It only took three days after coming home from China for the question to be raised:
“So, are you happy?”
I knew what my friend meant. Was I happy to be home? Was I happy to be reunited with my family? Was I happy to be sleeping in my own bed, using my own bathroom and drinking out of the tap again? Was I happy to be hearing my own language? And, maybe, most importantly, was all of this worth it?
Was I happy?
In that moment I don’t think I was there yet. Because I was jetlagged and out of my routine and I was juggling a new kid and his needs amongst my own. I was trying to make up for lost time with my husband and the two boys I left at home. I was feeling all of the feelings and happy was in there somewhere. But it wasn’t the only feeling I was having.
I needed some time.
I think most Moms can relate. No matter how you become a Mom, there is an adjustment period. I remember it with my other four. I remember being exhausted, disorientated and a bit anxious. I remember being very happy one minute and very scared the next. I remember taking one minute at a time with my new baby because it was all I could do. I remember people asking me if, “I was just so happy now,” while wondering what to say in response.
What DOES it mean to be happy?
Once I have the job I want, then I will be happy. Once I marry the man of my dreams, then I will be happy.
Once I have the exact number of children that I want, then I will be happy. And when I have my children I want them to be healthy and spaced evenly and have an easy pregnancy and delivery.
The problem with this line of thinking is that we don’t always get what we want AND we could waste a lot of time being UNhappy because we are waiting for IT (whatever IT may be) to happen. And then once IT happens (if and when it happens), we may look around and say, “Wait, this is it? This is what I’ve been waiting or working for? What’s next?”
So should we chase our dreams? Absolutely. But what kind of feelings should we have while we chase those dreams? And, once we have our dream job, family, house and spouse? What then?
Because in reality life is messy. My children (the ones I wanted) sometimes misbehave and the husband (the man of my dreams) doesn’t always respond in ways that I like (because they are humans not robots). In life, I have to deal with a broken furnace when it is below zero out, a sink full of dirty dishes and being caught in a cesspool of stomach flu for what feels like weeks. In real life there are miscarriages, infertility, lost jobs and the death of a parent. In real life circumstances beyond our control get in the way of our happily ever after. So if I only focus on goals and dreams in order to be happy, I don’t think I would be for very long or often.
One might assume that once we brought home our fifth child we must be happy now. This assumption implies that we weren’t happy before. Bringing home a new child isn’t necessarily going to MAKE us happy. We had many reasons for this adoption, but making us feel “happy” or “complete” was not one of them. Of course I’m happy to have him in our life. He is a blessing beyond measure. I treasure him and his four older brothers. The joy that I feel when I think of my family is much more than I can express. But, do they make me happy?
I am happy when I have a hot cup of coffee in the morning and can finish it off before it gets cold. I am happy when I have a chance to catch up with an old friend or have a quiet one on one conversation with one of my boys. I am happy reading a book in peace and quiet and I am happy singing loudly in the car with my kids (and sometimes by myself). I am happy when I can sit on the couch with my husband and we can talk about something other than our calendar.
There are many things in my daily life that make me happy. Reaching certain milestones or goals in life can bring feelings of happiness. I just don’t want them to be the only path to being happy.
Am I content with my life? Absolutely. Am I joyful? Most days. But happy? Well, it’s just one of many feelings I may have on any given day in any given moment. Right now I feel happy but the next minute, maybe not so much. If I don’t feel happy tomorrow that is okay too. I’m good with admitting when I’m not. Because none of us were meant to be happy all of the time.
I’m not comfortable attaching conditions to my happiness. I’d rather be sure to enjoy the good times when I have them and lean on friends and family when I don’t. To me, that is a life well-lived.
Happy or not.