How many people have found happiness? I mean, truly found happiness. Happiness isn’t exactly quantifiable, but really has a qualitative aspect, somewhat like quality of life does. So how do we know if we have actually achieved happiness?
A tad bit philosophical for a Sunday morning. Hmmm
I think it’s safe to say that we have all had bouts of happiness. Something has gone extremely well and we are pleased with the results, or someone has made us feel special in that way that nobody else seems to be able to and therefore we experience happiness attached to that.
I feel like we all have our own definition of happiness. Sure, I could do a literature search on the topic and find out what researchers have discovered if they did a qualitative study on happiness, but I don’t care to do such a thing on a Sunday morning after just having returned home from a work-related trip. I did, however, ponder the thought of happiness in my life during my commute to and from my destination.
As I reflected on the things in my life, I have discovered that I have had numerous times where I have experienced happiness and many where I found the exact opposite. Many would say that your wedding day is the happiest, most important day of your life. Not for me. I believe that I knew (having looked upon my life in retrospect) this was a mistake. I cried through the entire wedding ceremony…what does that tell you? Hmmm. Mistake in progress. Loyalty kept me there. Fear kept me there. Oppression kept me there. There are many reasons I could cite as to why I stayed, but again, in retrospect, none of them were valid, and the majority of people would have had no clue as to the state of the relationship I had with the man I was married to because I didn’t allow anyone to see it.
The birth of your children, again, another hallmark of happiness. And to risk being taboo or state the once unstatable, my first pregnancy was not expected or planned, and therefore I did not experience that happiness immediately. Does that mean I did not wish for the child? Of course not. I adapted. I kept those ‘wrong’ feelings hidden. I had a bright future planned. Yes, I was married when the child was conceived. But now my plan of leaving the person I was married to was now gone. Depression hit. Pregnancy complications hit. Postpartum depression hit. A change in career path was necessary. I adapted. My happiness was not as important as the one I was now bringing into the world. Fake it till you make it. Keep smiling. Nobody likes a girl with a frown on her face. Ok.
For the record, I loved that child more than life itself. The pregnancy had a very real chance of taking my life and I took the risk for that child.
I worked, I attached success at work to personal happiness. Did it work? Perhaps superficially. I began to identify with my career and had nothing other than that and being a mother. Where was I? Who was I? These were questions I couldn’t even consider asking or looking for answers to. Remember that fear, loyalty and oppression? Still there.
Let’s fast forward. Here we are to the point of marital breakdown some 20 years later. The attacks on my personal self were becoming unbearable. No, I was not fat at 102 pounds. No, I do not want to see what I would look like at 85 pounds, how dare you ask me to even try. No, affairs are not normal nor should I accept it. Violence and personal attacks, not acceptable. Not anymore. But these things still have an effect on us. It took me time. Years to work thorough the effects. I still am. I still get the fight or flight response when I see an officer come into Starbucks still wearing his sidearm. Will that effect ever go away? I don’t know, but for now, I recognize it, acknowledge its presence, and take some deep, cleansing breaths and remember, this is not the man I once was married to.
I had an amazing relationship that I attached happiness to. He treated me better than I had ever been treated before. Of course I was happy! Until he left without any fights or arguments, no differences in opinions. I was at a loss as to why he left. I still am, if we are to be truthful. But this in itself was a gift. It was a couple of gifts.. One, now I know what it means to be loved, to be truly loved and cherished. The feeling was incredible. It’s a drug, I most assuredly can attest. Two, I found that not only can I survive the loss of that, but I could actually thrive. My happiness was not to be dependent on having someone love me. My happiness needed to be an internal thing.
I found that I was ok alone. I found that I enjoyed my own company. I was now either forced to live a life imprisoned in my own home and become a cat lady, or I could blossom and experience the world my way.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my cat, but cats really are bitches and they will cut you if you look at them the wrong way.
I took a healthy amount of grieving time. I tried dating but did not find it to be engaging, and it really is quite time consuming. It became a bit of a social experiment for me: how many dates will this one last if there is no physical contact (no hand holding or kiss goodnight). How long will this one last if trapped in my vehicle for a day trip to the mountains? Let’s face it, the majority of men in the adult dating pool are really just looking for a lay. I’m over it. So until the right one happens to fall into my life by divine intervention, I’m not looking.
I have discovered good things too. I take art classes on my own, I have my photography club that I belong to. I have friends to go to the movies with. Me and my dog will go for long walks together and meet up with strangers and have friendly meaningless exchanges, but the underlying word here is friendly.
I have discovered the joy of waking up in my own home that has been decorated my way. I have the love of my children and my pets. I have healthy friendships with people I want to be associated with, not being told by anyone that I can’t be friends with this one because he’s a man or that one because he doesn’t like her.
And you know what else? I have rediscovered that love of education that I have pushed away simply because that was the only definition I had of myself for those married years. I have been finding my thoughts gravitating towards the PhD that I considered before. Perhaps I am starting to feel ready and prepared for this. The key factor that I noticed when considering this option was that it was not anxiety or fear that held my emotions when thinking about it. It was happiness and excitement. I think at the moment that I recognized that, I realized that I was truly happy. Let’s not confuse happiness with perfection though. My life is far from perfect, but as it is, I am happy.