This is a saying I heard once, from some stupid movie. I think it had Ethan Hawke in it. The movie was worthless but I loved the saying. I grasped on to it. In my 20's it was my mantra. It's a nice thought but I don't think it is real or possible or even what we should strive for. It's setting ourselves up for failure really. Later in my 30's I read an article. When Sandy Hook happened I read this article about one of the victims mothers. Noah Pozner his name was, the boy was Noah. His mother, she said she was his mother for the good and the bad. She said had to be there to identify his body no matter how horrific it was. I thought- we must be here for all of it. We must live and embrace the good and the bad and the horrific. The article tore me to shreds on the inside. It also made me grow.
Rick and I have been talking lately about happiness. It's a topic, that since I gave birth 12 years ago has been heavily on my mind. Immediately after I gave birth I just kept thinking when does it happen? When does the pure happiness come? Like a movie where the mom just stares so lovingly at the baby and seems blissful. It didn't happen like that for me. What is happiness? I thought about how to have it, how to keep it, how to define it, what causes it? I have come to some pretty substantial conclusions. First one is that Happiness is not a constant state of being but rather a destination that you arrive at an leave on a regular basis. I don't feel like you can be consonantly happy unless you are on drugs or are mentally ill or lying about it. (I'm only half joking..) Second one is that Happiness is a goal. It's a place we strive to be. I don't feel like it's a place we are allowed to live, only to visit. The key is finding ways to visit often and to stay as long as you can.
I also feel like there are three levels of this happiness.
Level #1 is "Contentment" - which is where you are feeling good, nothing is upsetting you, nothing bothering you, you have a smile on your face, you are content. It's sort of like floating. Or maybe try to imagine you're on a nice stroll in the park and you see like a turtle or a cool butterfly and your kids are playing and no arguments are happening and there is a breeze and your husband leans over and says, "You look like you've lost weight and oh by the way all the bills are paid for this month." You feel extremely content.
Level #2 is "Happiness"- which is like more intense. Like imagine that same walk and you see a colony of monarchs in that park. Your kids are not only not arguing but are really being ultra kind to one another and helping each other see the beauty in life and there is not only a breeze but it smells of lilacs and oranges and your husband who looks surprisingly like Brad Pitt says, "Damn baby you look like you've lost 50 pounds, and oh by the way my parents died and left us a comfortable inheritance so the bills are paid and we are vacationing next week." You feel so happy!
Level #3 is "Bliss"- far more intense still and much more of a rare occurrence. Bliss is not just a park but like the Tuileries in Paris (with no tiny Eiffel Tower salesmen), and you see like every tree is filled with a menagerie of butterflies of all kinds and colors. Your kids are laughing and holding hands and turning back to look at you waving grade cards with all A's on them. The lilac orange breeze is blowing through your hair which is totally perfect today and you are eating macaroons and gelato which are totally fat free and calorie free as well but still somehow taste great. Then your husband who looks almost exactly like Chris Hemsworth leans over and says, (in and Australian accent because duhhhh..) "I want you with the passion of a thousand volcanoes, you perfect woman, and by the way we won the power ball and right now it's 336 million so after taxes we are fucking loaded, and my parents died." You feel freaking blissful!!
These are my three stages. It's only a theory but at 44 it's where I'm at and I think it's a pretty accurate theory. So I'm going with it.
I spend most of my time trying to be in one of these states. I think about the things that I do and the people whom I surround myself with. Do they bring me to these places or do they take me away from them. I spend time really being present, acknowledging when I am feeling these things and when I am not. Now we all have to work, we have to pay bills, and drive in traffic, and shower, and grocery shop and these things are utilitarian and we just have to do them. We all have to attend funerals and experience loss. These things are a part of life. And honestly, ask yourself this, If you did not know extreme unhappiness would you recognize bliss? Would you appreciate bliss? It's like Christmas. It can't be Christmas every day. Sometimes it just has to be Tuesday.
I am focused on the things that we get to chose to do. Like in our "free time" ( I hate that saying.) Like in the evening or on the weekend or on a day off, what makes me feel happy? I have narrowed it to a few things. Water related activities make me happy like swimming, dipping my feet in the ocean, reading near a lake, listening to waves crashing. My immediate family makes me so happy. My kids laughing, saying funny silly things, watching them be loving to one another, seeing them face life and come out on top, just talking to them. When they call me "mom", it makes my heart feel full and happy. Lying next to my husbands warm body at night. When I make him laugh. I love his laugh and when I cause his laughter, I feel supremely proud of myself. These things bring me happiness. Kittens make me happy, no explanation needed. Traveling, and seeing new places makes me happy. Something that I have never laid eyes on, something new to me, something profound changes me and makes me feel happy. Poetry and really beautiful song lyrics make me happy, when a person crafts words into emotions I am drawn in a left feeling such joy. Modern art makes me happy. Rick says he doesn't understand it, but I have to tell you that when there was a giant fried egg on the median of Roe Blvd. I loved it. That sardine can piece in the Kemper makes me happy. Seeing modern art or gorilla art always makes me smile. Flowers make me happy. It's inexplicable really. Sunflowers bright and big and yellow, lilacs sweet smelling, roses beautiful and thorny, daises so youthful and innocent, clean looking pale hydrangeas all make me happy. My husband brings me these yellow roses with orange brims for every holiday. They were the roses from our wedding. I love that he remembers and it makes me so happy.
I'm writing this because, this weekend I was totally aware that I was in a state of bliss that might be one of the longest lasting periods of bliss I've ever had. My family went rafting down the Niangua river. We slept in a tiny cabin, close quarters. All cozy together we made dinner over a fire and to kids all slept in one room except when Finn had that bad dream and came to sleep with Rick and I. Even that made me happy- I'm greedy over those moments when they NEED you. Not just want you to be there but really need you to be there. I felt carefree and singular in an odd way, as we were five but one as well. We worked together to make the raft float straight down the river. We laughed a lot, we talked to each other. We floated in the water down the river in the current like a roller coaster ride. My kids were laughing. The water was cool and perfect, the sun was warm, the birds and bugs were a chorus and all of it was for us. I sat on the edge of the raft with one foot in the sweet water and just felt bliss. These people are mine and they bring me so much happiness.
I don't live in a state of happiness but I try every day to get back to that place; to find the things that bring me there and to focus on them. That is what happiness is- that is my theory anyway.