Do You Want to Be Right, or Do You Want to Be Happy?

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It’s Tuesday morning and I’m at the gym arguing with my trainer, Tony.

Six weeks ago I decided I was tired of being fat and resolved to, once and for all, slay this dragon without subjecting myself to surgery. Those lap-band ads on television are a siren song and I’m so not going there.

Enter Excellent in Fitness and Tony.

Tony has this idiotic idea that I can exert myself more than I’m doing and that I’m not eating the right food. And I’m busy pointing out to him all the reasons HE’S WRONG. Arguing like Clarence Darrow, but never quite arguing him into a corner. The wily bastard always finds a way out.

If I put this much effort into my workout, I’d be a size 6 already.

We go round and round until I say, for the millionth time in my life, I’m SICK AND TIRED of not getting to eat what I want and of having to do things I DON’T WANT TO DO.

And Tony says, calmly (bless his heart — I’d have strangled me by now), OK, Joan, what makes you happy?

And I say, Eating. Food.

~And he says, What makes you miserable?

Dieting.

~What else?

Coming here.

~Coming here makes you miserable? OK, what else?

Pilates. I hate Pilates.

~OK. What else?

Walking on the treadmill.

~OK. What else?

…pause…

How I look.

~How you look makes you miserable?

(softly) Yes.

~Well, which makes you more miserable? How you look, or coming here?

I have no answer. Oh, I know what the answer should be, but I’m awfully afraid that the answer is “coming here”. Because, if how I look made me more miserable, I’d have done something about it before now. Wouldn’t I? WOULDN”T I?

Do I Want to be Right…or Happy?

Tuesday’s gym encounter kind of slam-dunked me. Why was I so adament about finding ways to not follow a program I paid a lot of money to get into?

Because, buried not-so-deep-inside, I don’t want to succeed. If NOTHING WORKS, then I have an excuse for being fat. I mean, look…I tried EVERYTHING…and NOTHING WORKED. Not my fault. It just didn’t work. Too bad. Grab another doughnut and start looking for the next program to prove wrong.

Because I have to be right. Always. I’ll argue down to the last comma, period and exclamation point.

The sky isn’t blue, it’s cyan.

The meeting didn’t start at 9, it started at 9:05.

I didn’t forget; you never told me.

A long time ago, I was in a seminar and the leader confronted me. He asked, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?”

Of course, I shot back, “I’d rather be right. Because when I’m right, I’m happy.”

Flash forward to Tuesday at the gym.

OK, if I’m right about the diet/exercise not working, am I going to be happy? For that matter, am I happy now?

Not so much.

It’s Easy Being Negative

Why do I find it so easy to be unhappy?

And it’s not just me. It’s a national epidemic. We’re enthralled with the cult of being miserable. We revel in it. We’re triumphant in our unhappiness. It’s almost…orgasmic.

See, we say (gleefully), we TOLD YOU “it” (health care, dieting, romance, electing Obama, bailing out the banks, recycling) wouldn’t work. Nothing ever works.

So, why am I so committed to my dark side? Why do I do everything I can to protect the bitterness, anger, shame and old traumas — no matter what it costs me? (And if I let myself think about what it’s cost me over my lifetime…I’d be so weighed down by the knowledge of what I’ve missed I’d probably never get out of bed again.)

It’s so easy to be unhappy and to view things through that prism. It absolves us from responsibility. It puts the “blame” on someone else.

So, the thought becomes, “No one will hire me because I’m too old“, instead of “My resume isn’t up to date and I don’t get out and network”.

Or, “Diets never work for me”, instead of “I keep choosing unhealthy food to eat”.

Or, “That exercise is too hard. I can’t do it”, instead of “I’ll give it a try”.

In the short term, being negative and unhappy and argumentative seems like the easier path. We don’t have to take responsibility for bad outcomes. We salvage our pride with, “That diet didn’t work” and don’t own the part we played in making sure it didn’t work.

Over time, though, each one of those choices adds more (psychic) weight and makes our lives that much harder. When I’m persistently negative, always seeing that half-empty glass, I’m making a choice  — even if by default — to live a life of much-reduced joy.

Do I Want to be Right…or Happy? (redux)

Being happy means living with what comes — warts, sunshine, or whatever. It means taking responsibility for every situation, good and bad. We don’t usually mind taking responsibility when things go right, but it’s harder when “bad” things happen.

Being happy means always choosing joy.

When I’m feeling put upon, or treated unfairly, and I’m angrily (and righteously) waiting for an apology, or to get my piece of the pie, I can’t feel joy. Sometimes, joy means accepting that things just ARE, and then deciding to get over it.

Being happy also means choosing optimism and being open to new people, places, ideas, things. Like a lot of people, I have tons of preconceived ideas — things I KNOW to be true. And that knowledge keeps me stuck in the past.

I CAN’T do that exercise; it’s too hard.

I don’t like oatmeal; it’s yucky. (Note: I’ve never actually tried oatmeal, but I KNOW I don’t like it)

To truly enjoy life, we have to be willing to experience things without knowing the outcome. (Who knows…maybe I really LOVE oatmeal. Maybe I CAN do that exercise. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find out for sure?) When we prejudge, we shut ourselves off from the possibility of learning new things, meeting new people, having different results.

Choosing joy is choosing to be vulnerable, humble and willing to be wrong.

Choosing joy means heading back to the gym with a different attitude. Maybe Tony does know what he’s talking about. Maybe I CAN do that exercise. Maybe I AM stronger than I think.

It means…I’d rather be happy than right.

Because when I’m happy, I am right.

Thanks, Tony…

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