To: Molly, 21, Student of Psychology from a strict Catholic background, high achiever, coming to terms about coming out as gay to family. From: The Happiness Blog.
I hope this finds you happy and well. Congratulations on having the courage and strength to stand up and be yourself and live a life true to yourself! This is the only way in which we can become happy and find true, lasting happiness. I understand it must be terribly worrying and difficult coming out to your family, given their very strong Catholic beliefs, and its normal to feel scared, alone and frightened at what people might say and do when our actions, words and lives don’t fit in with the beliefs of those who love us and are closest to us.
I’d like to share a quote with you, from my mentor, the Buddhist leader and Philosopher, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, who says;
‘Without opposition there is no growth. It is hard to argue with that logic. A state in which we are free from problems or constraints is not happiness. Happiness is transcending all opposition and obstacles and continuing to grow.’ Daisaku Ikeda, SGI President.*
What he’s saying is that, actually, without obstacles, we simply cannot grow and we cannot become happy. It may have already been a struggle keeping your sexuality a secret from your family and I want to encourage you that, not only have you been super courageous, in coming out, but that this is an amazing opportunity to create true, lasting happiness within your family.
It’s internal happiness thats matters most, and although its often important to us what our parents and family think of us or how they accept us, we must not allow whats happening in our environment to impact our happiness. No matter how your family or anyone reacts to your sexuality, I would encourage you to remain strong and through positive behaviour and your absolute happiness, show them that you are still the daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, auntie, cousin or friend that you have always been. Always be kind to people and respect them, even when they are being disrespectful, show them through your behaviour as a human being that your sexuality, although being part of who you are, should not matter. Love is love, no matter what, and by showing your family respect, they will come to respect you for the amazing young, woman that you are.
Please treasure, respect and cherish your life, have 100% gratitude for the constraints you’re facing and 100% belief that you have the potential within you to transform anything that gets in the way of your happiness. This will only come from your own self acceptance and strong self-belief that you truly deserve this. I wish you well with your family as you are now their teacher, and its up to you to show them that their happiness does not depend on their idea of what you should be or do in life.
Recent United Nations figures estimate that there are currently 7.5 billion humans populating the world. That’s 7.5 billion people with different minds, different bodies, different lives and different needs, and at least 7.5 billion different problems at any one time, each dealt with in more than 7.5 billion different ways.
The perception of something as a ‘problem’ however, clearly suggests the implicit existence of suffering and unhappiness for the person on the receiving end. Any problem, big or small, even a welcome one, can have the annoying ability of agitating us in some way, potentially making our experience of life difficult or challenging. We spend a lot of our lives strategising how to overcome problems, many of us foolishly thinking that, once they’re overcome, we’ll be happy, or we’ll be ’feeling or showing pleasure or contentment’* in our lives, deluding ourselves that happiness can only be achieved through an absence of difficulties, so its easy to get caught up in that never- ending pursuit of happiness; having problems, striving to solve them, feeling happy when they’re solved, then repeating the same pattern when another one arises.
We all have problems in our lives, but what if I said that, the problems themselves aren’t the problem, and that the problem, is, in fact, our life state? And if it’s not the absence of problems that creates happiness, then what does being happy really mean in today’s world? Also, what effects does happiness and unhappiness have on our individual lives, families, communities and ultimately the world?
When I’m feeling unhappy, I’m irritable, angry, unmotivated and anxious. I drift into victim mode, handing over control of my life to the external environment, admonishing all personal responsibility for the negative things happening in my life, generally fuelling a cycle of yet more negativity. In a high life state, I see the bigger picture - not problems, only opportunities, enabling me to become even happier, grow stronger and take greater responsibility for my life. Like a mirror, my environment reflects this positive life state. The happier I am, the more people are open to me. I want to create value rather than wreak havoc, and this has a knock-on effect on everyone and everything around me.
This ability to transform my life state and problems into opportunities, takes great determination and personal responsibility. As one of 12 million Nichiren Buddhists worldwide, I use my faith in the Lotus Sutra, my practice of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and the writings of Nichiren Daishonin to raise my life state. Why? Because the happier we are, the more we want to create value and contribute toward a more peaceful world.
Japanese Buddhist philosopher, Daisaku Ikeda, says the purpose of life is to be happy. This blog will explore how we begin the journey towards living a life of unshakable joy, no matter what, from the perspective of Nichiren Buddhism, also exploring the natural by-product of achieving happiness in this world.
It went cold. The sun went down and the shadows became long. The jumpers came out as families went home. Buses out of town were filled, shopping bags and all. Traffic cues, chips. Shadows eclipsed the streets. Only a slim strip of sun guided the cyclist alone on the road. It went cold. Strip lights on board the buses illuminated one.by.one. in succession. All-day-long punters, no longer dressed appropriately, ventured indoors as perfectly painted and decorated, golden graced revellers began their shift. Shadows raced up the golden brick walls as the sun got the last laugh assaulting glass facias. Cabs crammed the streets while the empty Magical Mystery tour coach made its final trip to the depot. Sirens sounded as shadows were cast on trees, leaving only one top gold leaf glittering. Litter lined the pavement. Papers, food wrappers, a half full paper coffee cup. It went cold. The bus struggled up the hill, now at full capacity. Lovers strolled hand in hand, dancing with the shadows to keep their blood flowing. Everyone on their smartphones. Talking about whats been and whats to come. The memories and the expectations, everything but the present moment. Because its cold. The bus windows invaded the shadows now filling the facias. Store car parks emptied like the seats of the bus. Staff finished work and thought of what they’ll eat. Interactions with strangers to warm the evening air. ‘That suns hitting me right in my eyes,’ issued as the bus hurtled through the suburban street and as the bell rang. and rang. and rang. Teased by giggling toddlers, excited from their day out. ‘One more time’ the warning comes from mum. ‘Pack it in.’ My stop. Coat on. Its cold.
