Looking for Contentment

I am a tall woman who lives a small life. I live in a very small town with less than 3,000 people. I work in a small, rural library in a town of only 4,000 people. I rarely travel, except to and from work and to soccer practices and games and to my mom’s house and to most of my mom’s appointments. I run and I read and if I want to have a drink, typically I’ll have it at home where it is considerably less expensive.

Most of the time, I think this is ok.

It’s not the exact life I thought I’d have, but it’s not horrible. It can be hard some days and weeks, but it’s not bad. It can be horribly hectic, particularly weekday mornings (probably like yours, too!)–trying to squeeze in a run or a walk before or in between getting the kid ready and making dinner for that evening and doing laundry or dishes and fitting in a shower in there somewhere. And if I’m volunteering at the school library that morning? Forget it. I don’t even try to exercise on those days unless I’ve been up since 4:30 due to the cats hitting my face with their paws….claws out.

Again, not horrible. A little bloodshed, perhaps, but could be worse. And yet, I strive to find contentment. Do you?

I often wonder if social media is what has done this to me. I see my friends taking their children to far off places or flying to another state to run and drink (and vomit?) but having an adventure of some sort anyway.  Typically I’m very happy for my friends and family and the journeys they are fortunate enough to take, but this week it really got to me. I was thinking about all of those lovely images as I entered the local pharmacy where I needed to pick up extra vitamins for my mother because she couldn’t remember to get them. As I kneeled on the floor trying to determine which calcium was the right one for her and which one wouldn’t bankrupt me, I felt my shoulders slump and had to blink back tears. This? This is what my life is? Sitting on Rite Aid’s floor trying to find the cheapest yet most effective vitamin for my poor mother whose entire life seems to center around her cat? How has this happened?

Once I got back to my car, I had to take some deep breaths and try to snap out of this funk. Feeling sorry for myself or for Mom isn’t going to get either of us anywhere, yet sometimes wallowing in self-pity in private doesn’t really hurt, does it? If it does hurt, then I’m a damn mess.

I didn’t shake the blues until two days later. I barked at everyone at home and at work, until my boss and I had this great conversation about “kitchen envy” and trying to put things in perspective. She loves to cook but has a small apartment with a small kitchen. Yet some of her friends will post photos on Facebook of their gorgeous homes and kitchens and my boss will drool a bit over them. But she reminds herself that she has a small place with that horrible orange countertop so she can have decent vacations and save for a good retirement on the small salary that she makes.

Perspective. Again. I keep having to remind myself that it’s about perspective.

I do live a small life in a small town in a small state. But I also live in a lovely town in a gorgeoudscn3538s state. My family and I took a walk in the Bangor City Forest this weekend, to attempt to “leave town” but also in payment for a promise that we’d do something together OUTSIDE. It was one of the best days I’ve had in weeks. I watched my kid kick butt on the soccer field, I got to walk in the crisp air with the trees falling from the trees with my family around me, then I stuffed myself with sushi and rice noodles and tea. It was a good day. A BIG day in my little life.

Does this mean I don’t want to travel with my family (or without them) or fly off and run a race in another state? No, of course not. I yearn to take my child to San Francisco, a place I’ve always loved, or to go to Seattle, a place I’ve never been but desperately want to go to. I’m not into racing much these days, but I’d love to do the Brain Freezer 5K again, for sure! (No alcohol, but ice cream and possible vomiting.) But for this day, for right now, I didn’t need to buy an expensive gadget or travel to another state to have a great day. I just needed to look around and realize and appreciate the wonderments I had right in front of me.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Pierre wasn’t completely wrong

During the past month, I’ve found myself saying “I don’t care” quite a lot. Whether it’s to my husbanPierresyrupd when he tells me he doesn’t want to eat chicken for dinner or to my friend who complains about how much her husband spends on booze, the words “I don’t care” have started to flow freely from my mouth and I rather enjoy it.

