Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to Write About Happiness and Not sound like a Self Help Book. Or like I'm Lying.

I really am not good at happy.  At all.  In fact, I loved living in Washington State because the weather invariably matched my mood. It was rainy and cold. Rainy and warm. Rainy and wet. Snow turned to rain.  Rain melted snow.  Clouds came. They stayed.  It was great “sit in a room and drink tea and be morose” weather. It was great weather for reading the French theorists and then arguing why they are (or are not) relevant. It made for great “If I only had x, I’d be happy” thoughts.  It was nice, because I got to put off figuring out how to be happy because it was obviously the weather. Or grad school. Or the fact that I wasn’t settled and hadn’t really started my life yet. If I had the job I really wanted and did not have to go to the Laundromat…well then, I’d be happy…

But now I’m in this part of my life. This part of my life that I always looked forward to as the part where I get to be happy because I would have these great kids who would be multi-lingual and play stringed instruments. I would have this this great job that made my life meaningful and allowed me to contribute to society. And I would have this great person to be with and we would travel to foreign countries with our well behaved multi-lingual children.  The part of my life, this part, that if I’m not enjoying it, it’s my own damn fault.  The part of life where now, sometimes, in my darker moments, I say to myself “I can totally see how people have nervous breakdowns”.

 Maybe it has always been my own fault when I wasn’t happy,  but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t blame my parents, the childhood bully or the failures of my past for my state of mind. This has been a big responsibility shift. Some people have written that they have found this realization empowering.  They are now in charge. I’ve found it difficult.  

So now I’m left with the task of being happy. Some days I’m good at it. 
I can tickle fight.
And smell flowers.
And listen to birds.
And breathe. 
And notice.
And enjoy.
I love those days--the days when my life more closely lives up to the Hollywood movie version of my life.

Lately, though, my life is more like the independent film version of my life. This is not all bad, but it does mean that there is more peeing in the bathtub (the children) and more cross words at the dinner table (me). It means there are fewer light-hearted montages (with Beatles music in the background) where we take in butterfly wings and watch sunsets. Where we snuggle on the couch and everyone fits. Where we cuddle the kids off to sleep and then sip wine under the starlight.  Instead, it is more cracked corners and out-dated decorating and flat tires than I’d like in this part of my life.

And yet, the cracks and the shag carpet and the flat tires are there. And I think “Dammit.” And “I wish it was a bit easier. I wish there were fewer stains on the carpet and fewer bug corpses in the skylight.”

I wish I could tell you that in these moments I decide to be happy, or grateful or breathe or enjoy the imperfection. 

But I don’t. Most always I don’t. I wallow. I grump. I wish. But not always.

Sometimes, for one quiet second, I can notice the rain start and the train call in the distance while the insistent cardinal continues his song, and
I do.
Sigh - breathing in and out


  1. I cannot begin to tell you how many thoughts you expressed here resonated with me, Suzyn, but let's start with "I can totally see why people have nervous breakdowns" ... and enjoy a beverage or two, outside a gathering of tents & children & lightsabers, and see where that takes us... ;) I so admire and love your honesty, and look forward to times when we can talk about our common experience...

  2. "Instead, it is more cracked corners and out-dated decorating and flat tires than I’d like in this part of my life." I keep rereading this post and loving it more and more.