We live so much of our lives talking and thinking about what we deserve, what the people we love deserve, what our enemies deserve. No matter one’s religious or cultural background, there seems to be a consensus — maybe I’m wrong — that good people deserve good things and that bad people deserve some comeuppance. We can never decide who’s bad or who’s good. The wise amongst us will often agree that we are all a little bit bad and a little bit good and that as long as we intend to DO GOOD, to actively love and share kindnesses, to share our resources and wealth whatever those may be, we will one day receive love, kindness, resources, wealth (and not necessarily the material kind) in due time.
I have lived my life believing this, but I am struggling with it now. DOING good brings with it a certain kind of joy, yes, but it does not often bring great blessings. Kindness and love have the potential to be mutual, but they are not sure investments. We can feel good about ourselves for meeting our personal standards of what it means to be a worthwhile human being and we can perhaps rest well at night knowing that we have not done great harm. Perhaps in giving love and kindness we do create webs of affection that are only visible to us when we are our greatest need…whatever the measure of “greatest need” is.
My mother was one of the kindest, most selfless, most reliable, warm, and loving women I can imagine. People flocked to her and told her their secrets. She touched many lives — perhaps more than she ever knew — and she collected one “best friend” after another. That is, she was the “best friend” of so many people. Yet she was also the most disappointed, lonely, and aggrieved woman I ever knew. She deserved great devotion and love. She deserved ease and blessings. But circumstances never really went in her favor. I wonder what she would say was the best thing that ever happened to her? The first, I would guess, would be that she had a daughter. The last, I think, would be that she died peacefully.
What happened? Why didn’t she get what she deserved? Or did she?
I’m beginning to believe that DOING good is only part of the equation. Perhaps SEEING good or ENVISIONING good is just as — if not more — important. The happiest people I know, the ones who seem especially blessed, are ones who are grateful for the smallest pleasures, who cultivate a positive attitude even under dark circumstances. They don’t just keep going; they keep going and believe the best is yet to come. What’s more, they expect the best for themselves, rather than allowing others to lay down the terms of their happiness.
I don’t believe happiness is necessarily joy. Truly, I wonder if it isn’t just an ability feel love — not from anyone in particular, but from and for everything, whatever it or she or he is.
My mother deserved happiness. She deserved all good things. She deserved more than she got. I feel I will always mourn this. Yet I also feel that I cannot settle in the mourning and that I must do right by her by not living like she did. Will I get what I deserve? If I deserve to be happy, then it is is up to me to make it so.