HappinessPosted: April 6, 2014
Lately I have been thinking a lot about happiness.
I know, intellectually, that it exists and that it is something that people experience all the time, yet I am in a place where I can’t really conjure what it is like.
I can’t say that I have never been happy, or experienced moments of happiness. I know that I have. I have just emotionally flat-lined, it seems.
My last post was about hope, but honestly, I don’t really have much. It’s not that I don’t believe that things will ever improve–chances are they will. My life is ridiculously stressful right now, but I know that it isn’t forever and that we are taking very real steps towards creating a better future. I guess we have just struggled for so long as a family that its hard for me to really believe that we will ever be in a place where we are not struggling. But even if I can get to a place in my mind where I can accept that things will likely change in a positive way, my heart is thinking, “so what?”
So what if we are able to afford a nicer, bigger home? So what if we have two cars that run reasonably well instead of one that constantly breaks down? So what if I have a job that is suited to my talents? So what if my husband achieves his dream of working in academia? So what if we can afford to send the kids to swim camp every summer, take vacations every year, buy an RV and spend our weekends camping? So what? What, exactly, is the point of any of it?
I was talking to a woman in program today. She told me that, upon describing the activities associated with her sex addiction to her therapist, the professional told her that she needed to stop what she was doing. And the woman–a friend of my sponsor–said, “Well…then what am I going to do instead? This is my entire reason for being.”
It sounds so sad, so shallow when put that way, but her words ring true for me. I no longer feel like sex is the only thing making my life worth living–I am, at least for right now, over it. But it has left a giant hole that I am not sure how to fill.
I used to imagine having the life I’d always wanted. The specifics would change, but the vision included a close knit family, a good group of friends, a cozy home that I paid someone else to clean, money to go out and have fun every once in awhile, travel, a career that I loved, and a romantic partner to share it all with.
Now? I feel like any of that, all of it, is meaningless. This is what I am talking about when I say that I have emotionally flat-lined. I no longer believe that my life would be better if I could have all those things that society generally agrees bring happiness, or at least contentment. I can’t picture myself being happy at all. When I try to conjure my ideal life, I see nothing.
Part of me thinks I will have to settle for peace. For enough money to put food on the table and clothes on our backs. For a career that I don’t hate, instead of one that I love–not because I don’t think I can get the kind of job that I used to think I would love, but because I can’t imagine myself loving anything. I can’t imagine any set of circumstances that would bring me back to life.
I am trying to remember. To reach back and grab a hold of those moments that brought contentment and joy. I know it is not healthy or normal to not be able to experience pleasure, but even if I cannot experience it, I should at least be able to recall what it was like. I am comfortable in my hopelessness, in my emotional nothingness, but I will push myself to go back so that maybe I can go forward.
I experienced unspeakable joy when I held my babies for the first time, and in those early weeks when they spent the entirety of their day curled up against my chest, sighing and nursing. I know I was happy then.
I was content and felt truly “blessed” when my husband and I were dating. I lived in a cute little house with a couple of roommates, I had a job I liked that allowed me to have my weekends off, and my then-boyfriend and I spent our free time going to concerts, having picnics, renting paddle boats, trying new foods and being just generally carefree. I thought, “If this is all I ever have, it would be enough.”
I was happy the summer I worked at camp. I was in a new environment, spending the majority of my days outside. I had a close-knit group of counselor friends that were around all the time, and I loved the sense of community. We ate all our meals together, we hung out at night in the middle of our “village” while guarding our cabin doors. On our days off we went to the beach or into the city to shop or get ice cream. It was a good summer.
I experienced moments of happiness and satisfaction when working or volunteering for certain not-for-profits. I liked being united with others for a common goal. I felt that I bonded with others so much more easily when we cared about the same things, and when doing simple tasks like preparing meals, sorting donations, planning fundraisers.
I was happy when I did photo shoots for friends and family. I liked getting my camera out and capturing beauty. My favourites were grabbing candid moments–the look between a bride and groom when they thought no one was looking. A toddler, all tuckered out from formal portraits, napping on the floor in front of the fireplace. My children and the children of friends at the zoo or aquarium. Editing these photos on the computer was peaceful and exciting at the same time. Seeing the best ones was like experiencing those moments all over again. Knowing you have a priceless memory to give to someone when they didn’t even know they’d been caught on film, was awesome.
Camping. Laughing with friends. Making a really good meal and enjoying it with a bottle of wine, all by myself. Drawing for hours until the images on the page match my feelings on the inside. Writing until everything inside me has been released like a balloon into the air.
These are things that have made me happy. Why do I not have the energy or motivation to do any of these things? Why do I feel like I will never experience genuine, innocent, simple pleasure again? I need to believe in the power of a cold ice cream cone meeting my tongue on a hot day. I need to believe in laughing until tears run down my face and my sides ache. I need to believe in love and joy. I need to believe again.
I need to believe.