|I stole this photo when I was a teenager from my Mom. I love it because she looks happy.|
Maybe it's no surprise I have inherited more than just that belly laugh that in the wrongest of circumstances sounds more like a dog bark than I care to admit. I also share the propensity to melancholy (at its best) and depression (at its worst.) By the time we were in that car at 15 I had already dabbled in more than my fair share of therapy and joined the half of America armed with a Prozac script. Crowds STILL make me anxious and solitude makes me lonely and insomnia has as of yet been my most faithful bed partner.
But it has been almost 20 years since that car ride, and in those years I have thought a lot about happiness. I have chased it, and I have held it. I have felt it slip through my fingers. I have found it, rejoiced in it, and then immediately felt that crushing fear that I might lose it again. Having a baby is like that- you feel this joy rush in to fill up a void you weren't even aware of, this new love and life settling right into your soul and making itself immediately and completely at home. But with that instant rush of joy, at least for me, came fear- and an almost overwhelming insecurity that I would somehow mess it up. After the birth of my third baby I took that sadness-in-the-midst-of-joy theme even further and was struck with post partum depression, which is what happens when that fear grows so big that it ends up totally obstructing the joy from view.
This pregnancy we tried to put a plan into place in case the same thing happened. It's an odd thing, to be planning ahead for how to make yourself happy. I spent a lot of time thinking about this concept of happiness, what it means, how to find it, how to keep it. And I am starting to come to the conclusion that happiness is a nearly impossible long term goal. Don't misunderstand me, I KNOW exactly what makes me happy. I have been on this planet for 34 years, which is plenty long enough to develop a refined happiness palate:
There are the obvious things that provide my foundation: the birth of my children, the way their little kid breath smells sweet and like innocence, my husband hopeful and earnest bringing me a cup of coffee in the morning while still trying to not wake me up. There's ladies nights and finding an amazing mentor at work and learning to make and appreciate real girl friends. There is knowing that the last thing I said out loud to my mother despite everything else was "I love you too." There is finding the courage to look in a full length mirror naked and not hate myself. And there is the first time I still myself long enough to notice my new baby is staring right into my eyes and OH MY GOD HE IS SMILING.
Then there are the smaller things that I can lay as my bricks- the sun shining through the freshly windexed smudge-free window, the sound of a new bag of potato chips being ripped open, the moment of cracking the binding for the first time on an unread novel. There's new sweatpants and old sweatpants and all the sweatpants in between. There are big bottomed goblets of wine and dark chocolate with mint and realizing I can still do a cartwheel. There is stepping into an almost-too-hot bath and pay day and the smell of garlic and onions sautéing in butter. There are the days the bathroom scale is kind to me and the days my pants look hot on my ass and the moments I pause to catch my breath after a long run and my sweat runs right down my nose and I catch it with my tongue.
But I won't. Because after all, what does this give me? A structure full of MOMENTS. Moments which are of course fleeting in their nature, and arguably the sweeter for it. My babies are growing up, my hormones are settling back down, the edges of my grief are dulling. The fresh bag of chips gets eaten (too) quickly and contributes to lower odds of a morning where the scale is kind and my ass looks hot. Happiness is abundant, if I look for it. It is in the huge things that swell my heart to bursting and the small things that make my eyes well and/or my stomach rumble. My happiness is abundant, but it is not permanent, and it makes no guarantees. No, it ebbs and it flows and it is all the sweeter for it.
Tonight, nursing a baby in front of the Christmas tree, I am happy.
Tomorrow remains to be seen.
And that is okay.