When you’ve been friends for a fairly long time with someone, you organically create your own schticks. As TheExHusband and I have known each other for 20 years (!), we have many schticks of which one is where we create songs and dances using melodies from popular songs except with our own lyrics. I have, for example, a dance and song routine when I get ready to shower.
Recently I created a song while waiting for my breakfast to heat up, TEH chimes in with his own lyrics and I start, as one does during these instances, laughing. It was, however, not the canned laughter we typically do when we find something to be funny, which comes and goes as if it was never there in the first place. No, this was genuine laughter that came from my belly and it felt authentic (as much as I fucking hate that fucking word, it applies here). My peripheral vision, my face mirrored on the microwave door, reflected a broad smile.
The days when I found my body beautiful are getting closer together. The return of myself in the mirror showed a face not so much glowing but perhaps calmer. More relaxed. (Except for the greys that are creeping up again (TIme for a new dye job!), I’m pretty satiated with my looks.)
Is this happiness?
The more I yoga, I find my day feels more complete. There is a hop to my step and a harmony to my life, even if I am working from home. Days away from doing yoga don’t feel right. Something is missing. I have a routine in the morning and that routine I must stick to. I like knowing my body can now do some flexible things. When I started back a few months ago, I could only lean half way down in bound angle pose but this week I’ve been able to almost get the girls to touch the floor. Slight change, sure, but it is still something.
Is this what joy feels like?
“Happiness,” “mindfulness,” “gratitude,” “self-care,” “humility,” and another 44 descriptors1 I could come up with in a short amount of time are the hot trends in our lives. A reporter recently asked, When ‘mindful’ is a mayo, a diet, a mantra, does it actually mean anything? and I found myself asking that very same question of my own practice. Is what I’m doing — the meditation, the yoga, the journaling, the being mindful as much as possible — really working or is it some kind of placebo thin band-aid covering up my real (chemically imbalanced) ills? Perhaps it is the drugs and I’m just placing woo-woo around it to make it more palatable to others and myself?
But the real question we should asking ourselves, no matter where it comes from, is doing these things make us happy regardless of what other people think? I can certainly answer with a resounding yes. DBT, which is the science backed set of techniques to make one mindful, works. Yoga keeps me centered and lets me push my body into ways I didn’t think it could — see the aforementioned getting the girls to the floor. The little changes in my life that keep me going strong: the continual exercise (no matter how minute), the quitting smoking, the journaling, the meditation, and for the everything else that is important to me continues to push forward. I have a proven track record of making these things work in the past and I am determined to make them continue on that path. So for me, whether or not someone “gets it” is not important. It’s not important what others think. What is important is how and what I feel as I move my life forward in my own beautiful and fucked up way.
Is this being blissful?
A good friend, C., flashed a comment on Twitter recently about her gentleman caller. Piqued, I wrote her a note2 with only the words, “Who is this gentleman caller??” A week or so later, we gossiped online, though privately, about her new love life. He was a local to her boy. He had pursued her for some time, they met, fireworks occurred, and now they are a couple.
I was thrilled for her. C. is one of those people you KNOW is going to get snapped up by some lucky person and it finally happened. I am a nosey wench so I poked and prodded about their love life, how they were doing, any future plans, that kind of thing. C. and I may both be in our 40s, but it is never too old to gossip about lovers like we did in high school. (There are a lot of things we never grow out or tired of.)
Form C.’s side, there was a lot of swoony hearts emoji when the gentleman caller did something to win her affections. I loved and still love talking to her about him because her happiness is so infectious. C. never struck me as a person who needed others to make her happy but with a new lover, I needed sunglasses from her thousands of miles away glow.
But this is not about that story.
What struck me, and got me thinking the most about these new developments, was C.’s discussion of at least one of her local friends seemed to be getting tired of C.’s delight in talking about C.’s gentleman caller. We’ve all been there – we meet someone we think is the bee’s knees, everything they do is perfection personified, and all we want to do is talk about them. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, everyone who has ever been romantically involved has done it.3 And we all know of that one person or maybe several who get tired of our nattering and want us to quietly shut the fuck up. The reasons for our friend’s behaviour can range from general annoyance or bitterness at their own life.
Just like gushing about our new lovers when we meet them, we are bitter cynics when the relationship ends. We are done for; relationships are terrible; love is a joke and so on. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, everyone who has ever been romantically involved has done it. (See 3 below.)
