As Otto and I lay in bed last night, I poured out my frustration while he held my hand and listened. Because I have a nice life. Actually, no; I have a pretty wonderful life. And yet I struggle, daily, against my will and my common sense, with the ability to just be happy.
I still believe that—as I said once before—there is a certain arrogance in being unhappy when leading a good and blessed and lucky life. And to be clear, I’m not UNhappy. But I am not as happy as I could and should be, much of the time. Somewhere on my permanent medical chart I am officially diagnosed as being dysthymic, which I suppose gives me license to abdicate responsibility because hey, man, my brain chemistry is wonky, so, you know, not my fault.
But. I want more. More from myself, more from my life, more of my best self for my loved ones. What I have, already, is more than enough; what I need is to take that enough and appreciate it more.
So this was all on my mind before I clicked over, this morning, to Karen’s Love Thursday post, which in turn links to the I Am Enough Collaborative. It seems that I’m not the only person trying to balance “more” and “enough” and my place in the midst of both.
I believe that happiness is a choice. I further believe that maybe it’s more work for some people than it is for others. So maybe it’s a little more work for me; when have I ever shied away from working for something that matters? The truth is that I do work at this, daily. And sometimes I get tired and I work… a little less. The slacking off kind of creeps up on me. Say something justifiably frustrating happens, and I allow myself to get bent out of shape about it, and then it’s a slow downward spiral from there, because who wouldn’t get upset? I’m allowed!
The idea of so-called Gratitude Journaling has never appealed to me as a regular practice, because I fear that it would become perfunctory and routine and lose its efficacy. But sometimes I just need to stop and take inventory of the good. Like today. Stream-of-consciousness appreciation… GO; 10 things:
1) One of my new favorite things to do is hug Monkey and then try to pick him up while I’m hugging him. It used to be easy to swing him up into my arms. Now I’m lucky if I get him three inches off the ground before I gasp and drop him back down. He laughs the whole time. I wonder how it is possible that he’s grown so much this summer. It gives me hope in ways I dare not articulate.
2) This week we had homemade Cherry Garcia ice cream (from the Ben & Jerry’s cookbook, natch). I am trying to get back to eating healthily after a summer of slacking off, but this ice cream cannot be denied.
3) My local Mellow Mushroom just started serving gluten-free crust.
4) Yesterday Monkey and his BFF spent an hour on the phone, discussing who knows what. I wonder if his parents know how much I love that kid, and how thankful I am that our paths crossed.
5) Chickadee and I have some of our best conversation via Instant Messenger, one room apart. I’ll take it.
6) When I refer to Otto as my better half, I am telling the truth. The best part is that he makes me want to be a better person, every day.
7) While I was writing this list, a hummingbird came to feed on the tree right outside my office window. (I can’t recall having EVER seen a hummingbird here before.)
8) Day 4 of the new medication regime: Chickadee reports that she feels better than she has in months. The rash is gone in some places and fading/flattening in the worst spots. Insert cautious, quiet jubilation here.
9) Part of my whining last night was about missing my old friends. This morning one of them called to ask if she can come visit in a few weeks.
10) There is little in this world I find as intrinsically rewarding as sharing a bowl of popcorn with the dog. THAT is a great model for patience, appreciation, and bliss, right there.
And you know what? It IS enough.
Happy Love Thursday, everyone. I hope you have enough.
There is a book and blog called The Happiness Project which talks about trying to up your happiness when you aren’t UNhappy but just not appreciating your life.
There is a Ben and Jerry’s cookbook? Just the idea of that upped my happiness quotient!
I tend toward downward spiral thinking, too. Sometimes it’s tough to pull out of. But usually something good will happen or something will happen to make me realize what I’m doing and I can see the happiness again. I’m glad you’ve been able to find your happy today.
I used to write notes to my mom when I was an adolescent when there was something difficult I wanted to talk to her about. I’d drop it in her lap from around the corner and then she’d slide her response to me under my door. It was weird, but it worked. If only we’d had IM back then…..
My cup runeth over!
Even only one Thursday a week is enough.
