I am, and have always been, someone who strives to find/feel “happiness” every day. To live in the moment — to the point where I, a 48-year old woman, (with a nose piercing, but only 2 sets of holes in her ears), have seriously contemplated getting this tattoo’d on my inner forearm to remind me to live in the moment:
(This does, actually mean “live in the moment,” not “one order of Peking duck, hot and sour soup on the side.” I know this because I’ve checked.) (Still trying to get up my nerve. Any suggestions? warnings? Anybody out there want to drive me to the tattoo parlor and hold my hand and hang around for the next 30 years and remind me of what a good idea it was when my skin gets all dry and wrinkly like paper and the tattoo ends up looking exactly like it it is actually an order for Peking duck, hot and sour soup on the side? I didn’t think so.)
Anyway. . .
As you all know, I am also dealing with the death of both of my parents, my father a few weeks ago, and my mom last August. As you might imagine, my relationship with them was probably much like yours is with your parents — I didn’t talk to them often enough, my mom was often “disappointed” in me being, well, too much like me, (I’m not making this up), etc., etc., but I loved them and they loved me and they were my parents, and now they’re gone. Despite knowing that my dad died exactly how he would have wanted to — peacefully, apparently in his sleep, perfectly healthy as-far-as-he-knew one moment, and gone the next — I am still so incredibly sad to have lost him. (And it doesn’t do much to reassure me that the same won’t happen to me? Husband? Heaven help us whoever next.)
I’ve also struggled with having to let go of some of my professional dreams, and am still struggling with trying to find time to do the work I need to do to pay my bills, be there for Only Daughter when she needs me to be, and pursue the other things in life that have always tempted or interested me — namely, I want to read more, knit more, would love to take a painting class, and a photography class, would like to try to write an actual book someday, etc. etc.
Yesterday in my yoga class, a class with one of my favorite yoga teachers, and one which offered exactly what I needed (hip openers!) after having missed yoga for two weeks, the teacher did the opening meditation on happiness. She started with the American Indian/Cherokee story a chief tells his granddaughters, about the two wolves which live and battle each other inside each of us. One of the wolves is anger, fear, resentment, frustration, disappointment; the other joy, happiness, contentment. One of the granddaughters asks which wolf wins the battle, and the answer is “The wolf you feed.”
I started thinking about how much of my energy is spent feeding my resentment towards the people who have wronged me, how I should stop feeding that wolf, but how their petty insecurities have interfered with my ability to really live up to my personal or professional potential, and how letting that anger go is like letting them get away with it, and how unfair that is, and how much energy do they ever spend thinking about me and so on, and so on, and so on.
By the time I left, I was all nicely warmed up and limbered up and felt like I had really had a good yoga practice, physically, and was an absolute mess emotionally; nearly in tears before Savasana, barely able to roll up my matt and depart at the end.
I came home, and Only Daughter was here, as it was still her schools’ mid-winter break. I decided that, rather than do our usual, which is her at the computer watching ridiculous ridiculousness on youtube (Dance Moms! Ugh!) and reading her books and me practicing and at my computer answering emails, etc., we would go see a special exhibit at the local museum. So I shower, and we grab a quick lunch, and off we go.
First I park near what used to be one of our area museums, but it’s now part of a local arts college. Of course, I don’t discover this until I’ve fed every single piece of loose change I own into the meter, trying to eke out 90 minutes. We then drive to the correct museum (which has the name of it clearly above the door, a name which does not resemble in any way the name of the museum on all of the billboards touting the new exhibit), and can’t find a parking space. After driving around the block twice we find that someone has departed, so I do an illegal U-turn, grab the spot, manage to find two more nickels in the bottom of my purse, (I’ll get change when we get the tickets), and in we go. . .but the line is 150 people long, and I have piano students in two hours.
The rest of the day is much like this. I won’t bore you with the details, but it did include driving a long way out of the way to go to an arts supply store, doing extensive research in books introducing painting with watercolors, selecting paints, and brushes, and paper, and getting overwhelmed and intimidated and putting it all back.
After a kind of restless but adequate night’s sleep I wake up with the decision (!) that this will be a better day; I will make it so if it’s the last thing I do, gol’darn’it. I will start this day by writing the name of every person who has “wronged” me on a piece of paper and burning it in a foil tray, and that will release me from their hold on me. I do this. And there aren’t really that many people. And I laugh and think, “that’s it? It seemed like so many.” I start to wrack my brain to see if I can think of anyone else, decide I’m utterly ridiculous, and that’s that.
Of course, it’s not really that simple.
I picture this ideal, where there is this part way down deep in the center of me that is strong and confident and good, like a little tiny diamond carat from which the rest of me radiates; and some days I know it’s there and some days I think it’s there and some days I hope it’s there and some days I just can’t seem to find it, or believe that it ever existed.
But I have everything I need, and my husband and children are healthy and smart and strong, and my problems, in comparison to the problems of the world, are pretty small. I know all of these things. So I make these vows to myself, to be more present, to be more joyful, to be more that tiny little diamond carat and less the dark swirling shadows that engulf it. . .and then my students come and they don’t have their assignment book, or their Etudes book, or they were skiing for the whole weekend and didn’t practice until yesterday; or I will be a better and more patient mom and then I catch Only Daughter eating her fourth snack since school, at the computer, and three of her Tuesday chores not done; or. . .
But today, I wrote an eleven-page paper about a Bach piece that I love and that I will submit for publication. And I got a last-minute gig playing for two gala occasions in area cities this weekend. And I bought myself these boots:
(Alas, I have to wait 30-60 days for them. Not sure why, but I think it’s important not to ask too many questions in cases like this. Of course, my credit card has already been charged.)
(And yes, I know retail therapy isn’t the answer to everything, and that it is not possible to actually buy happiness. But I’m thinking that it might sometimes help. I mean, did you see the boots? They’re red. And embroidered. And the toes curl up in that insouciant manner, almost like a smile. Did I mention they’re red?)