Has anyone noticed that some people seem happier than others? How do they do it? What is wrong with them? Seriously. I’ve read that genetics may play an important part in how much joy we experience in life. I would very much like to access that gene. Perhaps it is buried somewhere in the helices of my cells, just waiting to be switched on or unwound… Unlikely. I come from a long line of eternally unsatisfied people.
My maternal grandmother, each time she would hang up the phone, would mutter the word “s..t!” Now, she was a well-mannered woman. Other than the fact that she enjoyed a good tooth-flossing at the dining room table, she was polite and wasn’t big on cursing. I adored her and she was loving and caring in the way everyone would want their grandmother to be.
When I asked about her habit, she explained that she would always think of something she had forgotten to say just as she was putting down the phone. Why she couldn’t just say “hold on!” or simply call back, I’ll never know. She preferred to hang on to that moment of frustration. Another memory I have of her is that her favorite expression was “nothing is ever right.” That’s heavy. Just think about that. What does that mean? Is that true? She had a propensity for feeling sad that someone was missing from a family gathering, even when twenty-five or more were in attendance. It’s just how she was.
She passed on that “gene” to her progeny who all tend to be highly critical, my father included. You may have graduated first in your class at NYU, but you didn’t go to Columbia. Or you were an honor student at Columbia but you didn’t go to Yale. We were all held to some inexplicable, ever-unattainable, gold standard. My father and his brothers and sister are/were all very bright and attended excellent schools. They are all accomplished in one way or another, except for one younger brother who, sadly, died in his early thirties from alcoholism (cancer took the credit). The remaining siblings all seem to share a veiled sense that they perhaps should have in some way or another, been something or someone more accomplished than who they ended up being rather than focusing on what they did actually accomplish (forgive me aunt/uncle/dad if I am way off on this). Perhaps, most of us do not live up to our full potential, but then again, I’m not really sure what that means. I’m not a big fan of “The Secret.” I believe that if we are kind to people, we love our families and we work hard, no matter how much money we’ve made, or recognition we’ve received, we’ve done alright.
My father has been very supportive of me in so many ways. In fact his microscope is exclusively trained on himself and I find myself reminding him of all the amazing things he’s done in his life. What I think it boils down to is, for all of my grandmother’s children, it has been difficult for them to feel thankful for what they have or appreciate what went right in their lives. Whether the result of a genetic trait or a learned habit of always having an eye on someone’s greener grass, it is a trait that was passed on to me.
I have spent my entire life battling that mentality. Life can be trying and it is so easy to get caught up in the “everything is crazy” mode. Never stopping to smell the roses. I certainly operate in that mode. Hell, I wrote the user manual. But I am trying so hard to do things differently. Is there any hope? Do I have to constantly be disheartened by what I’m not doing or might I actually LITM (live in the moment – I didn’t really want to write it out as it is so overstated!).
Recently, I’ve spent a lot of energy feeling sad that I don’t have much music in my life. It’s true, especially compared to how my life was structured pre-children, pre-full-time-job, pre-40+, nearly a decade ago. However, my life is full to the brim. Full of challenges but also filled with so many good things. Learning, growth, love, my children, the amazing meals my husband cooks every night (yes, he does!) and so much more.
True, things go wrong all the time, but things do sometimes, sorry grandmother, go right! I know they do. There are periods in life when we really have to seek out those things gone right. They hide behind trees and around corners, in drawers and lint-filled pockets. We actually have to take a moment to reflect, dig a bit and see what is right.
Attached is a photo of Nounours & Sam Nounours. Nounours means teddy bear in French and my younger son chose to give his bear the same name as his older brother’s bear, adding the Sam to distinguish between the two.
Every morning in a semi-psychotic flurry, I tidy up the apartment before the boys go to school and I leave for work as I dislike (euphemism for “makes me grow warts on my nose and fly around on a broom”) coming home to a messy apartment. My boys tend to leave their things everywhere (don’t they all) and it makes me nuts. It’s amazing how much of a mess they can make in minutes and mornings on a school day are hectic, as any parent knows. I don’t do well with hectic.
My boys always bring their bears to the table for breakfast and every morning, after breakfast, I find myself saying “Put your bears back in your beds. Pick up your Nounours from the floor, it doesn’t belong there. Not on the table, it’s covered in jam! Nounours doesn’t belong on the bathroom floor! You STILL haven’t picked up Nounours?” The boys usually ignore me, preferring to goof around. Only then, after having asked a half a dozen times and as raging frustrating kicks in, I switch gears, and my voice becomes a high-pitched siren, “If you don’t pick up your Nounours!!!” My voice trailing off as I stomp around the apartment, snorting like a derranged bull.
Sometimes, OK, often, my life feels out of control and, in that moment, I feel like all is lost because EVERYTHING isn’t right. I know I sound like a complete lunatic, not just in writing this, but I’m sure all of my neighbors can hear me shouting and have Child Services on speed dial just in case.
The other morning, as I was getting ready to leave, calming myself down, post-psychotic fury, I saw that my boys had tucked their bears into this bag which hangs on the door of my closet. How could I be such a shrew? The polar core of my apartment-witch heart melted. There they were, the two bears snuggled up, like two brothers. My boys, like good little fathers, had left their bears safe and cozy to await their return from school.
There I was, running around the apartment looking at everything that was wrong. Distraught because everything wasn’t perfect. Panicking about all the bits and pieces that were out of place, and the things that need to be fixed. Missing what really matters. Missing what is right.