2. Artist in process. Renaissance woman. My own secret weapon.
For the benefit of the tape
(Two police officers are sitting across from the accused – a 30-something hippie. Nose-rings and tats).
Sergeant: Sergeant Makepeace and DC Carter interviewing Miss, Charlene Understood. Miss Understood…’
Sergeant: ‘I apologise. Mrs.’
Charline: ‘Charline’s fine.’
Sergeant: ‘Charline. Kids with your mum again?
Sergeant: ‘For a pacifist, you seem to be here an awful lot.’
Charline: ‘It’s not my fault.’
Sergeant: ‘It never is. So, what happened this time?’
Charline: It was that stupid cow.
DC: (Chuckling) good start.
Charline: The baby was just screaming and screaming and it was doing her head in.
Sergeant: Then why are you arrested for threatening behaviour?
Charline: I don’t mind the noise. I hear it all the time. (The police officers are confused). The old lady just kept going on. Saying she…
DC: The baby’s mum?
Charline: Yes. The baby’s mum should smack the baby. She said it wasn’t like that in her day. All her kids were very quiet. Because you’d get a smacked bottom if you weren’t.
Charline: Well I said that I prefer a world where kids are not assaulted. Then she said a smacked bum does no harm – and stops the racket.
Charline: I said how would she like it if I smacked her? Would she think it does no harm then?
Sergeant: So, you threatened to hit an 80-year-old?
Charline: Well she realised how harmful it would be!
I have a veggie food review blog called Veggie View. One of my recent reviews was about Caribou Poutine on Slater Street, in which I said it was a shame they didn't have cheese in their vegan version of poutine. After reading my review, I was contacted by Caribou Poutine asking me to recommend a vegan cheese. I replied, saying Violife was the UK's most popular vegan cheese. Yesterday, I was contacted again by Caribou Poutine saying they now had Violife cheese available on their menu.
So if anyone's wondering what's the point of blogs, take it from me that they can exert influence. :)
How to tell and how you can support her
So, your best friend has had a baby and rather than appearing over the moon with her little bundle of joy, you can't help but feel like she's struggling. She seems 'down', maybe she has lost interest in things she previously loved doing. Perhaps she's weepy, tense, sleeping badly or lacking confidence. Is she suffering from the 'baby blues', or could it be something more sinister?
Many mothers experience a significant drop in mood three or four days post-partum. This is usually attributed to hormonal changes after giving birth and as lactation begins. It is generally short-lived and is not usually cause for serious concern. Postnatal depression, on the other hand, may also appear around this time (or at any time during the first year after giving birth) and can last significantly longer.
The main symptoms may include:
Sadness and low mood
Lack of energy (feeling 'tired all the time') or difficulty sleeping
Difficulty bonding with the baby and emotional withdrawal from family/friends
Problems with concentration
Your friend may not realise what is happening as depression can develop graduallly – but as an outsider you are ideally placed to spot the signs and offer her a lifeline.
It seems ridiculous to have to point out in the 21st Century that we need public toilets. But we do. We need public toilets if we do not want people suffering the embarassment and humiliation of soiling themselves or having to dodge down back alleys and behind bushes, to say nothing of any physical discomfort involved.
In a cinema queue at the weekend , a woman in her sixties told me if she is going out she always thinks about the availability of toilets. If there are no accessible toilets in public places some people will stay at home rather than run the risk of being caught short, further increasing the growing isolation and loneliness that blights our society and particularly affects older people.
Would you be surprised to learn that there is no requirement that Councils should provide public toilets? The Public Health Act of 1936 gave councils the power to do so but there is no compulsion. In 2016, in answer to a Freedom of Information request, a council official stated:
"Liverpool City council does not own or operate any public toilets"
They used to. Maybe you remember some of them and you could write to me about them. The Victorians built many grand public buildings, including toilets. I have read that, in the last ten years, between 40% to 50% of public toilets in this country have disappeared. It is very hard to find reliable data. I do not know how many Liverpool used to have. I know that in 2007 and 2008 when Liverpool was preparing for and celebrating its year as Capital of Culture, Liverpool City Council sold off two public toilets for a total of £182,000. And subsequently welcomed 10 million visitors in 2008.
In 2008, the Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government criticised Liverpool (and Cardiff, Birmingham and Edinburgh) for poor toilet provision and recommended that local authorities should include provision of public toilets in their local strategies.
Liverpool City Council has said that there is plenty provision in bars, cafes, restaurants, museums, galleries and stations BUT many places discourage non-customers from using their toilets, in stations you often need a ticket to access the toilets. In other places the toilets are not easily accessible. If you are in a hurry or have mobility problems or have children, you may not have the time to cross town and go up to the sixth floor.
It is a basic human right to have access to a toilet. I believe there should be easily accessible staffed toilets in public areas: City Centres, Parks, Shopping Areas.
What do you think?
NOTE: The new demographic was close to mine. I tried to change the focus but decided also to change the tone