I used to struggle with this – or if not struggle, at least be so buried under surface chatter and routine that I didn’t notice how genuinely happy I was. Maybe it’s that we tend to define happiness as something big, something different than the everyday contentment and soul-satisfaction that we have. One of the gifts of trial by fire is that I know it now. Every day I am aware of simple, ordinary happiness and, because I’m greedy that way and have the feeling this is the one life I’ve got and by golly it’s going to be an interesting one, I actively chase it too.
I’m so glad to hear about #8 and hope (carefully) with you that it is actual genuine progress. I agree with #5 and often find it’s the best way to communicate with prickly teens who do better now and then without voice tone and body posture to take offense at (stop STANDING at me – true quote from my house). And #9? Wonderful! Hoping for a chatful, laughful, HAPPYful visit.
Thank you for the I Am Enough link. I needed that today.
This is an inspiring post. Thank you.
Cautious HOOORAY for #8! You, my friend, make me happy. It would make me so much happier if you were to load up your car with Trader Joe’s goodies and bring them to me. But, you know, just being you is good enough for me!
#8 makes me happy! I hope it keeps working.
I think you’re right that we all struggle with this, and I also think you’re right that it’s harder for some than others. Good for you for your 10 things, and for stopping to smell the roses.
Hooray for #6. I am also married to a fantastically supportive second husband, and it really makes all the difference. Difficult teens and other life challenges are much easier met when the hand is held.
I remind myself that I have so many things to be thankful for and happy about. Like you, I’ve got a pretty wonderful life, minus working for the man sometimes, but he pays well. I like the idea of passing notes as Leandra mentions above. My kids aren’t quite there yet, but maybe it would be nice for me to start writing them notes and leaving them on their pillow or something. Hmmm.
Thanks, Mir! And little quiet clap for #8!
Glad Chickadee is doing better. I haven’t had many of them, but I know how much skin rashes suck. Also, you might try a hummingbird feeder if you want to attract more hummers to your yard. They are fun to watch.
Wow! The timing on this is amazing for me. So amazing that it jarred me out of lurking to say thanks – for posting this, for being such a compelling writer, for telling us such good, true stories.
I think my black, shrivelled heart grew two sizes when I read about the (cautious, possible) success of the new medication regime.
I, too, believe happiness is a choice. BUT. What has been enlightening for me is realizing that sometimes “happiness is a choice” is both more complicated and as simple as that statement. To realize that therapy and medication can be a part of that choice, or that it’s ok to admit you can’t get there through sheer force of will. That it’s not always just something you say and therefore have the ability to feel. I guess I would call it “agreeing with yourself to do what you can to be happy.” Or “allowing as how happiness is a definite possibility.” Happiness can be a lot of work, as it turns out.
Which isn’t to say that I am a rip-roaring success at the moment, but I agree.
Okay, huge YUM to homemade Cherry Garcia and wildly cautious hoorays to Chickadee’s new meds.
I can not tell you how often I read things that you write which I completely relate to. Things you say about Otto I see in my husband and many other things. I completely understand your struggle with dysthymia – and quite honestly it is a bitch. I used to describe it like desperately treading water just to keep my head above. Sometimes exhausting and frustrating. I don’t want to tell you how to ‘fix’ it or anything, all I will say is after many times in and out of counseling and never understanding why I couldn’t be just a little more happy on a regular basis, I found out about toolstolife.com and it has changed my every day life. I am that little bit more happy and more optimistic. It has helped me so much. I blogged about it a week or so ago. I just wanted to share that with you.
Wonderful. Thank you for setting it down.
And for everything else, too.
So glad to hear that the medication is working!
I have struggled with my job lately. I am happy I have a job, but it has been incredibly slow for over a year. I spend my days surfing the net because unless someone calls or comes in there is nothing to do. I offered to work part time but my boss still wants me full time.
…two thumbs up for #8!
As I have gotten older and actually have space in my brain for my own thoughts, I find myself having more moments of overwhelming contentment. Not the full out joy that I see in my children, but those moments are more than enough for me now.
