The Key to Happiness

I zipped thru a novel yesterday.  It was just awful.  It was a total steal from ‘Twilight’ – the first 38 pages were almost play-by-play – girl’s mother sends girl off to live with father’s family, girl didn’t really want to go, girl misses warmer climates and is upset with living in an icy north town, girl is uncomfortable with being the new kid at school, girl is clumsy and slips all over the place, girl’s family gives her a car to drive herself to school and make her happier about being there.  No crap, change the names to Bella, Eric, Jessica, and Mike, and you have the SAME book.

And then FINALLY twisted off in its own direction and it got stupid.  REALLY stupid.  There were were-wolves, were-bears, were-tigers… by the time the were-eagle showed up I wanted to throw the damn book at the wall.  People complained about Stephanie Meyers’ writing being bad, but she was freakin’ Conan Doyle compared to this author… who’s heroine had the eloquence of a six-year old, the intelligence of a gnat, and absolutely no powers of observation (hence no use of literary description) in the least.  I won’t even share the name of this piece o’ crap, it was so bad.

But there is one quote I want to share from it.  And no, the lame-brain author didn’t write it, it’s from Thucydides, a Greek philosopher:

THE SECRET OF HAPPINESS IS FREEDOM,

AND THE SECRET OF FREEDOM, COURAGE.

And in the midst of burying myself in a really STOOPID novel just to escape reality to ANY other locale yesterday while the kids were playing outside… well, this really hit me.  Because I really haven’t been terribly happy lately.  In fact, I seem to have lost more and more bits of my happiness over the years, and I wasn’t sure why or how.  I’m no different than the person I used to be… am I?Well, yes, in some ways I’m different.  I’m WAY different spiritually, but that effects your joy, not your happiness.  There’s a big difference between the two.  I’ve got some major joy, but not s’much in the happiness department.  And yes, I’m older and wiser and have experienced a lot more.  That’s life.  But I see happy people my age.  Granted, they’re mostly oblivious, but that CANNOT be the key to happiness.  Although (to be honest) I’d almost come to that conclusion.  That unless you are totally ignorant, you can’t be happy.  After all, ‘ignorance is bliss’, right?

But this!  ‘The Secret of Happiness…’!  I was intrigued.  Stopped and meditated on it for a long moment.  It’s freedom, not ignorance or oblivion that is responsible for happiness?  Does that mean people who are FREE from knowledge and care are happy as a result of that lack?  That seemed to make sense, but I’m NOT willing to be a dumb-ass idiot without a care in order to be happy.  So does that mean I’m screwed?  That logical, aware, alert, intelligent people are doomed to be unhappy?

Hardly.  That CANNOT be the case.  And we’ve yet to get to the ‘courage’ part.  But I was still hung up on freedom.  In what ways am *I* not free, that I might find myself unhappy?  I used to be chained down in a BIG way to the Mother-in-Law, weighed down by the guilt she inflicted, the demands she made, the derision she spewed, the anger her favoritism generated.  But that is over, and – even running into her the other night – I CANNOT bring myself to regret cutting that poison out of my life.  It was VERY freeing.  Just seeing her and knowing that’s GONE felt really, really good!

But what feels heavy?  Have you ever asked yourself what is just dragging you down?  Weighing on your mind, as they say?

I’ve got two.  The first is the kids.  And do NOT get me wrong – I love my kids and wouldn’t trade them for the WORLD… but they are a drain of emotion, energy, time, and money.   All kids are.  That’s just life.  But what I’m mostly talking about is that I am COMPLETELY tied down at the moment because of their age.  We’d like to take them to Great America… but they’re too young.  We’d like to travel… but they’re too young.  It’s the age factor that’s the problem.  I can’t even get away to a scrapbook night, because Baby O is too young.  And I know this, too, shall pass, but this is REALLY heavy right now.  Not being able to move one way or the other.  My theatre group’s doing a show?  I… don’t know that I can leave Owen that long to go see it – he doesn’t take a bottle, and is not the easiest of babies (<< He’s surpassing Lydia, truth be told, and she had severe colic and reflux.)

So I’m here.  Here I am… sitting home, here.  Not going or doing or seeing anything.  Not able to work on projects or even do a major clean of my house, because Baby O has some need issues, and doesn’t like to be put down.  And I know that the house will still be there after he’s grown a wee bit.  I know that the projects will keep… sort of… I mean, getting a garden in would be nice.  Getting out to do some repairs on Critter Corner would be good.  And yes, Brian can do it, but… and here’s the second chain…

Brian just isn’t here for me.  It’s not his fault, and I’m not whining, I’m just stating facts.  His shop is crazy busy.  Has been since… August?  He’s working 12-hour days with 3/4 a day (8 hours) on Saturday and half a day on Sundays.  He’s just. Not.  Here.  And when he is here, he’s absolutely exhausted, and I totally understand that.  The man is dead on his feet, busting hiney at work and collapsing when he hits the house.  Asking him to do this or that or work on things seems like too much, regardless of WHAT needs to get done.  But he loves his line of work, and the economy is NOT good, and you do what you have to in order to make the employers happy, and to bring in an income in case things get slow soon.  Who knows when ‘soon’ will be, but we all know it’s coming, so work is good.  Right?

The problem is that things STILL have to get done, but aren’t because I’m tied down with the kids alone and he’s exhausted and hasn’t got it in him to do them.  It’s a real burden right now.  We’re mired.  And it’s not just projects… it’s getting away, having an adventure, doing something different, a change of scenery, too.

He doesn’t want us to do anything without him, because he doesn’t want to miss anything.  But at the same time, he just doesn’t have the time left at the end of the day… or the energy… so going to the park, a trip to the zoo… things I could do during the day?  Or trips I could make on the weekends – to the lake, to a matinee movie, to the beach, to Grand Haven to walk the pier or run along the surf at the Big Lake…?  I can’t do them without leaving him out, and he doesn’t want to be left out, and I don’t like leaving him out, and it certainly is easier with him along, because of the number of children and they’re young ages…

So I sit.  And I wait.  And wait.  I wait for children to grow, I wait for jobs to slow down, I wait for a husband who has hours and hours before he’ll be home… and I realize… I’m not free.  THAT’S why I’ve lost my happiness.  There’s no freedom in my life!  It’s not about ignorance or apathy, it’s about losing precious life, precious time, just waiting.  Holding.  Staying.  I’m grounded.  Isn’t that – grounding someone – considered a punishment?  And yet I’m not sure how to get out of this.

THE SECRET OF HAPPINESS IS FREEDOM,
AND THE SECRET OF FREEDOM, COURAGE.

The secret of freedom is courage.  This is the answer, I know it.  But I can’t seem to get from A to B.  Is it because we’re afraid of the economy, of losing his job, that we’re mired?  Partly.  But you can’t just walk away from responsibility.  Well… if you were my family, you could, but Brian and I never functioned that way.  It doesn’t feel right.  On the other hand, seeing the MiL was a responsibility we walked from, and it was FREEING to do so.  I… just don’t know.  Ten years ago, yes.  The economy was good, there were other jobs that were less demanding.  Not so much that way, now.

I don’t know what the answer is.  Except something has GOT to give.  I feel like I’m withering.  Wilting.  Like I’m losing life, and I hate it.  HATE it.  I can’t stand that thought, either.  There’s an answer.  I… just need to find it, and have the courage to embrace it.  Thinking.  Praying.  Waiting…

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