happiness


I met Rob for lunch yesterday down by the river that flows past town. The last time we were there was to watch the fireworks display late in the evening on Canada Day. The weather was nice. Mostly sunny with that nip of fall in the air when the wind would blow. I had dropped Katy off at school earlier, and she expressed only mild disappointment at being left out. Now that she is back in school, even if only for the half day, Rob and I have a bit of free time to play with again, and it’s so nice to be just he and I.

Funny how the day to day routines and demands can so quickly erode time that was once set aside for the simple pleasures. Breakfast on the weekends. Sitting around the dining room table in our robes munching toast and sipping tea until it could officially be brunch. Curled up on the couch after bedtime stories and rituals have settled down the little one, so we can watch The Daily Show together. Running errands as a family that could have been more easily accomplished alone. Catching up on movies via the bookmobile coupled up on the sofa or bed. Even just walking to the bookmobile together on Wednesday evenings, arms around each other is such a joy. Such simple things, and so easily brushed aside at times by reno work and house work and aqua classes and writing groups. And I am not complaining. We make plenty of time to be “just us”, but the real world can only be kept at bay through willing blindness on yourself for just so long. Still it’s hard not to miss some of the early day routines of first being together full-time. Lunch with my husband however is still a must. Even it isn’t in the park. Even if it is just a phone call on days that work demands its due. It’s important to not go the whole day without touching or talking or saying “I love you.”

Yesterday as we snuggled up on the picnic table bench like teenagers playing afternoon hooky, I was struck again by how really blessed I am and how wonderful he is and how much I love him and being with him. I still worry a bit about the “other shoe” and the “wolf at the door”. It’s hard to have been where I have been and seen the things I have seen and not carry a few of
fear ‘s scars, but in the moment, I have no worries. The sun shines. The leaves whisper like small children practicing indoor voices. My love warms my hands between his own. We are in love, and I am happier, I think, than I have ever been.


Happiness

Image by 4nitsirk via Flickr

From time to time the topic of choice comes up on this grief journey. There is a camp, and I fall squarely into it, that believes that happiness is something you choose. The other side of the coin is the belief that you cannot make yourself “get happy”. The reality, as it often does, lies somewhere in between the extremes. I made the choice to be happy again long before Will died. Happiness has always been the light at the end of my tunnel. If it hadn’t been there. If I couldn’t believe in it. I wouldn’t be here right now. So in some ways it is rather simple. But, in others, it is not. I didn’t wake up happy one day. My decision to pursue happiness actively didn’t get me to the state of bliss quickly. Indeed, I would say that though much of my life is on track and I am quite happy with where I am heading, there are still pieces of the puzzle out of place or missing altogether. The idea that happiness is achieved simply by the act of making the choice is one that is most common in those who refuse to choose. Those of us who have chosen, know better.

 

Happiness is not handed to anyone. There is work involved and in the beginning as many setbacks as there are steps forward. The happiness seekers are criticized for wanting to distract themselves from their grief or avoid it altogether. It’s not possible to do this however. You can’t make the milestones and memories disappear. When I sold the house, it brought out of the shadows the memories of that summer we bought it. Of Will’s rapid descent into dementia. Of learning he was terminal. All the financial difficulties. Worry about how I would care for a dying man and a not quite toddler and still hold down a full time job because we needed the money and the health insurance. I am planning a major move and preparing to marry. I don’t need to go back there right now, but I do. Those memories would have stayed put otherwise. And you might ask, what does that scary time and sad, painful memories have to do with happiness? Aside from provide a contrast? They are a reminder not to take now for granted. To be thankful for the love I have found with Rob and the life we are starting. Because grieving is not just about leaving someone behind, it is also about taking stock of where you are and deciding where you want to be. Some of us decide that where we want to be is stuck. More of us, I think, choose to push through and pursue a course that, though harder at times, is ultimately more rewarding. Grief work is not about wallowing. It is about living. And if that sounds simplistic, it is because most things in life are rather simple. It is we who complicate matters with over-analysis and supposition.

 

“Thinking makes it so” is what I believe Shakespeare wrote in his ode to being stuck in grief, Hamlet. I never have liked that play. I loathe the character of Hamlet. I had a professor in a summer humanities course who waxed endlessly about the intricacies of the character and the profundity of his thought processes. I just saw someone who was more content in rationalizing and second guessing because it was safe. In the great “to be or not to be” soliloquy, Hamlet ponders the question of seeking refuge in death and wonders why he cannot. He surmises that it is the dilemma of trading the known for the unknown. It is the same for those mired in grief. To make a decision to seek happiness is to trade the safety of your known misery for the uncertainty of finding a life beyond it and in seeking happiness, end up more miserable.

 

When you choose to be happy, you are in no way guaranteeing that happiness will be the outcome. Too many variables. However, in not making the choice you are assuring that you won’t be.