I was talking to a friend the other day and she mentioned that one of her work colleagues is having a really tough time at the moment. My friend was doing everything she could think of to help them but she felt guilty because her own life is happy, mostly trouble-free. She felt bad for having a good life, having fun even, when people so near to her are experiencing great personal trauma.
Her feelings are understandable and, I think, quite common. When you know someone’s having to really battle in their life while you have nothing of real substance to worry about, it’s easy to feel awkward, embarrassed even for having a nice life.
Obviously you don’t regale tales of the fun places you’ve been and the wonderful times you’ve had to your very stressed out friend, but you wouldn’t do that anyway. You ask them how they are (not if they’re okay because you already know they’re not), suggest any practical ways you might be able to help (collect their kids from school, drop round some ready made dinners), let them know that you care and they have your support.
But then not enjoying your own life, ignoring happiness in your own experiences isn’t going to help them one little bit. If you cancel dinner out with your partner at a special restaurant your friend’s load isn’t going to be made any lighter. If you feel guilty for enjoying a sunny day at the beach your friend’s situation isn’t going to be altered in any way. All you’ve done is zap the joy out of your own life, and possibly those immediately around you, to no-one’s benefit.
Instead, savour the good things in your life. Be thankful, be aware, notice and cherish the delicious meal you’re sharing with your beloved in the charming restaurant. Feel the sand between your toes, kick about in the waves feeling the water splash against your skin and the warmth of the sun on your face, and rejoice in your day at the beach.
These happy moments are the stuff of life. They give us joy, they give us strength and being mindful of them is good for our souls as well as our happiness levels.
And if your own life should take a sharp turn one day (everyone’s lives are filled with twists and turns after all) you’ll have many happy memories from better times to draw solace and joy from.
So use the energy and strength you gain from your life to be supportive to friends whose lives are turned upside down. And don’t feel guilty as that’s helping no-one.