Thanks for another great post, you’ve made my day a whole lot brighter.
wow, how do your posts make me feel so less alone in so many of the things I face daily. Yesterday the literal **** hit the fan, when things tipped the scale. All week I’ve fought this funk, this discontent, this bubbling anger. stupid small things gone wrong, beating myself up because wth, my life is full, my kids are healthy (with the proof in the general ruckus they make at high volume each and every day) – why am I so dang crabby and unsatisfied, why am I not happy mom?? . I have a job, a decent marriage, a home, good neighbors, healthy and good kids. yet I’m not happy – I miss the time to spend with friends, I’m tired of the constant bickering and noise of the kids, the “i want to go here” and the I’m bored cries, the clutter and disarray in my house is out of control, and this summer balancing work and the children has proved I need a new plan for next year because this one isn’t working. So the mess of legos and nerf guns and general crap from one end of the house to another made me lose my mind, scream, cry and end up with a gushing bloody nose and my husband quietly taking the kids swimming to avoid crazy mom. I took a shower, ran an errand that HAD to be done, and came home feeling just a little better. But the mountain is still in front of me and I just don’t know how to face it daily and EMBRACE this crazy schedule of work, kids, home and not slowly lose my mind when I so badly want to embrace it and make it happy – to enjoy the routine, to happily make dinner, to happily find a way to engage my kids to help me clean up, to have playdates and fun outings and an organized life, to be the mom everyone else seems to be able to be without any breaking a sweat. Thanks for this post. Its nice to feel a little less alone in this struggle.
i really needed a love thursday today. it was my first thought upon waking up.
you shouldn’t ever feel guilting for not being happy enough, but if you are having trouble seeing your blessings, read your archives. as the old cigarette ad said, you’ve come a long way baby.
Massive ditto to JennyM. Your #8 makes me SO (cautiously, non-jinx-inducingly) happy. Keeping fingers crossed.
And this is a very well-timed post for me – I have a rather pernicious streak of perfectionism, wherein I often feel like if I’m not happy, then I’m not Doing It Right, therefore I Suck. I know that this isn’t what you meant with your post, but you’ve reminded me that it’s ok to not be jubilant – I’m often a lot more able to appreciate the small things when I stop putting pressure on myself (my cat is SNORING right now and it’s adorable).
This post really, *really* resonated with me. I wanted to tell you that reading your blog every day is part of what makes up my “enough.” HLT!
Here’s for trying to be happy! In our house husband and I sometimes play a game called the Five Good Things game, which helps us to look for 5 happy things that happen each day. They can be ANYTHING. It also means that we have an actual conversation with one another, that doesn’t simply deal with logistics. That is often a 6th bonus thing!
I great big puffy heart love you, Mir. You have no idea how important this post was for me today. Thank you.
Thanks for this, Mir. Alot of times I am happy, however, being UNhappy some time makes us appreciate the happy times. In the words of my daughter, IT is what IT is and I am who I am. Be grateful.
Ditto on the first comment about Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project book–it is wonderful. Not a self-help book for depression, but for exactly the kind of dissatisfaction you describe.
FWIW, your blog has been adding to my happiness since I started reading it in 2005. I hope you find some (more) answers ASAP.
hummingbirds come at just the right time. always. never underestimate the power of gratitude. : ) thank you for sharing this Mir.
And isn’t it pretty great that we all have a community waiting to hear about our happiness (or sadness, rashes and logistics, children and pets, ups and downs, etc.)? That has to be one of the 10 things we’re all happy about.
I deal with some major loss issues but today on Love Thursday I am happy because it is the 10th birthday of my firstborn grandson. He has given me so much joy and since my daughter had fertility problems and very difficult pregnancy & delivery, he is that much more precious to us. The love of grandchildren and my animals make a somewhat bleak existence bearable.
Inspiring. Thank you.
You’ve just given me a much needed reminder that I do.
Happy Love Thursday, Mir.
My 17 year old daughter and I text constantly, even when we are in the house together. It is useful because I can’t see the eye rolling and the mean looks that are sometimes on her face. Win-win.
thank you for sharing… it really hit home for me.
#8 is making me so happy. Hope it continues.
And I know this has been said a million times but your dad rocks. Today his comment made me cry a little but he also makes me laugh a lot. Give him a big hug too
That’s a great list. I, too, try to pick my daughter up when I hug her, but usually we both just end up on the floor.
This is good. This makes me happy :) I will endeavour to be happier today.
Testing with the kid rocks – great communication tool. Thanks for the reminder. Enough is more than enough.
*texting – oops