I have been finding it impossible to be happy lately. I have complaints about everything. The house is too cold. The winter is too long. The rain is too wet. Everything just feels completely out of my control, and I don’t like it one bit. I can’t make my kids sleep when and how long I want them to. I can’t keep them from screaming and crying and fighting. I can’t make the weather change. That probably annoys me most of all. I’m mad at the physics of the universe. The earth’s axis is making me angry. Can’t we be leaning toward the sun already? Man, if it were up to me, I’d have structured things differently.
On top of it, I’m not making any money. I’m a home-maker, a stay-at-home mom, a wife. I chose this. It’s what I’ve always wanted and envisioned for my life. But losing a salary and being home all day with three very small people is truly, unbelievably difficult. And my response to the situation is less than desirable. I thought I’d be good at this. I thought I’d be the super-fun mom who is calm and understanding. Instead, I’m impatient, combustible and harsh, especially on myself. I thought I’d have great planned-out days of learning and nature. Instead I’m still in my pajamas at noon and have crumbs all over the floor. I have this vision of being this crunchy, bread-making, recycling, non-consumer who raises her children to be self-sufficient and resilient. Instead, I am constantly wanting to buy things to make my life easier. I could really go for some Starbucks right now.
And I have a pretty good life. What about children sold in to slavery? What about women in prison for moral crimes? What about women battling breast cancer? What about a loving father fighting a losing battle to have time with his daughter? Why does life have to be so goddam hard?
The other night, as I was standing at the sink washing dishes for the fourth or fifth time that day, I was mulling over my hatred for the task. I was grumpy about how unfair it was that I had to do it. Life is too hard. The teenager inside me was in full tantrum mode. I shouldn’t have to wash dishes. I shouldn’t have to clean my house. I shouldn’t have to change diapers. And suddenly I thought, “Well, if this is not good, then how exactly should it be? How would I change the situation?” Ultimately, the bottom line question is one an old boss used to ask me, “What does good look like?”
It stopped me in my tracks.
Would I not have children? Would I have a job? Would we win the lottery and afford cooks and maids and assistants? Would I have a bigger house? Would I live somewhere warmer? What is it going to take to make me happy?
And as I began to answer the questions, I began to see the things I was complaining about as necessary parts of the life I actually wanted. Anything I removed had dire consequences. A bigger house means a bigger mortgage which means more stress. A warmer climate means moving away from my sister. To quote The Grateful Dead, “Every silver lining’s got a touch of grey.” It’s just the nature of existence. And I can’t fight against nature and the physics of the universe all I want; it ain’t gonna to change a damn thing. If I really stop to consider it, the things that I find the most difficult to handle are simultaneously the most beautiful parts of existence. I loathe winter. But I love the surge of joy that comes when the sun returns. I love the cycle of seasons. I love that the ache in my bones is relieved by the hot, humid summer days. I truly don’t believe I’d appreciate the glory of summer without the difficulty of winter. But I hate it. I really do. I want it to end so badly.
There are elements of life on this planet the need for which I’ll never understand. Why must we stub our toes? Why do toddlers throw food? Why, sometimes, when we try to do something completely good, does it all go so badly?
So, what does good look like? I guess good looks like me coming to some acceptance of the nature of life. It’s hard dammit. “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” I’ve been asking people lately, What is the point of prayer? And the response seems to be that prayer is a way of letting go of knowing, of letting go of control. It’s accepting that we, as humans, don’t have much say in the way things work. And for those who pray, there is a belief that someone is out there with some understanding and good intent. But for me, it’s an acceptance of what is. It’s an acceptance of the very nature of reality. There is no cure. There is no solution. If you want to live, you better get your big girl panties on and fucking deal with it. Stop the complaining. Embrace the chaos. As Jillian Michaels says, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” And maybe it looks like me making some changes.
I’ll just go now and drink my tea with the broken tea bag. I’ll clean while the babies are sleeping. I’ll get down in to the nitty gritty part of existence. And maybe, I can only hope, if I stop fighting and stop complaining, I can find some freaking joy here, right here, on this spot. Serenity Now!!