I’m sure every single one of you have thought the same words in response to a variety of your family’s or friends’ dilemmas. Maybe it’s a lost toy your child is pining for (and you know it’s buried in their closet) or your co-worker is griping about being back to work after a long vacation, and all you want to do is yell, “I DON’T CARE!” But you don’t. Because you shouldn’t or because the time and effort it would take to smooth things over after a big blowout would be massive and you’d never be able to get that time back. So instead you bite your tongue and either give a bit of advice, “Sweetie, maybe try cleaning out your room,” or you nod and pretend empathy and say, “I know how you feel.”

But it’s those times when your loved ones tell you all that is going well for them, and you want so desperately to be happy for them, and yet all you feel is irritation and anger and envy. You want to scream, “I DON’T CARE!” You want to say, “Fuck your sex life, your love life, your vacations, your time off with your kid, your youth, and you. Just FUCK YOU!”

That’s when you take a deep breath and you don’t say any of those things. That’s when you don’t pretend to be happy for them, but you find real joy somewhere deep inside that part of you that really does want happiness for your beautiful friends and family. You dig that little bit of yourself out and shine it up and show those people how much you love them and are happy they’re not as miserable as you are. Misery may love company, but Misery is a real party pooper when Happiness is trying to have a good time. So you suck it up, put a genuine smile on your face, clap your hands (it always helps me be a little more cheerful) and hug your loved one. If you get a little teary, it’s ok. They won’t know if those tears are of joy or sadness, so it won’t matter.

The odd thing is that it’s very easy for me to feel happy for people I’ve never met. Those folks that win the lottery? Although I would have loved to win it myself, I am typically overjoyed for those that do win it. Think about it. How freakin’ extraordinary for something like that to happen! Or hell, when people win prizes on game shows I get excited for them, too. Maybe it’s because these things are like little happy endings only found in fiction, and since they’re strangers they seem more like characters in a book. I don’t know what happens to any of these people after the spotlight fades, nor do I want to know. They’d probably kill the image of the happy ending and I’d have to hate them for it.

But maybe it’s just when I’m feeling shitty about my own life that others’ lives look so great and I can’t help but whine and think, “Why can’t that be me?” Yet I know the grass is not necessarily greener. I know that sometimes that grass is really astroturf and although those Facebook photos make it look great, it’s really a bunch of chemicals that will probably give everyone in the neighborhood cancer.

I don’t want to be like this and I’m really not *always* this bitchy. But I am human. And sometimes it’s tough being a good person, especially when going through a difficult time. I do try to be happy for others and feel empathy for those that need it.  So if you tell me something wonderful or even something horrible that’s happened to you, I may give you a look that could be interpreted as my best Grumpy Cat imgrumpycatpression. Just give me a minute to find that little nugget of joy or compassion I know I have for you.

Unless I tell you that I don’t care.

Then I really don’t.

The Key to Happiness

Have you ever started reading a book that a good friend recommended, a book they were completely ga-ga over, then realized by page 50 that you *hated* the book? Or have you ever been so excited to see a movie, the one that you’ve been waiting for over a year to see, that after you see it you desperately wish you could get those two hours back because it was one of the worst things you had ever seen?

We’ve all been in these situations, haven’t we? So how do we possibly prevent them from happening?

Easy.

Lower your expectations.

ABOUT EVERYTHING.

About two years ago, I wrote a blog post about having high expectations and wanting everything to be wonderful and Disney-like.  I even mentioned a vacation I was about to go on, hoping it would be lovely weather–which it wasn’t. It was in Florida and it rained or was cloudy nearly every day. I was pretty pissed, and honestly, foolish! It may be the Sunshine State, but it doesn’t mean it’s sunny every single day (especially when I roll into town!). If I had only just kept my wants to a minimum–want to be away for a week, want to rest, want to not work. That’s it. If I had lowered my expectations: if I just expected my son and husband to argue, if I expected my husband to not want to do anything, if I expected the sun to not show its face again–then I would have been very happy.

People always say, “If you expect the worst to happen, then it probably will.” Well you know what? When I expect the worst, do you know how happy I am when something good happens?

catdog

For example, I recently facilitated a book discussion at my library. We all read books by a not well-known Maine author. Admittedly, when I’m reading a Maine author I know little about, I immediately think it’s going to be bad. You might not think that’s a good thing to do, but when you’ve read a lot of bad literature it comes with the territory. So, I had very low expectations for this author. But you know what? The book wasn’t bad! It wasn’t great but it wasn’t horrible. I actually enjoyed reading it. BUT, if I went into it thinking,”This is going to be such a great novel!”, I never would have made it past page 30.

