Saturday, April 07, 2007

I'm Not Naming Names

I sit squarely in the camp that happiness is a choice. You choose to be happy or you choose to not be happy. It’s really simple. That said, I don’t always make the right choice. Like with my pregnancy: I could have chosen to embrace it from Day 1. I could have pretended that everything will work out just fine, and not let past miscarriages and failures and horror stories stop me from enjoying every second of it. Instead, I worried, fretted more than Harrison Ford ever did in any of his movies, and wrapped myself in a blanket of anxiety. I lived in denial that this fairy tale could possibly have a happy ending and every step of the way, saw the road ending and not continuing. And now, at 30 weeks, with a belly I can’t deny and thumps I can’t ignore and a whole room dedicated to The Babies and their relatively imminent arrival, I regret not trying harder to enjoy this amazing, beautiful, fleeting time.

But I digress….

It is hard enough for me to monitor my own happiness, so why must I feel an obligation or responsibility to monitor someone else’s happiness? Shouldn’t everyone be accountable for their own happiness and be allowed to make their own choices, good or bad? If someone wants to drive their life into a wall, well, then that is their choice. If someone wants to live a lonely and miserable life and alienate themselves, burn every bridge, close every door, lead a life of reaction and never action, then that is their choice. I can’t coax or plead or beg or interfere or do anything to stop that. I can’t plant happiness in someone else’s garden. And yet I try and try and try and try…and wonder why nothing grows. And like a nasty virus (or weed, if I were to continue the metaphor) this misery spreads and suddenly I feel like I can’t be completely happy unless they (I’m not naming names) are completely happy, too, which will never happen. How ridiculous is that? A self-fulfilling prophecy? An unfunded mandate? A viscous cycle? I let myself get pulled into this undertow—I practically throw myself into it—and then wonder why yet again I am struggling to keep afloat.

The thing is, I like my life. I ended a long-term, not-suited-for-me relationship and created this amazing, great relationship with a woman who I never, ever get tired of and who makes daily deposits into my happiness column. Even through the Dark Days of infertility, when I threw myself into the abyss and chose to be miserable and couldn’t see my way out, she never let go or turned away. I have some crappy, selfish relatives but, more important, I have some loving, caring, thoughtful, ever-present relatives, including some inherited through Nicole. Even one good one makes up for ten bad ones. And I’ve had some rough spots in friendships, but in the end I am left with a core group of people who fill up every nook and cranny in my life.

And yet there are times when I dwell in the misery, and lament the relatives who walked out on me and focus on the friends who did me wrong. It is so easy to get stuck in that mindset and I understand completely how some people get stuck there.

It’s not that I’m so evolved or enlightened or Zen. I don’t have the answers or anything like that. Please. I’m perpetually seeing a therapist or reading some book that promises to complete me and talking endless circles with friends who listen to me howl the same refrains.

But I need to get out of this particular person's misery fugue. It’s their life, not mine. Maybe this person is happy in misery, in some sort of ironic way. Maybe they will change. Maybe they will learn that life is better when you try just a little more each day to embrace the light instead of the dark. In the meantime, I need to remind myself to worry about myself; it is the lesson that keeps getting thrown my way, and will continue to plague me until I learn it. How can I begrudge someone who spends a lifetime being miserable if I let myself stew in that misery too?

And despite all of this—these forays into co-dependent misery and my checkered fertility past and the ended relationships and the lingering pain of abandonment and my imperfect perfect life—I ask myself, would I change lives with anyone in the world? And the answer is always unequivocally no, not anymore.

Pictured above are two of my friends (who are girlfriends) running into the ocean. Well, one is running and the other is sort of walking deliberately, like she has an agenda. I love this picture because it is so metaphorical. Pick your own metaphor. And to me, it symbolizes happiness. It was a really good weekend.


K J and the kids said...

Besides metaphores they look hot in their swimming suits :)

I'm sorry that you are at odds with someone. I hope that they aren't bringing you down with your pregnancy....not accepting these two precious babies.
I'm so glad that you are choosing happiness....and not letting their unhappiness bring you down.

bri said...

I think there are some times in life that some people can choose to be happy. Other times, other people, don't have that choice, in my opinion. I am a strong believer in brain chemistry. If I believed I could have chosen to be happy, I would have to believe that I chose to try to kill myself and chose to spend weeks in a mental institution. That's entirely too cognitive behavioral therapy for me - CBT being the bane of my therapeutic existence. I am sure people do think I chose the whole extravaganza. But they are wrong.

But even though I disagree about the choosing to be happy bit for many people, that doesn't mean I think that anyone need stick around a person who is miserable and miserable to be around and toxic and life-sucking, whether the cause of that toxicity is brain chemistry or choice. I clear those people out. If someone had needed to clear me out for my misery in the past, I would get that.

I hope you are able to have lovely people around you as frequently as possible.

Jennifer said... brought up some really good points. I absolutely agree that for some people it is a chemistry thing. No one chooses to pick a life of suicidial tendencies. CBT, from what I understand, is that whole process where you are supposed to be able to THINK yourself happy, right? I am not sure I believe that either. That won't work for everyone.

By chosing to be happy, I also mean taking the steps that you need to get there, be that drugs or therapy or changing your state of mind or whatever. And sometimes one might to be capable of making that choice or decision. Hopefully, that person is surrounded by caring people who help them get where they want to be. But my point is at some point I think someone needs to think "I need things to be differnet."

So perhaps I simplified things a bit. I really don't think we flip a switch and say "OK now I am happy." If only it were that simple...

gypsy said...

wow. i loved every blessed word and letter of this post, jennifer. and i think more than i loved it, i needed to read every letter and word...

i just recently looked up the poem i am sure you are refences in "cant plant flowers in someone else's garden" [if you arent referencing that, you are psychic!!!]

i lived nearly 1/2 of my life with a woman in my life who was more and more miserable as the years when by. she was my stepmother. she carried this amazing burden of jealousy in her heart in addition to a royally fucked up childhood (being an unwanted pregnancy and repeatedly told so thru her young life, being raped and molested by an uncle for years - parents knowing about it and not intervening and even calling her a whore at times, another rape when she was a young adult) a lot of demons surrounded her. she ended up surviving with multiple personality disorder.

a friend of mine asked in some myspace meme to list "the worst thing that ever happened to you"

to be honest, i could have easily named Her as being it. but i felt that would mean i was acquiessing to being a victim of her hatred and jealously and manipulation thru the years, and i wasnt able to relinquish that and accept that i was her victim. it would give her too much power. did she hurt me? yes. did she threaten to ruin my relationship with my dad and do everything to undermine it even up til 4 days before he died? yes. did she fuck my head up bad enough that i lost one of the most important relationships? yes. does her presence in my life affect my every-day thinking and relating to others? sadly, yes. (i fear it always will) but the difference is: i do not hate her. i have chosen to learn from what i lost and why and to make a good happy life with myself. i choose to still do my best to be a positive light to those i come in touch matter how briefly. i refuse to be her victim as "the worst thing in my life"

i pity her beyond belief. because no one cares about her. she is alone. she was alone at the hospital the night my father died. no one came to support her. my ex drove 3hrs to come sit with me. friends surounded and held me up.

and i may be on the verge of one of the sweetest relationships of my life. and i have to work every day not to let the negative tapes the stepmother put in my head play too loudly. i have to talk over them at times and explain things out... but i am happy. and that is one thing i doubt my stepmother will ever be.