Happiness is…   Leave a comment

Happiness is a warm puppyCharles M. Schulz

One of the meetups I joined a few months ago is a get-together for separated/divorced people. It’s advertised as a social group, not a support group – although members do provide support, guidance, and advice to each other – nor as a way to find dates. Due to my parenting schedule (not to mention my complete inability to go out at night once I’ve come home from work) this weekend was the first gathering I was able to attend despite being a member since February. It was fun, interesting, and educational all at the same time.

One thing several members said, and I heartily agreed with, was how nice it was to get together with other people who not only completely get where you’re coming from but also to talk with people whose eyes aren’t glazing over as you again complain rehash for the millionth time share everything you are going through.

DISCLAIMER: The eyes glazing over thing never happened with me. (At least with in-person conversations. I can’t swear to phone calls because they’re – well, you know – carried on over the phone. But I’m guessing they didn’t happen there either.) My friends and family were nothing but supportive of me during the whole separation and divorce and have continued to be through the picking up the pieces phase of my life. That said, I also tried my best and continue to try – not to take advantage of their love and kindness. No, I didn’t call you at two in the morning when I was crying and couldn’t sleep even though you said to call any time day or night. Why? Because it was two in the morning. I don’t care how much I needed to talk to someone; I wasn’t going to destroy someone else’s night sleep because my husband decided he didn’t love me anymore. That’s just selfish. And it’s not like the feeling was going to magically dissipate, so waiting until a more convenient time for everyone wasn’t really that big of a deal.

Hmmm. Getting sidetracked here, so… </end disclaimer>.

Anyway, while the similarities helped bond us, there also were differences. While most of the twelve people in the room were the leavees, only I and one other gentleman had what I refer to as the ‘blindsided’ experience. Two people had left their partners – one to get out of an emotionally abusive marriage, the other because the partner didn’t want to take any responsibility for keeping the relationship alive – and the rest had been left but had known the relationship was dying and had either been in counseling or have been having discussions about that fact. Most were still going through the process and were in the separation phase, with a couple having court dates coming up in the not-too-distant future.

A much smaller numberme, and maybe two or three others – had been divorced for a year or two or three. Some of this subset had continuing issues regarding child support or custody arrangements, while the remainder had children who were old enough when the split happened for those issues not to be relevant.

The one thing I noticed – the major difference between myself and the other already divorced people – was that while each of them expressed sadness for the loss of the relationship, they all agreed they were happy in their new lives.

That kind of floored me because I’m not happy.

Now, before anyone starts getting worried about my mental health, let me clarify. I am not happy, but I am also not morose or seriously depressed. In fact, I’m actually more content than I have been in years.

I didn’t realize how stressful it was trying to be the perfect partner for someone who didn’t know and wasn’t able to communicate what he wanted. I had no idea how much pressure I was exerting on myself to take care of just about everything because I didn’t want to be disappointed when things I asked to be done weren’t, and I had to do them anyway. It was exhausting.

There is a kind of peace in not having anyone else to rely on. Yes, it can get lonely, as I have complained here numerous times, but it is also somewhat more predictable, which is important to me. If things don’t get done around the house, it’s not because someone else didn’t find them as important as I did but because I chose not to do them. Or didn’t have the time/inclination/whatever. The difference now is I’m aware of it as it’s happening. I’m not coming home expecting dinner to be ready only to find that not only is it still in its component pieces in the fridge, the breakfast and lunch dishes are still on the table or next to the sink. Surprise!

That said, content is different than happy.

I get flashes of happiness. Waking up in the morning to find a purring cat next to me, times when my son quits being a teenager for a moment and gives me an unexpected hug, the peace I find in taking walks on the mountain paths at the end of my street.

A recent one came at a local science fiction convention I went to with my son. He cosplayed as the Fourth Doctor from Doctor Who. (If you’re not sure what cosplaying is, check Wikipedia’s definition; it’s pretty good.) He fell in love with an adorable, handmade stuffed cat plushy designed to look like a character from a recent MCU movie. As he walked around the con in his costume and carrying his new prize possession, I felt happy. Not only because he was happy – and believe me, he was happy – but because I was somewhere I wanted to be, doing something I wanted to be doing. Having someone I wanted to be there with was a bonus.

Funnily enough, no matter how much I enjoy my job – which I do enjoy… most of the time – I can’t say it makes me happy. Nor does housework or online dating. Or a myriad of other activities, the meetups included. I like going to them – it’s fun to meet new people (something the introvert is me goggles at on a regular basis) – and the activities are definitely fun, but they don’t necessarily make me happy.

There are those who say you can learn happiness. Dr. Martin Seligman wrote Learned Optimism in 1991 and has continued writing about changing moods and outlooks since then. Do I agree with the hypothesis that you can change your brain to change your emotions? I don’t know. I know when I consciously cultivate an attitude of bemusement over time, life becomes less frustrating and more amusing, so maybe it works with happiness as well. Just about anything is possible.

For now, though, I’m going to try to be content with my contentment. It’s definitely better than stress and frustration. And who knows? It might just be a stepping stone to something else. For right now, though, I’m going to go find that cat plushy and give it a hug. Maybe happiness is also a soft, red cat plushy as well as a warm puppy. I’ll let you know.

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Posted May 1, 2016 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

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