Watching the Golden Globes (or some of it anyway) the other night, there was a clip of a movie where the actress said something along the lines of “If you want to know the fastest way to feel depressed, try deciding if you are happy.” I can’t remember who it was or what movie. All I remember was thinking “Amen, sister!”
In that notion, you are analyzing if your life is measuring up. Are you truly happy? What would make you truly happy? Chances are before you went down that thought path, you felt a hell of a lot happier. I know I usually have because when you go down that road, you get more focused on what, realistic or not, may be lacking versus what’s going right. How could you not feel worse?
It all starts out innocently enough wondering “am I really as happy as I could be?” This could also come in the forms of wondering if you are where you should be in life, doing or not doing this or that, or if you could be so much better/happier if only you were this or doing that. Usually this type of self-examination comes on the heels of some sort of unrealistic comparison you make to yourself and then it all circles the drain from there most of the time.
Innocent musings on the state of your life can quickly deteriorate. Was my happiness before I started thinking about my happiness this just an illusion or was it simply my ignorance to the shambles that is my life? Is my life in shambles? How could I let my life get into such a shambles? Dear God, why did I ever start wondering if I was happy?? Ok, this is a slight exaggeration, but seriously, we have to stop this, though if you figure that one out, let me know.
It seems instinctual for many women (and probably men), at least those that I know, to never be truly satisfied with their current state. There is always something that can be better and we are simply falling short in this way or that. It’s so excruciatingly frustrating and yet, like watching an episode of Vanderpump Rules, for example, (don’t judge!), you just have to see where it goes, however painfully bad. You can’t help it.
It seems that so much of our lives involves comparisons. Are we as happy and accomplished as the next person? Is our relationship as good? Do we have as many/enough/the right friends? Are my kids as successful and happy? Social media only amplifies this at times and gives us another means to judge ourselves unfairly (in my opinion). We know, intellectually, it is veneer but see it enough day in and out, and you can't help but drink the Kool-Aid a little.
So what do you do? We are humans. We will never be perfect. Yep, we know that but why then can we not stop ourselves from finding yet another reason to beat ourselves up for falling short of being the best parent, most amazing whatever? I wish I knew. However, on the flip side, sometimes these moments of self-examination can be a good thing and in fact, the best thing that could happen to you.
There are times these questions invite the kind of decisions that change your life and give you the courage to do something that defines your path. Sometimes these questions simply give you enough clarity to see what nags at you and forces you to be honest with yourself.
For me, that moment was when I decided to take, what felt to me like, a bold step to see a fertility specialist over five years ago. I felt the nag that something was missing, something that would always feel like it was missing.
In this situation, it was wanting to have a family and while we had been unsuccessful for two years, there was still a path, albeit much more difficult, that we hadn’t taken yet. We had known people who were in similar situations and they decided they were ok with being childless and could be happy any way. I didn’t feel that way myself and acknowledging that feeling, along with some good advice from a dear friend who had gone through something similar, gave me the courage and clarity to see what I needed to do. I’ll never regret that moment, even though it was one of the scariest choices of my life.
Now, that said, I’ve had far more other moments of wondering what life was about that just circled the drain, led to nothing but feeling like crap for a little while, and then ultimately I got over it and got on with life. So, really, this can go either way.
To put it in the mom context, there is definitely a worry about happiness, though it’s often more about my child’s than my own. That’s not as noble as it may sound on the surface and in fact, as time goes on, I’m trying hard to also have some focus on what feeds my soul, as it will make me stronger, more patient, and a better parent for my daughter. It’s a work in progress as well. My hope is that my child will grow up seeing a person who prioritizes the needs of those who are most important, and isn’t a martyr about it because she tries to make herself happy as well. Unlike some ideas of what will make us most happy, this, for me, is the best (and not unrealistic) ideal that I work toward. Baby steps on that one, but hey, you have to start somewhere.
Of course, in all that “what makes her happy” stuff, I worry about what my child will remember about me and about my relationship with her as she grows up. I recently have been up for a job that could potentially mean more money, but the trade-off is that I would be gone over half the week, twice a month, plus international travel at least twice a year. In looking at what makes me happy, seeing more of the world would do that. However, the trade-off of being gone more isn’t as appealing. Though I have realized it before, situations like this remind me that it’s not only “am I happy?” it’s “is she happy?” or worse, “will this make her unhappy/resentful/in search of a therapist”. Guilt. Ugh.
So, can we stop ourselves from constantly, either consciously or subconsciously, wondering if we are happy, doing enough, in the right place, as good as the next person in whatever way you feel is important (making organic cupcakes, getting to school on time, whatever)? Eh, probably not. We are human, after all. For most of us, complacency just isn’t in our DNA though maybe in some ways, life would be easier if we could just be content, but who are we kidding. Regardless, next time you start down the mental highway to hell, have your chocolate and your guilty pleasure TV show on tap, and just know no matter what, we all are just doing the best we can. Even you, Ms. Life in Shambles.