Do you sometimes feel yourself struggling with the want for things just because you can see other people getting them? Note: not struggling with the want for things you can see other people having, but specifically with things you can see other people getting – receiving, if you will – whether they are material (flowers, chocolates, silly mugs) or non-material (affection, attention, fame, good luck or whatever else you can imagine). I sometimes do.
I started thinking about it a few mornings ago when I saw something quite endearing on my way to work: a young man got off a tram, turned around and offered a hand to his petite blonde girlfriend to help her descend. I watched them as they walked off into the golden glow of the morning, wondering whether I have ever, as a girl, had that pleasure, or, for that matter, whether I ever will.
Not that it’s important. The most extraordinary thing about wanting things that you can see other people getting is that you usually don’t want them yourself (much less need them). Think about that picture-pretty bouquet of daisies that Meg Ryan gets from Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail; if you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to actually receive daisies (I myself was confused enough to have bought an armful for myself once), you’ll know that they stink like a thousand skunks in a depository of used public toilets. Daisies may look nice on film, but they are not particularly nice flowers to be given, not even when you have a cold.
The thing is that, quite frequently, instead of appreciating the things we’re receiving, we think about the things we’re not, and how it would make us that great deal happier if we did. And that’s where we’ve got things completely wrong. Because the gist of being happy is not to have to rely on anyone else to make us feel it. That’s tough, however. It’s challenging to the utmost not to have expectations of others; how would you feel if Santa didn’t bring you any presents at Christmas? What would you think if your other half didn’t say “I love you too” in reply to your confession? Don’t drive into Disappointment Alley.
You shouldn’t rely on anyone else to make you happy, because there’s nothing anyone else can do for you that you can’t do for yourself. Trust me; test it, if you will. If the only reason you do something is in the hope that you will be rewarded by someone else’s reaction, don’t do it – at least, not for that reason alone. Don’t get me wrong, though; I’m not saying that we are all a constant source of disappointment to each other because we fail to live to each other’s expectations (after all, where would pleasant surprises come in). Rather, as far as being disappointed goes, it is our own selves that are the source of disappointment – precisely through our own expectations. In The Women, Bette Midler says at one point that once you put you first, everything changes for the better – yet this goes both ways: not only in being selfish and caring for what you need, but also for taking responsibility for your own happiness and not blaming, or relying on, others around you to make you feel special. It’s your happiness – you work on it!