I was watching a tivod episode of Oprah yesterday, where she had Goldie Hawn on. And they were talking about happiness. And I hadn't watched it and was going to delete it because seriously, give me a break. I get that Goldie is happy. I have never seen her with anything but a Joker smile plastered across her face. But really, why the heck wouldn't she be? I mean, money out the wazoo, a body that looks like that of an 18 year old, a life partner who is hot as snot, and gorgeous kids. I didn't think I would learn much from the show. But I turned it on, because I think the other options were the episodes where kids were raped by their fathers, and Suze Orman is telling Octomom how to get her finances in order, and I can't honestly say which of those sounded more depressing to me at the time.
So, I turn on Oprah while Garrett is napping, and I did learn a few things. That happiness is 50% genetic, and 50% conscious behavior. So, I can choose to be happy...or unhappy...regardless of what my genes are doing. I don't know that I want to be happy all the time. I think that people who are are kind of scary...to be honest, that has been me in the past. It's denial. Life can throw you some curve balls, it can royally suck the big one sometimes...and I think that wearing a fake smile and pretending that crap don't happen is not very healthy. I personally think that it is weathering the storms that makes the sunshine on the other side such a welcome site.
It's hard though when you're going through the rough patches...and you want to be authentic to the feelings that you are feeling...but when your book group asks you what's up, you also don't want to be that loon who opens up a torrent on them about how you hate your husband slash life and you wish that you could have a do-over on life. But honestly...wouldn't it be great if some mom really DID say that? I mean, how great would it be to know that other moms are thinking exactly what you are thinking, and still surviving, and learning, and coping.
I wish there was a support group for survivors of marriage, and toddler years, and adult acne, and houses that are not renovated even though they should be, and traveling husbands, and teeth that need cosmetic dental work, and people who have mothers..and mothers-in-law, and people who wish that they could read the New York Times from cover to cover every day but instead tune in to The Real Housewives of New York.
So on Oprah some happiness expert who was not Goldie, said that joining a group that forces you to meet monthly is as valuable to your well-being as a raise that DOUBLES your salary! Can you believe that? Also, he said that if you commute an hour or more each way every day you have to make $40,000 more to make up for the happiness that is lost in that commute. But back to the monthly meetings- I totally believe that. Humans are social creatures...at least most of them. And I know that I am happiest when I am plugged in to my community..my friends..my kids..the world. When I feel cut off and alone, it's like death to me.
So, I was talking with my friend Tiya, and we were talking about putting together a running group...and then I was thinking about putting together a weekly current events discussion group for women, and then I thought about a babysitting co-op, and then a spouses book group, and then how I should get to know my neighbors that I don't know...and I started to feel happier. Just the thought of connecting made me happier.
I do know that for myself, the single best thing that I have done for my well-being in the last year, was help to get a book group going. The women are intelligent yet worried that they're screwing up at times, in love with their spouses and kids yet occasionally hate their guts, happy with their lives yet sometimes miserable, thoughtful yet occasionally bitchy. It's been a COMFORT to have them in my lives. To have the constant friendship and connection.
I took Dalton, Shelby and their friends Jack and Hanna sledding today. The ground was soupy. It had recently snowed, but it's also been so warm that alot of the snow has melted. The hay bales that they put out to stop the kids from sledding in to the road were soggy. There was grass and hay peeking through the snow everywhere. There were mud puddles every couple of feet. They climbed the sledding hill and came speeding down, over the jump, and right into a giant mud puddle. It was like Splash Mountain. They loved it. As I looked up at the blue sky, with puffy clouds quickly shifting form and passing above, I thought that it felt like spring. And then I felt happy...and then I felt sad. A melancholy sadness. Because I think that it's the end of an era in our family. The end of hard. I know that the teen age years could very well put me in the grave. And old age...I don't even want to think about it. But the days where we are toting around diaper bags, and cursing if a sippy cup is lost, while trying to head off oncoming tantrums with dog-and-pony-shows might soon be behind us. That is bitter sweet.
Oprah's expert had talked about how having kids didn't make people happier. And sometimes it made them less happy. He said that people often reported being happier with their kids when they turned 18. And I get that. I don't think that it's that we are happy because they've left the house. I think that maybe it is that you can finally stand back and look at the big picture and breathe. And I think it's probably at that point that you realize that all along, even during the "hard" you were happy. That happy doesn't equal easy. But that the work that you put in pays off in such a big way.
I am already feeling that- that this hard time that has been heavy for me has been worth it. And that those times where I have wondered if I had a shred of happiness left in me, has actually been a joyous time. Like the Boston marathon, I feel like I am just passing over "heartbreak hill" and even though there is a lot of road left to run, at least the steepest and most intimidating part is behind me. It's going to be a good spring. It's going to be good because even if there is some mud and slushy areas, the ride will be wonderful.