"There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy, we sow anonymous benefits upon the world, which remain unknown even to ourselves, or when they are disclosed, surprise nobody so much as the benefactor."
Robert Louis Stevenson, An Apology For Idlers,
Steve (My therapist): You deserve to be happy Dave. You deserve to have a high quality life.
David Markham: Yeah I know Steve. Thanks, but.....
Steve: If you aren't going to do it for yourself Dave at least do it for your kids. They deserve to have at least one happy, healthy parent. They don't deserve to have to worry about you.
David Markham: Yes, you're right. If I can't be happy for myself, at least I could be happy for them so they aren't so anxious about me and life.
As I was driving home from my appointment with Steve I got angrier and angrier, fuming about why nobody had told me this before. I deserve to be happy? Really???? It's my job to take care of other people not to make myself happy. My needs should come last after I take care of those in my path who are in need. The way to heaven is to be a self sacrificing martyr, right? That's what I had been taught by my Roman Catholicism and by my family growing up and by my wife and our nine kids. Now with the two youngest dead and my wife so psychologically devastated as to be of no use to anyone, it was all on me and here Steve is telling me that the best thing I could do for everyone is to make myself happy and create a high quality life. It seems paradoxical, counter-intuitive, contradictory to what I have always believed.
And where it our UU values does it say that we value happiness? Where does it say that I deserve to be happy and have a high quality life especially when I see so many other people suffer and such injustice and evil in the world?
No where does it say that I should be happy, that I deserve to be happy, that I should pursue a high quality life. Not explicitly does it say that, but it may be hidden in there. It may be implying that if I adopt these 7 values, these 7 principles that then I will be happy.
I guess I have inherent worth and dignity like everyone else and if I do then what? How should I treat myself, what do I deserve?
I guess I have a right to justice, equity, and compassion in my human relations and if I really believed this and applied it to myself and my relations then what would the results be?
All right, I'm getting it now. I could go down the list of principles and probably figure out how, if I applied them to my own self, to my own life, how they would make me happy and help me develop and create a high quality life.
Did you, do you know this, that you deserve to be happy and have a high quality life? How did you come to understand this?