“Stop worrying so much and have faith that things will work out.”
My mother posted this inspirational meme on Facebook yesterday. It fell in my timeline above an article about the skyrocketing rates of depression and mood-altering drug use in this country and below another meme by a mom friend imploring me to remember that every day with my kids is precious and to cherish every moment.
Every moment? EVERY SINGLE MOMENT?
Here’s the thing, and this isn’t a mom blog – I’m about to take a left turn here – but have you even met my kids? Baby A and Little A are two of the most precious, amazing, inspiring beings to ever walk my earth. They’re sweet and kind and funny and their laughs make my ovaries hurt and my heart open like a freshly bloomed fucking daylily.
But my kids - like all kids – are assholes.
They spend at lease 67% of each day fighting, spitting, choke-holding, complaining, whining, putting-their-cereal-bowl-in-the-sink-while-simultaneously-proclaiming-hunger-ing. They are children. They are a GIANT chunk of my world and the source of all my joy. But fun? Cherish? No.
What is the deal with everyone telling me to be happy all of the damn time?
I recently moved to a new state. Brand spanking new rules, home (teensy apartment), car, “friends” (don’t have any yet). New DMV to figure out. New tax laws. New everything. We like new. New is good. I’m basically a modern day gypsy. But this move meant we also left behind a bourgeoning group of people back in Texas. People we knew. A home literal feet from people who had a cup of sugar or would share a cup of coffee in the morning. A place where the kids could play in the street and nearly everyone knew everyone else’s name.
And leaving that? It was brutal. Not just on me this time, but also on the kids. And, to some degree, I think, on my happyshiny husband for whom the world is literally the place he kicks up his heels and whistles while he works.
Since arriving, I’ve received a lot of well-meant advice about keeping up my chin! and how Things will get better! and Remember how much you hated Texas at first? and Just have faith! And these are all true and meant with love – but here’s the thing – I like to FEEL my emotions. All the way through. For me, even in sadness is a sprinkle of joy and it is, in fact, the sadness, that helps my bipolar, busted-ass brain remember the beauty and awe-inspiring grace this world offers me. I am unable to feel the joy without the hint of sorrow that accompanies it.
Did you see that Pixar movie yet? See the damn movie and you’ll understand.
This obsession with constant happiness isn’t something I’ve ever understood – but starting with my casual reading of “Prozac Nation” I knew that something was terribly wrong with the idea that people should always be in a state of Nirvana. The entire natural world is about balance. What even IS joy if it isn’t tempered with sorrow? But most often that translates in my brain as, “What’s wrong with me that I can’t snap out of it? Is everyone else right and I’m being morose? How is everyone else so goddamn happy all the time?”
And then, as these things happen, little A brought me a message from the capital “U” Universe last night.
He’s had a lot more trouble than all of us on this move; with his explosive temper, sadness, irritability, etc. He’s hitting the pre-teen years with a motherfucking VENGEANCE. And that’s cool, I remember that: body all bubbling over with new hormones, aching from growing, brain on fire to be in control of your own life. Again – watch that Pixar movie, mm’kay?
So, he had another outburst and we sat him down and told him we had run out of consequences and we were interested to know what he would do with himself. And he
In painful, emotional, anguished tears. He broke down into a puddle of sorrow right there on the foot of our bed. He misses Providence. He can’t figure out how to control himself. He misses his friends. He misses his freedom. He hates himself that he can’t just get happy. Sound familiar?
And so I held him while he felt it. Big A excused himself to the bathroom because watching mine and Aidan’s simultaneous grief was too much for him, I think. He wants so desperately to fix us, sweet man. But he can’t. He can do what he is so good at doing with me in the throes of my own mental illness breaks – he can hold me while I move through it. Grief like this has to be moved THROUGH not AROUND. It is a constant fog, not a mountain. You cannot detour around your own mind.
So I held little A. And he cried. And I cried. And through our sniffles, we talked about all the things we loved and missed about Texas. Then we talked about all the new things we have in Virginia and how much better it will feel once we also have people here. We made a plan to get through it together. We would find our happy, but it might take a while. We agreed to give it a year.
Happiness isn’t always the goal. It can breed a static mind and loss of sense of citizenship, it can blur the vision and still a creative soul. Discontent drives people toward change and betterment of self. Anguish can clear the mind. Tears can cleanse and sadness can bear fruit. Left alone, it will fester and turn into bitterness, but cultivated and allowed to breathe – sadness turns into a kind of rich, deep soil that will grow up into joy and, I hope, wisdom.
So, next time you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of being with someone when their sadness sets in – I’d ask you to try and hold in that desire to immediately distract them with happiness and instead, hold them while they seek their joy. You might find yours on the same walk through the rich and complicated garden of the human mind.