A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at the table with the wee ones while they munched on Cheerios or toaster waffles or an equally delicious, homemade (ahem!) breakfast. Big D was swinging his little three-year old feet and waving his spoon in the air. I think I asked him to stop doing both and just eat his cereal. However, I was surprised when he pointed his spoon at me and said, “Mommy, you happy?”
I stared at him. “Pardon?”
“You HAPPY, Mommy?” he repeated as he shoved food into his already full mouth. “Right now? You happy?”
I continued to stare, watching milk dribble down his darling chin.
“Of COURSE she’s happy,” E said (now very wise for her 9 ½ years old). “Why wouldn’t she be?”
Yes. Why wouldn’t I be happy?!?!?
During the course of any given day, I use many words to describe myself — chaotic, busy, listening, thinking, anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, interested, amused, behind — but happy is almost never on the list. I wonder why this is? I suppose it may have something to do with the normal flow of conversation. Normally when someone asks, “How are you?” it’s not really appropriate to say, “Happy!” unless you want them to think you’ve been drinking before lunch.
Which, for the record, I never do. Okay… well, almost never. There was this one time in Las Vegas… Nevermind.
So, the other day I ran into a friend at our local big box store and asked, “How are things going?” She sighed and said, “Oh, fine. Everything is fine! That’s what I’m supposed to say, isn’t it?” “Yes,” I said, “I suppose it is, but how are things REALLY going?”
And the truth comes out. Things are not so fine, it turns out.
I guess most of us find it hard to find the opening to share our feelings and say, I am not happy. It seems especially hard when there is nothing outright wrong – nothing that “justifies” not being happy. Do you know what I mean? There are no extreme financial catastrophes or lingering illnesses or collapsing marriages.
Yet… Happy is not on my list most days.
Why would I not be happy? I don’t know, I really don’t. I don’t understand my funk. I am surrounded by a multitude of blessings. I have fantastic children, a functional house, wonderful family and friends. We have stable jobs and health insurance and operational vehicles. Our parents are healthy; the children are well adjusted (relatively speaking); spring is hinting at the promise of summer after the long MN winter. What is there not to be happy about?
I would not say that I am unhappy. Tired, certainly. Frustrated, irritated, some other words that end in -ated, probably. But unhappy? No. Perhaps, just not happy. And yes, those are two very different things – unhappy or not happy. Although I can’t explain the differences in an articulate and meaningful way… just like I can’t think of those other -ated words that I also am every day.
I don’t remember specifically which day it was that Big D flung his spoon around and asked if I was happy, but I can tell you this about that morning: I had raised my ever exhausted butt out of bed early, positively before 6:00am (more likely closer to 5:00am) to make lunches, check email and possibly start laundry or wash the dinner dishes from the evening before. By the time I sat down for breakfast at the table with the wee ones, I had been up for close to two hours and I am not a morning person. I was most likely making a grocery list or filling out forms for school or making notes about things that absolutely had to get done that day. How do I know all of that if I don’t know what day it was? Because, pretty much, every morning is like that -- even weekends.
I can see why someone might wonder if I was happy.
I would love to say that I’m doing something constructive to get back to being happy, that I’m taking more time to scrapbook or taking bubble baths or God forbid – attempting exercise. But the thing is I guess I only just realized that I was missing happy. I suppose the first step is to deal with all those other things on the list — anxious and behind and frustrated and tired. I think that happy is under there somewhere.
At least I hope it is, because now that I know it’s gone, I really want it back.