Hope and Happiness Amid a Government Shutdown

by Bill Brenner on October 1, 2013

Forget about the effect the government shutdown has on mental health services; government mental health services suck anyway.

Instead, let’s focus on keeping ours head on straight when political horror stories send our fear and anxiety into orbit.

Mood music:


I mentioned last week how I used to latch onto world events as if my life depended on it. TV media reports political squabbles as it would report about war: loud graphics, chilling music. Coverage of the government shutting down at midnight was no different.

I don’t want to minimize the impact. A lot of good people get screwed when the government shuts down. Family trips to national parks are ruined. If you need a passport renewed in time for, say, a honeymoon abroad, you’re likely throwing things across a room about now. Some of my conservative friends are making comments about how nobody will notice the shutdown and how, as a result, they’ll have proof that we don’t need government. Some of that is true. But some of that is hyperbole, too.

All that is beside the point. Here’s why I’m not quaking in my boots right now.

I realized a long time ago that I can’t tie my happiness to the success or failure of government. I used to believe that electing the right people would lead to a sunny future for me and everyone else.

But our leaders disappoint us again and again. Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter. Politicians are far more interested in keeping their jobs than standing for the greater good. To some extent that’s always been the case, yet it seems worse today. A few years ago, I realized I’d have to find my hope and happiness someplace else.

In the process, I found that the main components of that happiness were in front of me all along: loving family members, loyal friends and work I could take satisfaction in. I also realized it was completely in my power to be loving and loyal to others as well. That support system keeps the world spinning, and no folly of government could ruin that.

We’re all imperfect individuals. While I try to be a good father, husband and friend, I’ve done a lousy job getting along with some family members. And while I’ve exercised my absolute power to have a healthy, fit body and mind, I’ve also done my fair share of abusing both, consequences be damned. The government hasn’t played much of a role in either of those things.

Realizing that elected officials could only have a minimal role in my day-to-day life set me free in a lot of ways, for better or worse. The government shutdown isn’t bothering me in the slightest.

But that’s just my personal experience. If you do depend on government services, I’m sorry you have to go through this.

Super Broken Government

Image source: CNN.com

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anne Tavel October 2, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Great piece, Bill. As I sit having a quiet lunch outside Whole Foods on a spectacularly beautiful day with the warmth of the sun enveloping me, I read your blog, posted by a colleague, Melinda Warner.
You put things in perspective in a wonderful way . Again, thank you.

Anne Tavel, Ph.D.
Wellesley, MA

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