I totally got where this friend was coming from — hell, I’ve been in that position recently myself and one could argue I’m still there. The last 18 months have been both the most wonderful and the worst in my life. I can still taste the heady high when TheBassist and I found each other again and I can still feel the deepening well of pain when we split. I’ve seen both sides of the coin in such a short amount of time, I could commiserate.
As C. and I talked about her gentleman caller, I mulled over the info she dropped about her cynical friend. I cannot lie and say I didn’t feel these feelings myself at that very moment — I fucking totally did. But a new thought came into my head as we talked: Was C. happy? Yes. Was her happiness important to me? Also yes. Why was I letting my own bitter heart take away her moment? I was being selfish and laying my own heartache to dampen C.’s excitement for gentlemen lover. Was that fair? Fuck no. So then I stopped.
Seriously, I just stopped thinking bitter and cynical things about my own life in comparison to hers. It wasn’t getting me anywhere. Was I bitter and angry at my own les amours? Yep. Was regret hanging out somewhere there too? Probably.
But this wasn’t about me, it was about C. Making it about me was one of the worst things I could do for her and it needed to be about her. I was also mindful this was not some kind of manipulation on my own part about the situation. I didn’t tell her what was running through my head, I didn’t give her lip service about her dating life, I just let her be and encouraged her to tell me more about her gentleman caller because it made her happy.
Is this humility?
Back to the posited statement and also a question: How does one just shut the fuck up and be happy? As you’ve probably get the gist of my thoughts on these topics lately, I hate, HATE, websites and authors and etc who slap on a one size fits all balm on what makes someone happy, grateful, or whatever. We’re told over and over again happiness and the 48 other terms are ours for a short step away. Do this thing. Buy that thing. Wear that thing. But our happiness is not one size fits all. What makes C. happy doesn’t necessarily make me happy and vice versa. We can be supportive of that person’s happiness but we are under no obligation to replicate what makes them happy in our own lives.
What these gurus also fail to tell you is happiness is hard work. It’s fucking really hard work and it will never fucking end. It will be painful and you’re going to want to smack people in the head. There will be times when jealousy reigns supreme or envy takes over your heart. You’re going to be spitting nails at your lover or willing your boss into a cave deep in the mountains.
And you know what? This is normal. Happiness is not a 24/7 thing. We’re human. We’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to fall down. A lot. You’re going to have days of glory. A lot. But what you do with what you learned, like me figuring out C.’s happiness in that moment was number one thing, is what’s going to make all the difference in the world.
And remember we are not perfect.
No matter what that guru tells you, we are not perfect. But do look for the times when small joys, no matter how silly they may seem, make you smile. That is happiness. Whether it’s the smile of the stranger, the look of a lover, or the smell of freshly cut grass. The goal is to bridge more of these small things into larger and longer things. Look for those moments because they are everywhere.
And that right there, is the big fucking key.
And if you need a reminder, just learn to:
When TheBassist and I began again, he kept talking about coming to fetch me from Michigan to East Coast because that is what he does. I thought it charming and enduring but as the time moved forward, I could see his frustration. I kept leaving and he kept fetching me. The cycle was never ending.
I kept leaving and he kept fetching.
When the relationship ended, I remember he commented he needed to advocate for himself. Now, six months later, I understand what he meant. In that time since then, I held strong to the belief that it was I who needed to fetch him. Even if he kept leaving, I would always fetch him.
Today as I was running errands, a thought occurred to me that it was not one fetching the other. No, it was me fetching myself. He couldn’t do it. My therapists couldn’t do it. I had to do it on my own.
In that second I smiled and I was happy.
1. I am not joking. I have a piece of paper with 49 descriptors in that same vein on those related topics. And I’m sure there is more.
2. By “wrote her a note” I mean I put pen to a notecard, put the notecard into an envelope, added a stamp, and tossed it into a mailbox to wing its way to her. Not only is she an online BFF, she’s also one of my penpals.
3. If someone has taken a lover at some point in their life and has not bragged near and far about their partner, they are lying through their fucking teeth.
4. While I have been diagnosed by at least four separate doctors over 25 years I am bipolar, ADHD, borderline, and have general anxiety, what sets me apart from others with my gifts is I don’t exhibit traditional destructive behaviours. I don’t drink, do drugs, have wontan sex partners, or anything construed to dangerous. This is why I am a science experiment.
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