Friday, September 16, 2011

Boundaries, Obligations and Happiness

Someone asked me how my boys were doing the other day. It's interesting because I always hesitate to say they are doing well. It seems that everytime I do that some huge meteor appears in the nightsky presaging the beginning of a period of doom. So I simply answered her "At this moment, at this time, in this second of my reality, everything is OK." She actually laughed because she understood exactly what I was talking about.

No she is not the parent of a special needs child, she is just a mother, wife, daughter and citizen of the world. When you are alive you have problems. She has an elderly parent living at home with her and her husband. Her husband's elderly parents (both with medical issues) live down the street and her son just got flooded out in the huge hurricane. He and his girlfriend now live in her basement. She also just went through major back surgery. It's called life. There is always something, no matter who you are.

It's why I never really understood people who have to create problems for themselves. Doesn't life just give you enough to handle on its own? Why are there people who have to cheat, steal, lie and break every commandment? Is life not spicy enough for them? What more do they need? Are they so bereft of  values and morals that nothing makes them happy? You can't claim poverty or single parenting for every ill in the world. In fact some of the most unhappy people I know have more material goods and disposable income than anyone else on the planet (these people I really can't understand). Of course I would like the opportunity to test the hypothesis that "money can't buy happiness." I would write a great scientific paper on the subject, worthy of a Nobel Prize, and let everyone in on my findings.

No this is not a religious tirade. We are not particularly a religious family, albeit a culturally Jewish one. We do have a strong sense of our history coupled with understanding rights and wrongs and ethics and moral value. We know what a person is supposed to do by law and what a person is required to do to be a good person. Interestingly, they are not always one in the same.

You might be surprised just how lacking in moral fiber our legal code actually happens to be (I am not talking about some of the inherent racist or economic disparities within our legal system, but the laws itself.). The fact that our legislatures had to pass "Good Samaritan" laws to protect those who would come to anothers rescue from legal imprisonment or a civil lawsuit, should in and of itself say something about our society.

But it is even more than that. There is "something rotten in Denmark." People are angry, so very angry. When the world that you have built over decades comes crashing down around you you need to lash out and you need to blame someone. It almost seems like noone takes any responsibility for their mistakes anymore.  No one from the top down can say "the buck stops here." It's always someone else's fault. It's easier to scapegoat someone rather than except that you or your perspectives could be wrong.

I think this goes back to the class that CM2 is taking on prejudice. He is learning how society scapegoats others to find a reason to not take blame for their own poor choices. He is studying the rights and wrongs of the world and how they go belly up so often. It's been part and parcel of CM1's existence for years now and unfortunately it only makes him angry when he thinks about it. Luckily CM2 hasn't become angry, not yet, but his way of dealing with the dichotomy of societal reality is to be a very cynical 17 year old.

You used to find such cynicism in older folks, like me, but it is a huge aspect of the way CM2 deals with the present situation. It is a loss of innocence and in many ways I resent that the world has done that to him. But then again he never blames others for his mistakes. He accepts responsibility and he knows what is expected of him. He just doesn't understand why others, especially those in power, don't feel obligated to adhere to the same ethical and moral rules bywhich he has to abide.

Whose fault is it when things do not go as planned? Whose fault is it when people don't agree with you and kowtow to your perspectives and thought processes? Whose fault is it when life takes a huge bite out of your future and sets you on a tailspin? Whose fault is it if you don't pull yourself together and fix your problems? Once again our elected officials exemplified the inadequate in our society. A Jewish California Congressman just blamed the democratic loss in New York 9 on "Jews who were only interested in keeping their own wealth..." I kid you not. While the head of the DNC said that the Orthodox Jewish community of NY9 are a fringe element not really part of American-Jewry.  It makes your head spin. No real need to wonder why CM2 is so cynical.

I suppose the issue becomes what kind of world do you want to live in? Do you want to live in a world where there are no boundaries and everyone does just what they want? Or do you want to live in a world where there are expectations and requirements? According to a recent poll, those who have a moral code and  are permitted to ask questions about that code, and the world around them, are the most content people in the world (OK yes the poll did say that Jewish people are the happiest, with atheists coming in second. Since we are Jewish, with CM1's atheism thrown in, I confess the poll made me happy). Understanding what is expected of a person brings happiness, especially when you fulfill that obligation. Knowing boundaries helps society to flourish and to grow. The ability to question authority also allows for growth and development as a person and as a society.

I suppose that is why my friend with all going on in her life is well, quite happy. She understands the world around her and is fulfilling her obligations. The boys are happy, at this moment, at this time, in this second of their reality because they understand their obligations and are fulfilling them. I am happy because as the old saying goes you are only as happy as your least happy child.

Though I'll let you know when I see a meteor streaking through the nightsky.....

Until next time,


UPDATE: So the damn meteor appeared in the nightsky....

While picking up CM2 from school I received a call from CM1. He had just had a seizure, ended up on the floor and hit his head.  I stayed on the phone with him for awhile and periodically called while on my mommy-taxi trip to make sure he remained lucid. I then took CM1 directly to the ER once I got home.  After three hours of blood tests and catscans (everything showed that he was fine) he was released with a caveat that if he was feeling poorly he should call his doctor right away. But that he needs to follow up with his neurologist.

It is always something isn't it?