Last weekend G and I drove down to Virginia to attend the wedding of an old friend. I posted my pre-wedding thoughts here about how I was so happy for this couple, and for once, not cynical.
The wedding itself was what it was, both lovely and creepy in turns, which, as far as I can tell, is how most weddings tend to go. It was a very conservative Catholic wedding and the homily was about how Eve was created out of Adam’s rib and how Woman was created to take away Man’s loneliness and serve him. (gag)
I was hoping that the bride and groom would have written their own vows, but they didn’t, though thankfully they did not promise to “obey,” or else I might have had a hard time “forever holding my peace,” (a bit they also left out.)
Back at home, I opened an email Brian Johnson of Philopsopher’s Notes had sent to his list which included his wedding vows (he got married last month), and I have bookmarked them and will save them forever because they are beautiful and wonderous beyond words. Here’s the link to them. You must check them out.
I loved them all, but the one that resonated most strongly with me was this one:
I commit to taking full responsibility for my life, my happiness and my goals. I absolve anyone and everything from the past or present from having any control over my happiness. (B. Johnson)
I think this might very well be the key to life, and to all relationships in general. Can you imagine what would happen if we all took responsibility for our own happiness?
What if we stopped blaming our parents, our spouses, our bosses, our political leaders, our teachers and every other outside institution and person past and present for our happiness, or lack thereof, and took complete and total responsibility for our lives and for making ourselves happy?
What would that look like?
I’m thinking it would probably put a lot of therapists out of business, for one thing. Or at least those old fashioned ones who are still listening to a regurgitation of all the hurtful things Mom and Dad did and said that caused their clients to be so effed up now.
It would also force us all to call “bullshit” on all meetings and social interactions that did not serve, or otherwise create personal happiness. And if we did decide to put up with them, we’d have to realize that it was our own choice to do so.
It would also probably force us all to advocate for disadvantaged populations and for environmental sustainability and integrity. There would be no more “them” to point fingers at and blame for social injustice, or the filth of our planet. “Them” would become the new “us.”
We could no longer argue with our spouses or our bosses or our children by screaming, “You make me so ______!!!” (fill in the blank: angry, unhappy, miserable, frustrated, annoyed, irritated.) Because if I truly commit to taking full responsibility for my life, my happiness, and my goals, then “you” can’t make me angry, or block my progress, or ruin my life.
Only I can do that.
If “you” do anger me, or annoy me or frustrate me, I have allowed it.
So Brian and his new wife Alexandra have “absolved” each other from the responsibility for making each other happy. Instead, they will take responsibility for that themselves and just be free to enjoy each other as they make a life together.
I feel so inspired by this. It seems to me it’s the only way to be.
In a way, taking responsibility for your own happiness is like brushing your teeth. When you’re little, your mother brushes your teeth for you, then she teaches you how to do it yourself. Then, from a certain age, it’s your responsibility to do it, and if you don’t, your cavities aren’t your mother’s fault.
Same with happiness. From a certain age, you’re responsible.
What if everyone got on board with this? Can you imagine what a groovy world it would be if we all collectively decided that, starting tomorrow morning, we were suddenly “off the hook” for making anyone else but ourselves happy? And that we totally absolved everyone from our past or our present from the duty to make us happy, and were now about to take that job on ourselves?
Can you just imagine how free you would feel? How light? How giving and magnanimous? No more blame. No more shame. No more guilt. Just a life lived with personal responsibility and integrity.