Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Search for Happiness

I've been missing Jerry a lot of late. I usually do between November and February. I suppose it came late this year. It isn't a continuous pain but a sudden, stabbing in the hollow places of my heart. 

Yesterday, as I drove home from work through a neighborhood with some lovely homes, I was assailed with longing for something I think I was unaware that I had ever possessed. The average-middle class homes arrayed along a gentle, curving street with neat yards that had received years of attention were a bit above the lower middle-class income we had but it wasn't about that. It was more.

Yearning is a little used word these days but that is the only word that works for what I was feeling. As I drove along, my mind filled in blanks with children tumbling on a green carpet and a small dog barking and scrambling to be a part of the excitement. The windows glowed with evening lights and the smell of fresh cut grass and barbeque seemed to drift on the air. But it didn't. It was all in my head and I ached with the thoughts of it all. 

I left the neighborhood and entered my own, slightly more modest section. As I did so, in the midst of all that painful yearning I heard myself say, "I've had a good life." There is a sense of disbelief even when I write it because I don't remember ever thinking that in my whole life. Life has been hard. At times, nearly impossible. There is not enough time, nor am I inclined to share the worst of it. 

Recently, my mind began to trot out memories that I didn't really forget but rather, had neglected in favor of less appealing ones. And ... the truth is ... I've had a great life. I'm overwhelmingly blessed and favored. I know this. That was a new feeling, an almost devastatingly painful feeling. It hurt terribly to think it. Not because it wasn't a wonderful realization but because I had failed to recognize it until I am an old woman. This is something we should know when we're young. Maybe other people do. I don't know. I just know I never knew it. At least, I don't think I did.

The feeling clung to me the rest of the evening and today but I still had trouble believing it. My life had so many twists and turns that it was hard to imagine it as "great".

I was given away to grandparents and it was the best thing that could have happened to me, despite a childhood filled with the ugliness of alcohol. I had wonderful aunts, uncles, and cousins, the memories of whom still make my heart smile. 

I was 17 when Mama died but I married a wonderful man who only wanted to make me happy the rest of his life. And he tried every day, for the next 35 years.

At 21, I was in Europe and I walked the halls of ancient castles and palaces. I climbed trails in the Bavrian Alps, slaked my thrist from an icy artisian well, and gazed over parapets at beautiful green valleys. I strolled the Champs Elysee, climbed the Eiffel Tower, and stared at the flying buttresses and stained glass of Notre Dame. I shopped in Germany. I lived in five US states. I've slept under stars, hiked woodland trails, and swam in the ocean. I've played in the sand, dug in the dirt, and laid on the grass and painted clouds. I've laughed, cried, and raged over wonderful, foolish, and dreadful things.
It is a mystery to me how I missed all that. Although, I think the truth is that I didn't miss it... then. I miss it all now. I crave the excitement and the laughter and the mystery that each of those days provided. I long for the feeling of walking along a Paris street on Jerry's arm. Now life seems so tame, so bland, so predictable. For someone who stood in the throne room of a once great king, today feels anticlimatic. 

Yet, today whispered a secret in my ear. "I've had a great life." I've been blessed with more than wealth, more than fame. I've rocked my babies and watched them grow into wonderful men. I sang to my grandchild and am amazed at her beautiful soul and smile that blinds me. I'm blessed to find a new friend when my son remarried, and gained two grandchildren. I still have aunts, uncle, cousins, and siblings that shower me with love.  

No, I have not done all the things I wanted to do but I have done a lot of things I never dreamed I would do. So, perhaps happiness is not something you look for, but rather something you find. And a wonderful life is determined solely by your perspective.