This was my internal dialog pretty much the entire time my guy and I watched What We Do In The Shadows. The moment I’d heard it was showing in Minneapolis, I purchased tickets and started sending Kenny links to the trailer, reviews, interviews with the directors.
Because Wellington, New Zealand and Jemaine-related humor are Important To Me. I did my M.A. in Wellington and it still holds a big piece of my heart. I love everything Jemaine writes and NBD I once saw him in the Reading Cinema food court wearing a purple velvet blazer, eating a corn dog.
Obviously this equates to love me = love this movie. In my mind, because I brought Kenny to this movie, his enjoyment and happiness were my responsibility.
He liked the movie (he nearly wept at the ‘doing my evil bidding on the internet’ bit) but he wasn’t quite as over the top in love with it as I was. Which gave me a few moments best described as hurt, offended, guilty.
Hurt because this was somehow a rejection of me. Offended that OMG WHY AREN’T YOU LOSING IT OVER THE CHORE WHEEL BIT?! And guilty that we might have had more fun at a different movie or doing something else.
But all this overwrought self-analysis served a larger purpose. It reminded that we’re not responsible for anyone else’s happiness.
Of course, we’re responsible for not acting like total dillwads. We’re responsible for treating people with respect and doing our best not to judge them. But making them enjoy a movie we like? Making them deeply, thrillingly happy? Or fulfilled?
We’re not responsible for that.
There are so, so many things that contribute to a person’s happiness: their brain chemistry, their relationships with their family members, their self-esteem, how they feel about their job and their hobbies, how they manage their time/money/health. You can talk to them about those things and maybe nudge them towards healthier habits or carefully suggest they seek professional help, but you can’t really change any of those things.
You can show them you love them. You can support them in their goals. You can share inside jokes and stay in touch and invite them along on your fun adventures. But you can’t necessarily make someone happy in a long-term sustainable way. And you don’t need to.
So if you’re looking for permission – this is it.
Be a kind, loving, supportive partner, child, parent, friend but you are hereby absolved of the responsibility of making anyone else happy.
(even if you’re convinced that happiness is properly appreciating a hilaaaarious vampire mockumentary)
What do you think – are you responsible for other people’s happiness? If so, whose? If you’ve let go of that responsibility – how’d you do it?
photo by Giuseppe Milo // cc