Sunday, September 30, 2012

Grief: What Makes A Happy Life?

Here I am, little miss cranky pants, asking what makes a happy life.  I have been writing so much lately about my last nerve being frayed.  The view from the black hole or halfway out of the black hole is like looking in a fun house mirror.  Everything I think is reflected accurately is distorted.  I'm not saying I've become some kind of perky being full of bliss.  You'd all think I was on drugs. 

I have been boring myself silly complaining about the same things over and over again.  It's like rubbing a sore tooth to see if it still aches.  It does.  There are some people in my personal life who have been insensitive and some people I have trusted professionally who have lied to me.  I hate being ripped off.  I miss Artie protecting me, even though I used to complain when he did.  He always had a much better bullshit detector than I do.  It hurts.  It should hurt.  I still believe in feeling what I feel, honestly.  Anger, sadness, hurt.

What I have been ignoring is being able to feel happiness.  Artie is going to be dead for the rest of my life. I am always going to run into people who do not have a conscience or who are too wrapped up in their own problems to think of anyone else.  I am always going to find that some people understand that I am a different person since Artie died and some people don't - or won't.  What I don't have to do is THINK about them all the time.  Artie used to say, "Don't let them live rent free in your head."  I like to allow some time to think about the sad or hurtful things.  I like to curl into bed some times and set the alarm for a half hour so I can feel sorry for myself.  Without realizing it, I have been spending too much time thinking about the bad things and not enough time thinking about the good things.  It's like I have two water holes - one filled with boiling water and one filled with water that is just the right temperature and I keep jumping in the boiling hot one and wondering why I get burned.

What makes a happy life is being aware of the things that make me happy.  My friends.  My granddaughter.  My daughter.  Elephants.  A bad pun.  Artie's pictures.  Memories.  Possibilities.  History.  A good book.  Someone surprising me with a compliment or a present.  Chocolate ganache.  Lions.  Fireworks.  People being kind.  An unexpected smile.  There are a lot of things.  I need to spend more time thinking about those things.  My friend Nick Kemp says, "You are one thought away from a good feeling."  You are also one thought away from a bad feeling.  How can I feel peaceful or calm or content if I keep thinking the bad thoughts over and over again and not make any room for the good ones.  I can even time it.  I can close my eyes and get in touch with the pain when I need to and then open my eyes and see what is actually present.  I can be annoyed at all the annoying things happening for as much time as I need to. Then I can stop and force myself to spend more time thinking about the good things happening.  I'm off balance because I have not been doing anything to achieve balance. 

Another thing that makes for a happy life is to think good things about myself.  I need to notice more the things I am accomplishing.  I don't know if is as important to be a writer as it is to be a grandmother.  I don't need to beat myself up for what I'm not doing - as long as I am doing some things.  I want my life to have meaning.  It can't if everything becomes lost in being critical and overwhelmed.  Maybe being here is meaning enough.

This would be a great discussion to have with my husband.  If he wasn't watching football.  Instead I get to have it with you.  I'm grateful for you.

Something that makes a happy life is that we have the ability to change.  For me, it also means showing up for both myself and for other people. 

What if I already have a happy life and I'm too damn stubborn to notice?   I can be sad and lonely and miss my husband and love him and still have a happy life.  Not all the time - but certainly, more often.  Looking into my granddaughter's big blue eyes and watching her curiousity and wonder is inspiring.  We shouldn't lose that ability to look at the world with a child's eyes.  I still have a lot to discover.  I still have a lot to enjoy.  It's not the life I want.  I want a life with my husband living beside me.  It matters and doesn't matter at the same time.  It's still a good life and I can make it a better one if I use my senses to appreciate things as well as criticize them.  There's room for both.

That's my new outlook.  I'll probably still be cursing and crying.  I'll also be a detective, searching out and finding all the clues to where the happy bits are.  When I find them I won't ignore them, I'll pay as much attention to them as I do to the other bits.  My husband's smile.  It still exists in my heart.  That's the happiest bit of all.  xo


  1. I think you should start enjoying every moment of your life, it automatically makes you happy.There are a number of ways to increase your happiness.

    increase happiness

  2. Peter, I don't think it's humanly possible to enjoy EVERY moment of one's life. Bad things happen, and it's human to feel sadness, despair, pain, hurt etc. At most we should seek peaceful acceptance of what is, and accept our emotional experience at any point of time as part of who we are. And as Jan's friend says, to know that you're only a thought away from feeling differently.