Thursday, April 5, 2012

Risking Happiness

Is it just me, or is happiness is a bit out of style? Images of clean, well-groomed, khaki-clad families running down the beach are enough to make most people gag-- or at least smirk. I don't know about you, but I prefer irony, satire, and grit-- and sometimes happy endings in movies leave me a little disappointed.

I'm not sure how this mentality has come about, but I confess that I am almost apologetic when things are going well. We live in a culture, and especially a city, that loves to critique, analyze, & compare-- and somehow being joyful, content, or just plain happy comes across as shallow, naive, or artificial.

Or maybe I'm just imagining it? I know I have a fear of seeming spoiled, and I suppose if I am
too happy, others might think I've got it easy & resent me. Or perhaps my happiness will some how rub against or call out the unhappiness of others-- like love birds on Valentine's Day making single people feel lonely & bitter. I also have a strange resistance to seeming like the bubbly, put-together Christian mom, and maybe there is a belief buried in there that if I am not just a little snarky or sarcastic or I will be stereotyped into a ditsy Stepford Wife.

And so, it is with great risk & hesitation, that I would like to say: I am happy right now.

My knee-jerk reaction is to qualify that statement with: There are still areas of my life that are lonely, incomplete, broken sad, etc, etc... and it's hard to just allow that statement to lie there, naked and innocent. But I am: I'm happy.

A few weeks ago, Chris & I loaded up the kiddo & spent the afternoon in a quaint little town up in wine country. It was this funny, golden, perfect little day: Nolan didn't throw a single temper tantrum, we sat on this lovely restaurant patio for hours, completely alone and soaked in the sun, just talking & being. We ate, drank, laughed, played, walked, and did nothing. On the drive home, we began reminiscing about the last time we made it up to that quaint little town: I had a week-long migraine, we were up to our noses in home-buying stress, we never spent time alone together, lived in a tiny, cramped apartment, and were basically worn out & empty.

And now, somehow, we found ourselves on the other side of home-buying, a Master's degree (well, almost!), sleepless nights & all the pain of life with an infant. We are settled in a home that we love, spending time together, deeply enjoying our son, doing work that we are passionate about, and our schedules have become more balanced & manageable.

It was like a light bulb went on. It's a funny thing to realize that you're happy. Usually you just feel happy. But it seems that, in so many ways, happiness is a choice, a perspective.

Even as I write this, I am qualifying my happiness-- balancing it & evaluating it-- by thinking of the fact that we have no money, that I am lonely more often than I would like, that we still have a long way to go in our marriage, and that fund raising is not going well. But the more I analyze and qualify, the more that sense of happiness, contentment & gratitude deflates & diminishes.

So, I will make a conscious choice to set aside my fear of being shallow & spoiled, my desire to seem deep, seasoned or savvy, and my compulsion to remember what I still lack... and choose the simple act of happiness. It's harder than I would like to admit, but in the end, I know it's worth it.

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