The only problem with my new way of thinking, is that I can’t seem to lower my expectations when it comes to people. And this is when I should lower them to subterranean levels. I can’t believe how much I’m constantly disappointed by human beings. But I shouldn’t be. No one is perfect, and although I am completely aware of that fact, I still wish it wasn’t true.

But really no one has to be perfect, either. I just want them to do what I know they can, to live up to their potential. Hell, I’d be happy if people would stop being assholes.

But see? Right there. I need to lower my expectations and realize that there will always be jerks in the world. There will always be people hating people for stupid reasons. Which is why someday, instead of aliens arriving to destroy the human race like in Avengers, we humans will just destroy ourselves and the planet we live on. Apparently there are no super heroes or meta humans or any other cool beings out there to save us from ourselves.

And doesn’t that suck?

Yet if we don’t destroy ourselves, I’ll be so happy and surprised because I thought we were doomed. And if we do self-combust like I think we will?

Well…I’ll be happy then, too, because I was right.

 

 

 

Ideal

I want to write about today, just so I won’t forget it. So I won’t forget, that as a parent, I really do have days where I not only know what I’m doing, but being a parent can feel easy and fun and absolutely wonderful.

Today was supposed to be a family day.  My husband will be working more during the next few months, so when we knew he wouldn’t be “on call” this weekend, we planned on doing a few simple but fun things away from home and just getting a chance to be outside for a change. (It’s been one helluva winter, no?)  But, as fate would have it, my husband got called out anyway.  So plans needed to change.

My boy had a t-ball practice at 9am, so off we went.  He typically likes to play, but you can  usually see a bit of feet-dragging going on during the practice.  This morning, though, he was in the zone.  He did everything that was asked of him.  When out in the field, he actually ran to every ball instead of waiting for it to come to him.  At batting practice, he worked on batting both sides (he’s right handed but typically bats left), and he ran the bases with enthusiasm.   It was a beauty to see.

Once we arrived home, he knew he needed to take a quick shower (he was several days overdue!), and this is where a bit of the feet dragging kicked in.   He stayed outside for a while, then when he came in he tried to watch tv. (I hid the remote control.) Once I told him that we would not go anywhere nor was he allowed to do anything until he showered, *then* he slowly made his way to the bathroom like it was a walk to the gallows.

We were finally on the road less than an hour later, both hungry and looking forward to a lunch of sushi and miso soup.  We ate at our favorite restaurant, Ichiban, had a fantastic meal with lots of toasting and saying “Cheers!” (his new favorite thing to do) and drank an entire pot of green tea between the two of us.  Everything was tasty and nothing major was spilled.  It was lovely.

The day continued with errands and ice cream and playing in the park.  We didn’t do anything extraordinary, but we were relaxed and the sun was shining and we were having fun by just being together.  There was no misbehaving, no yelling, and no pouting—from either one of us.

On our last stop, the grocery store, every single person we talked to—clerks, anyone who smiled at us, the people parked next to us—my son would say to them, “We had a GREAT day! An AWESOME day!”   It was the absolute sweetest thing.  Throughout the afternoon, Briar would say to me, “You’re the best, Mom,” and “You are just so, so beautiful.”   He was so incredibly happy.  *I* was so happy.   Yes, we did miss my husband and felt bad that he had to work such long hours today, and hopefully we’ll do something together tomorrow.  But for today?  My son and I had one of the happiest days of our lives…and we knew it.

I wish I could explain *why* we were so happy.  We didn’t go to Disneyworld.  We didn’t run a race.  We shopped for groceries and goofed off at a playground in the sunshine and ate at our favorite place and we did all of those things together.  I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it was truly the perfect day.  It was so perfect, that we both wanted to mark the occasion by taking a photo of ourselves before the day was through.

So neither one of us would ever forget it.

DSCN2369

If I could give every single person in the world a gift, it would be to have a perfectly happy day, and realize how happy and wonderful it is *while* it’s happening.  It may in fact be one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.