I was standing, baby on my back, hanging laundry on the line. The girls were playing “The Wheels on the Bus” on an old saw horse in the yard while the chickens scratched for bugs and the goats munched contentedly nearby. The air and the day were just so peaceful and I sighed to myself, “This is the life”. The life for me, as I am heartily aware that my provincial life is the last that some would want.
And then Cecily fell off the saw horse and needed comfort, after which we found ourselves holding hands, Aneliese, Cecily and I, walking across the pasture and up the laneway. I tell you, we were Waldorf, un-schooling, country-living textbook perfect. Blog worthy. My cup overflowed.
Once back home, my new four year old reverted to an intense three year old I’m-mad-and-you-will-take-notice moment. Well, make that many moments if you must know. During which time I found myself sighing a completely different, “this is the life”. We had been having so much fun and were so happy, why did it have to be ruined?
Happiness. It is such a good feeling. I love it. I crave it. And it taunts me with its illusive nature. I know all the rules; I know that a well-lived life isn’t always one that appears happy. I know that peace and joy are possible even in the unhappiest situations; I have even experienced that. I am well aware that happiness isn’t found in how much you have but I often think that I will find it in having less which isn’t true either. I even know that the importance of life isn’t about being happy and I know that I will never be happy all the time no matter what happens. I really believe all of that. But I want to be happy. I want that “I LOVE life!” , moment to last…forever. I want to look at life with a rosy view all the time, but I can’t and I resent that.
My children aren’t going to make me happy all the time. My husband isn’t going to make me happy all the time regardless of how he may try. My stuff and lack there of certainly won’t. Life isn’t always going to be a stream of perfect moments.I not going to be happy with myself all of the time or even most of the time. Without a doubt, there is plenty of ugly stuff in the world to make one unhappy. There just isn’t enough happy to go around.
So then I want to view life differently but I just don’t know how. I want to know how to milk every drop from the rosy moments without resenting them when they are gone. I want to know how to go beyond viewing the “happy times” as the peak of my life. I don’t want the shadow of, “I’ll be happy when ______” to dictate my days. I want peace and joy to be real and not just replacement words for happy. I want to make wholeness my life work rather than happiness.
Now I know that this is the point where I should tie this all up in a neat packaged ending and if I could, I would. Perhaps one day I will change the ending; some day when I have my answers. In the meantime, perhaps you, dear readers, have some thoughts to share. How do you approach life? Is it happiness that you seek or have you found something different? Are you able to embrace those times of happiness without them being your end goal?
I must add these thoughts. Please don’t read this and think that my life situation is unhappy or that I am unhappy in it as that is far from the case. Please try not to read and think that I’m complaining or ungrateful. To be sure I have those times, but my point is that what I long for isn’t dictated by life circumstance. Also please, know that this isn’t an expression of a loss or lack of faith in who God is, but rather an expressed desire to face my questions and longings rather than hiding from them. It’s my journey of living.
I was relating to you as I read, Marissa… I have the happiness roller-coaster as well! The way I am learning to level out its ride is through thankfulness with every moment: wee or ginormous, sparkling or dull, glorious or just plain rotten! It changes the lens that I see life through and it enables me to wholly embrace and savor every bit of time. It’s such a learning process! An author whom God has really used in my life addressing this is Ann Voskamp, of “One Thousand Gifts”. I would send it to you and dozen other people if I could, but all I can do for now is recommend it. I hope you can get a hold of it: “The dare to live life fully, right where you are.” Shalom.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have heard many good things about Ann voskamp’s book over the last couple of years, many people have told me that it really changes their perspective. I’ve yet to read it but I really should some day.
Loved this and recommended it. I think we all go through these moments and un moments of the dance with happiness. It’s normal but worth some thoughts. Some of my best moments leading to happiness involved heart wrenching sobs or awful realities…so in answer to your question…No I don’t search out happiness…when I do I become restless. I search out meaning and balance. I search out both the bad and the good because between these two things my mind finds solidarity and I am not disappointed. Yet, I still struggle. Ironically when happiness comes I am the most disenchanted with life…because those teasing moments gave me the illusion that I deserve it all the time. Which I do…in an unbroken world…so that is not a bad want. It’s just unrealistic to me and it takes me from the mirror of enchantment to broken glass. Tastes of heaven are teasing but needed. It’s always a paradox I think. But what do I know? Really, not much.As for gratitude Quoting Momastery”
“Life is Brutiful. And/Both. That’s the thing. In every moment, things are both awful and good. Our children are healthy, but our friend’s children are not. We got a big promotion at work, but our beloved father is sick and not getting better. We feel blessed to stay home with our kids, but we really want to run away from home sometimes. We feel blessed to work and have good child care, but we miss our kids and feel guilty some days. We have beautiful homes, enough food on the table, and decent health care- but most folks don’t. We have healthy bodies, but we’re ten pound overweight. We have thin bodies, but they won’t work right.
