I don’t usually do this kind of thing, but today I feel compelled to share about a movie I just watched called “Hector and the Search for Happiness”. Now this blog really isn’t about product or movie reviews, but sometimes something just fits, and believe me, this movie does.
Here’s how the movie opens:
Once upon a time, there was a young psychiatrist called Hector, who had a very satisfactory life. His world was tidy, uncomplicated. And he liked it that way. He took great comfort in its predictable patterns. Patterns his girl friend Clara was happy to maintain.
Hector was like so many of us, going through the motions in our lives, safe in our cocoons, really afraid to take too many chances, to step out of our comfort zones. Let’s face it, doing things that make us uncomfortable, taking chances, thinking too hard or digging too deeply can lead to chaos. It can make life messy. And it’s scary. So we play it safe. And for a lot of us that’s especially true in our relationships. So we live life just skimming the surface.
And we wonder why we’re not happy. What are we doing wrong? Why can’t we be happy? There has to be an answer, right?
Well, maybe the answer is more money. More stuff. Another vacation. Moving to another city. More “friends” on social media. A better job. Another drink. Another pill. A different pill. Another kid. A dog. Or maybe a cat.
We spend so much of our lives in the pursuit of happiness. Or at least we think that’s what we’re doing. We think we’re running after happiness with both hands, but it always seems to be out of reach. So what is it we’re missing?
In my opinion it boils down to one simple concept: connection.
As it turns out, the people who wrote “Hector” agree with me. Without giving too much away, Hector discovers that without deep, meaningful, imperfect, soulful and sometimes chaotic connections to others, we’re missing the entire point of being here. And we’re never going to find happiness. And true and deep connection is what’s missing from so many of our lives.
Think of it this way – how many times in a week do we see absolutely horrifying statistics in the news? __ number of Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives. ___ people suffering during an outbreak of _____ . ____ dead or wounded in a mass shooting. Or on the flip side, ____ dogs rescued from a puppy mill. A family of ___ rescued from a fire. And the statistics leave us momentarily shocked and saddened, or if they’re positive, give us a little bit of feelgood, but then we click on something else and go on about our day.
Then someone posts a photo of one child in a hospital bed, tubes and bandages all over, his mother sitting by his side and the story becomes real. This kid isn’t a statistic. This is a real person, with a name, with parents that care for him, whose pain we can see and on some level, understand. Some part of our souls connect with him or with his parents.
Or we are brought to tears by video of a group of people standing by the side of the road at the border in Hungary, waiting for hungry, terrified families from Syria to arrive. And suddenly those Syrians aren’t just a statistic anymore. They’re families – mothers and fathers and children trying to escape war and devastation and keep their families safe. We’ve connected to them on a spiritual, human level and it’s made a difference. Hopefully those kind of connections inspire us to take better care of one another but at the very least, they remind us of our humanity and that we’re more alike than we realize sometimes.
And what about in our personal relationships? So often we hold just a bit of ourselves back. Let’s face it, loving someone, connecting with them with our whole selves, can be so frightening. When we open up, when we expose the tenderest parts of ourselves, we also open ourselves up to hurt and abandonment and betrayal. But if we don’t?
Best case scenario? We end up like Hector. Living a comfy life, skimming the surface, never really risking anything or diving too deep. And then we’re gone. Worst case scenario? We end up in intensely unsatisfying, stale, loveless relationships. We might even end up in dysfunctional or abusive relationships.
We certainly don’t end up happy.
A lot of us talk about this in terms of putting up walls. And we convince ourselves that those walls are there for our protection. We want people to love us, but we make them jump through hoops and climb those walls to prove themselves. And if they can’t or won’t? Well then it all just became some sort of sick self-fulfilling prophecy, didn’t it? Our inner scaredy cat tells us that we were right all along – it’s not worth it. Nobody is going to stick around. No one can love us like that. It’s not worth it to take the risk or to open ourselves up.
I’m here to tell you it’s absolutely, positively, unequivocally worth the risk. We can’t truly live without connecting to others, without being open to the idea that making the leap, taking the chance is going to end in something truly wonderful and lasting. Does it mean you’ll never get hurt? No, it doesn’t. But what it means is, the connections you’ve made with others in your life will bring you the strength, the happiness, the connectedness to get you through. And it means that the lessons you learned by taking a chance will help you the next time. Not everyone will treat your open heart with kindness. But if you don’t try, you’ll never find someone that will.
I tried for a really long time to convince myself that the walls that I built were for self-protection, and that they served a good purpose. They kept me from getting hurt when people left, or disappointed me in some way. But what it really did was keep me in relationships that weren’t healthy and make the people I loved most question why I was always hesitating, holding back. And I really don’t want to live that way anymore. But I won’t lie – it’s been scary trying to make these changes. People are perfectly within their rights to reject me or to be skeptical or suspicious of the change. And like I said, opening up means I risk rejection or hurt. But I’d much rather risk that than risk living my entire life feeling that I’ve only just skimmed the surface of what my life could’ve been.
I think Hector must’ve discovered the same thing:
Once upon a time, there was a young psychiatrist called Hector, who was very satisfied with his life. His world was complex, sometimes even chaotic. And he liked it that way. He took comfort in the rich, random patterns of his life.
So my challenge to you this week is simply this: Make a connection. Connect on a deeper level with just one person in your life. It can be your significant other, your child, a good friend. Don’t hold back. Wear your heart on your sleeve and let them in. Or if you aren’t quite ready for that, make a connection on another level. Join a group online for people that you have something in common with or maybe look through the newspaper for events in your area where you can connect with others. Or just go hang out at a coffee shop or library or a park and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Don’t be afraid. The more you open yourself up to connect with others, the better and bigger your life will be. I guarantee it.
And don’t just take it from me. Watch “Hector and the Search for Happiness” (it’s on Netflix) and you’ll see what I mean.
Have a beautiful, connected, heartfelt week, my lovelies. I’ll see you soon! – Mama Bear