My Gunny is addicted to his happiness. I know Gunther loves me, and I’m the most important person in his world, but when there’s a tennis ball around, my conviction gets a little shaky.
There is nothing that can capture G-Man’s complete attention like a tennis ball. Dangle a bone, a leash, even a juicy piece of steak, and it’ll do you no good if his eyes have locked onto a tennis ball. His attention is impenetrable. Chasing, catching and returning a tennis ball back to you to throw again as he anxiously holds his breath, every muscle tensed and ready to spring, is what Gunther lives for. This is Gunther’s happiness, his Nirvana. He can be happy without a tennis ball around, but so long as there is one, he’s obsessed. So much so, he’s a slave to it. I can get him to do just about anything I want him to, just by tempting him with a game of catch as a reward. It’s so bad, that if I withhold the ball, it’s downright painful for him. He just has to have it! Which begs the question, is this really happiness?
I say a tennis ball is G’s Nirvana, but often what we think of as our Nirvana is just a self-delusion. Nirvana isn’t necessarily about being “happy.” Nirvana is an ancient word used in Indian religions to describe being in a state of mind that is free from suffering. It’s a peace of mind that comes after vanquishing the tortures of desire, fear, or need. Once Gunther knows there’s a tennis ball around, he’s tortured and can’t find relief until he is playing with it. And, it has to be a tennis ball. No other type of ball will do. He will play and play and play, exhausting himself, and won’t stop until he drops or you take the ball away. And as much as he is attached to me, if anyone else comes along and throws him a tennis ball, they become the center of his world, with me a fading memory. Whoever has the ball, so long as they have the ball, has Gunther, in a sense. So, as much as playing catch makes Gunther happy, is this obsession really making him happy, or is it actually a source of pain, anxiety, and helplessness?
Do you see a little Gunther in you? How much of your happiness is dependent upon your relationship with another person or with a thing? Is it dependent upon your marriage or romance? Your friendship with a pal or group of buddies? A job? Your kids getting into an exclusive school, or making the “right” sports team? Your membership in an organization, alumni association, or exclusive circle of someones whose acceptance gives your life greater meaning or sense of identity, solely based on their judgment and acceptance of you? How about your happiness depending upon things, your “tennis ball,” owning your badass car, pricey house, 2.5 carat diamond ring, Harley Fatboy, Jimmy Choo heels, boat, snowmobile, or whatever other “thing” you think you need to be happy? What about your time on Facebook, Twitter, or in front of your favorite tv shows? Or is it that cigarette in your hand, the beer, the whiskey, the cocaine, the porn, the endless hours of computer fantasy games? Are such connections bringing you happiness, or crippling you as much as they provide a crutch to feeling happy?
Where in this connection to a person or thing is a goal that benefits you? What keeps you tied to this connection? What are you seeking to achieve through this connection? If this person or thing is taken from you, can you still be happy? Are you in control of it, or is it in control of you?
Is there a “tennis ball” in your life that is giving you happiness, but completely controlling you and your ability to be happy, as well? Take some time to sort out the people and things in your life that you think you can’t be happy without, and see if you can separate what you control from what is controlling you. Ask yourself, are you drawn to it because it brings you true happiness, or are you a slave to it, because having it relieves your anxiety, fear, or suffering?