And everybody’s always telling us to BE GRATEFUL BE GRATEFUL BE GRATEFUL and there is something to that. But for me, gratitude comes in moments, all encompassing, out of time moments- Kairos moments- and as a general knowing in the back of my head and heart. Gratitude is not always front and center for me. And I don’t want to be bossed or guilt-ed into gratitude. Life is beautiful, and there is much for which to be grateful. But life is also tough. The big things are tough – like I’m sick, and I’m not getting better, and the little things are tough, like – WHY IS THIS PLAYDOH SO FREAKING HARD TO OPEN? The big and the little stuff get me down. And that’s okay. No need to be grateful all the time. Really, it’s okay to notice the brutal. We can feel it, sit with it, and allow ourselves to acknowledge it. It won’t swallow us up forever, if we let ourselves go there, we’ll eventually see the beautiful again. We don’t have to feel grateful all the time, even if we’re living pretty sweet lives in comparison to the rest of the world. Pain is pain, and we all get the privilege of feeling it.”
That is how I felt about the above book ( Anne). to me it did not help but I can see why it would help many others. Its for a selective audience I guess and I still view it as beautiful but the concepts on gratitude missed some of what I believe is growth. But you may really like it and if you do- you should:)
I think you hit it exactly, “because those teasing moments gave me the illusion that I deserve it all the time” and I think that is where my resentment comes from. I read the post where you shared the momastery quote the other day and really appreciated it. (I don’t comment much these days both for lack of commenting time and computer, it is just frustrating to comment using my phone.).I think that I would like to read the book although, I admit I don’t really relate to her blog which is why I haven’t to this point. I do have some dear friends though who took so much from it and have really shown me a different perspective on dealing with pain and brokenness from a perspective of gratitude but not in a cliche kind of way if that makes sense. So even if I haven’t read the book and even if it doesn’t speak to me, it has spoken to me through their lives.
Oh and thanks for sharing this post on your blog, I am glad that you appreciated it!
I love this, Missy. Love your description of the picture-perfect and how quickly it transitions to the crazy-hard. I can so relate!
I think the struggle that I am experiencing with the rapid transitions between the beautiful-perfect and the stretching-difficult is that because I need to always be prepared to handle the whining/drama/disobedience with calmness and grace and gentle love, it is harder for me to fully enter into the moments that are wholly beautiful and wonderful and delightful, when everyone is joyful with the happy freedom of obedience and grace. It’s not cynicism, exactly, but it’s like I can’t completely enjoy it, because I have to be prepared for what may come next.
So I don’t know if that really ties in with the questions that you asked or not. I think my problem is not that I am seeking happiness overmuch, but rather that I’m not enjoying the beautiful moments while they last. I’ve been choosing lately to enter into those more. When the children are perfectly delighted and entertained by working on a car with their daddy or reading stories with him or riding him like a horse, I am trying to change my mentality from “Okay, they’re happy, I’ll go get something done,” to more of a “Thank You Lord for this moment… and maybe I’ll just sit and enjoy it for five minutes” type of thing. But I feel like it’s an ongoing challenge to be prepared for whatever comes, whether good or hard, especially when it can change from one to the other so quickly. It’s easy for me to become too numb to both.
Haha, I can’t tell you how often I slip into “now I can get something done” mode! I think you may have just helped me realize something in your thoughts on being prepared for what comes next…I’ll try to sum it up briefly as I am thinking it out. I think part of my struggle may be that I haven’t stopped to really realize that small children swing quickly from one extreme to the other, it is how they develop right? So I am kind of swinging with them. Because this already is my tendency to be intensely all there (inside) for whatever the emotion is, it has just become more extreme.
ha, I sure wish I had this figured out. I change daily and it usually takes some major priority overhalls to wake me up when I get off track. The saddest thing is that it usually takes hard times before I find my true joy and quit searching for the ever illusive perfect happy life. The happy moments are usually right in front of me and it’s my perspective that needs a change. I’ll let you know when I “arrive”. Don’t hold your breath though 🙂
It’s true that there is nothing like some hard times to show us where joy is.
I read your blog today and I thought, “Wow, that is really different than my experience.” It is difficult to explain exactly what way I feel differently, and as I try I am realizing that is probably because human experience is more similar than different, and our experiences are probably not so difference. So, disclaimer in place,here’s what was surprising to me. I’m not sure I’ve had many moments I’ve thought about being really happy. Or really missing being happy. Or trying to be happy. I’m not sure I can very easily identify times I was very happy, or really lacking happiness. Of course sometimes I am happy and sometimes I am sad, angry, frustrated and many other emotions; I am not saying I don’t have emotions, just that I never reflected on happiness the same way. I feel like a find it less fleeting, but perhaps less distinct than you describe, and that others seem to describe in the comments others have made. It made me wonder, so I was talking with Oliver about the nature of happiness and temperaments. He said as we talked about it he had an image of people like sailboats with different size keels. Ones with small keels being able to pick up and use smaller breezes, and boats with big heavy keels, dragging and not moving as differently when the winds change. I’m not sure if it is a totally accurate analogy, but an interesting one. I wonder if some people feel and appreciate those breezes more clearly, and others take a bigger gust to speed up and slow down. I don’t put this forward to try to make a judgement on whether one tendency is better than the other, just my thoughts on a different experience and the way people vary, while still being built more or less the same.
I like the boat analogy, I think I may definitely be the small keeled boat:). Even as I was reading your comment, I could think of so many times when I just felt almost giddy with glad over kind of small things, feeling like I would be that way forever and then disappointed when I wasn’t. You are right also, I think, in saying that neither way is better although I often wish that I was more even-keeled (ha, is that where that term comes from?!).I am looking forward to meeting your Oliver some day and seeing you again as well!
We can’t wait to see you/meet you too. We hope to make it out that direction sooner or later. Oliver also has relatives in your end of the country =)