever I exercise or do yoga, it’s “playtime.”).

    I’ve wallowed…now I’m in the midst of regrouping and forging onward. Thanks for being there, and for coming by to visit.

  17. I have no idea why I’m all over your comment section, today, like a bad rash. I just felt the need to stretch my thoughts everywhere, I guess.

    Anyhoo, first of all, give your sister my warm and spirit-filled thoughts of compassion from my heart to her soul. I pray for her healing and recovery journey.

    Second of all…. Storms! Gotta love ’em. Even though we hate them, can’t understand them, and prefer not to go through them. But there they are—creeping up in every nook and cranny of our lives. The fact they exist for each and every one of us, means there’s a purpose for them. Unfortunately, most times we only learn that purpose in hindsight.

    Multiple whammies means you’re going through a shift, my friend. When storms rage, anchor your faith. I can’t wait to see your miraculous brilliance on the other side—when the clouds lift and the sun shines. It shall be amazing. Your only job is to anchor your faith. Anchor your faith. Anchor your faith.

    Here’s one of my favorite quotes: “Don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your God is.”

    (If you don’t already know by now, I’m an inspirational quote lover. I have them pasted all over my office. I’m definitely adding the one above from Eric Buffington’s comment to my quotes collection.)

    Anyhoo, to conclude my “comment fest,” I just want to say I’ve never heard of “The Positivity Ratio” site. I’m definitely going to check it out. Thanks for sharing the info.

    Much love to you, my friend. Much love indeed.

    1. Yes, the way you were flitting around the comments and yammering like a wayward social butterfly, I thought, “Hmm…maybe I should call her a cab.”

      I love inspirational quotes, too, and take much from you and Eric. This is a rough storm and I wonder its purpose, for Ecclesiastes teaches us there’s a purpose for everything under heaven. But I tell you what—it better be a dang good one!

      Anchor my faith. Anchor my faith. Anchor my faith. Thanks for the mantra, and for visiting everyone. I LOVED it. That’s what this place is here for.

  18. It’s too easy to feel pessimistic about everything, even and especially one’s self, when things go wrong. Yet the most important thing is to take care of yourself. Be gentle with yourself, Mike. Cut yourself slack every chance you get. Know that you’re loved.

    xoRobyn

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