Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The perception of happiness is a strange thing

Photo from

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kate invited me to the introductory meeting for the Landmark Forum. The Landmark Forum is a weekend seminar (that costs a whopping 19k, meals not included!) that will help you achieve your dreams, overcome the barriers in your life, improve personal relationships, and basically help turn you from a loser into a winner. How they do this I do not know. It's a tightly guarded secret unless you fork over the cash and attend the seminar in January or February.

Now I have nothing against groups of people who like to help others so I trotted along and found it all very interesting. I especially was amazed that Kate—my neurotic insecure and overly-nice friend who lets people trample all over her (yes, she's that sweet!)—has changed into this lovely peaceful and confident woman. So this forum must be doing wonders. Her relationships with her family, boyfriend and friends have improved, she says. And I believe her. In some circles, this change can be attributed to finding God. In Kate's case, she found the Landmark Forum.

Vince says there's nothing wrong with that. "We find God in all sorts of forms and places," he shrugged. Well, seeing the change in Kate, I'm glad she found her answers.

Anyway, she brought me there because she says she wanted my life to be better. This surprised me. My life is great! My only problem with my life is it's so great I'm scared something bad will happen to balance out the positive. Like I keep mentioning in this blog, I feel I need to pinch myself sometimes to make sure I'm not dreaming because life is so good.

Apparently, Kate doesn't think so. And so did the other people at Landmark Forum. Take this conversation for example:

Man: You're saying you have everything you want?
Me: Well, I'd like a marriage, and that's happening soon... so yes, I do have everything I want.
Man: Your relationships are perfect?
Me: Nope, but I am constantly working on those relationships. My parents, my family and my boyfriend know I love them to bits. We argue sometimes but we fix things soon enough. We like to talk, you know. So it's not perfect but it's wonderful.
Man: And your career is okay? Don't you want to be a boss?
Me: Er, I already am a boss. And yes, my job is very fulfilling.
Man: (shaking his head and smiling) No, no, no. You're only 30. You can't be happy!

So I was very frustrated and irritated! I mean, why must I defend my life to these people? Why can't they believe I'm happy? Yes, I used to be very angry and insecure but I've dealt with those issues. It took me a decade or so but I'm glad to report my anger is gone and my insecurities are over. How did that happen? By having this huge faith in God. I would never have reached this state of completion and happiness if it were not for God's grace and mercy. He has blessed me profoundly and I am humbled every single day because He continues to be there for me, guiding me, scolding me, comforting me, blessing me. He is the one friend of all my friends who never betrayed me, never failed me, never disappointed me. He was always there through my anger and bitterness and hate at life and the world and people. He brought me through all that. And He's still doing that because I admit, the demons of my anger and hate still haunt me sometimes. And when those shadows come, then I call on Him and He is there.

That is why I am happy. And that is why my life is good. Because God is good. And I trust Him, only Him, with my life.

But it surprised me that the people around me don't see my life that way. I guess it's because I'm not living the traditional life. I'm 30 but I'm not married. Most every girl I know my age has a husband and about three kids. I don't like having a lot of friends (residue of having been betrayed and hurt by my friends before) but the ones I do have, I treasure. So I guess people find it weird that my idea of a good time is being alone with a book, or alone with Vince, or alone with a friend or two. I don't like big gatherings, big parties, and big places filled with people, but since it's part of my job, I've learned to deal with it. I still don't like it but I can be cool. And I'm okay with myself being like this. Sadly, other people don't think that's okay.

On my side, I'm also guilty about this perception of happiness in other people. Yup, I realized that, too. A couple of months ago, I berated my brother Theodore and his girlfriend Rose for wanting to get married with only P3,000 in their bank account. I said they were fools. I also said that they will never be happy because he's a temperamental artist and she's a simple quiet girl. Well, what do I know about their relationship anyway? They've been together for ten years. There must be something there I couldn't see, the way Kate couldn't see my happiness. Some people think it's okay to get married even without money. Some people think opposites attract. So what do I know? Rose told me later on that she did not deserve to be judged that way. And you know, she's right. I don't know her. And she also told me that she knew my family didn't want her for Theodore but that she stuck around because she loved him. So she must be made of sterner stuff. She also said that she will never become close to my family, she won't even try. And you know what? I'm okay with that. It's not right I think, because marriage is all about family... but whatever rocks their boat, I can come to respect.

I think like this now because I realized that people have their own standards for happiness. Mine? As long as I'm writing and reading and can buy myself a pretty pair of shoes now and then, I'm happy. As long as Vince is around, I'm happy. As long as my family is healthy, I'm happy. Some people think a marriage and kids will make them happy. Some people think a career will, or a pet, or a house by the beach, or lots of friends, or the approval of others. We're all different.

And that should be okay.


  1. There is a wealth of information available on the internet about this controversial Large Group Awareness Training organization and its associated "The Forum" course, previously known as "The Forum" under Werner Erhard and Associates, the "technology" of which was developed by Werner Erhard and utilized in his prior "EST Training" or "Erhard Seminars Training".

    A documentary came out in France, Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus, which details some of the for-profit company's interesting practices. The film aired to 1.5 million people in France. One month after it aired, the company shut down in France. The company attempted to use the Digital Millenium Copyright Act in order to get this video off the internet. More about this at Landmark Education wants to make French news report a “forbidden video” on the Net and at Why did Landmark Education leave France? as well as at the Electronic Frontier Foundation's legal page, Landmark and the Internet Archive and in an article from Reuters which went into The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, among many other papers, at Google faces legal challenges over video service.

    More information about the company's controversial history itself, at The Rick Ross Institute, the Skepdic site, Cult News, Introduction to the Landmark Education litigation archive, Landmark Education litigation archive, Apologetics Index, and Cult Awareness and Information Centre.

    For more information about other controversial Large Group Awareness Training organizations and their methodologies, visit:

    The Truth about Human Potential Seminars

  2. Well, like I said, it helped my friend with her demons. So I'm going to be ambivalent towards this group. I don't need them definitely, but I guess some people do!

  3. There are people who think you're not happy??

  4. Sadly, yes... Strange, no? I am reminded constantly that I shouldn't be so judgemental myself (because I can really be). We never truly know a person and what his life is like, even our own family and friends. So we must always open our eyes, listen, and care.

  5. Hi, Frances!

    I believe you and I'm happy that you allowed your happiness to surface. Not a lot of people can do that, hence, they feel discontented.

    You don't have to defend yourself for being happy, you know. You're the only one who can really know it 'coz it's inside of you.

    So, keep it up and stay happy! Ü


    ♦ Congrats on your engagement! We wish you all the best!
    ♦ Hello to Vince! Û Isa sa mga fave ni Neil ang T3 Philippines, bumibili siya parati. Ú

  6. Tatin!!! Thanks so much for believing my happiness =D

    I super duper miss you! Where are you??? Are you in the Republic of the Philippines? Let's go out! Just met up with AJ, Che, and Steph. Rhina wants to meet up next. Maybe we can all go out! It would definitely be fantastic to see YOU again.

    P.S. Thanks, Neil, for supporting my man's magazine! Pang-wedding fund na rin namin yung contribution mo ehehehe...

  7. Landmark was founded by an ex-Scientology guy.


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