|Photo by Anne Adrian|
The bar has dropped considerably with respect to what it takes to make me happy.
A decade or two ago, if asked to describe a singular moment of life-bliss, my mind would’ve gone to a weekend I spent at an old farm on a beach in Togo, lying in the sand, under a breezy canvas shelter in the sun, reading a novel and drinking fruity things with a group of European expats with whom I could barely communicate in my halting, but-I-minored-in-it French. I’d always longed to travel the world, and that’s exactly what I was doing. I wanted to learn foreign languages, and I had finally begun to parler. I had a blistering crush on Philippe… well, that never went anywhere, but still.
Today, however, when I ponder bliss, I remember a stomach flu.
All my kids had recently entered full-time school, leaving me to rediscover empty hours of sweet responsibility-less-ness. So the next time I fell ill after ten years of relentless, 24/7 mommy-ing, I reveled in the indescribable pleasure of just being sick. I had no diapers to change, no lunches to make or clean up, no screaming kid-fights to mediate. Instead, I lay on the couch all by my miserable, achy self, all day long. I bolted to the bathroom and projectile-vomited into the toilet with no one pounding on the door to say they’d had a pee-pee accident in the kitchen. I dosed myself with Nyquil and slept the feverish slumber of the zombified, with no trace of fear that someone in the house might tumble headfirst down the stairs, insert something into an electrical outlet, or tie a plastic bag over the heads of one of his siblings while I lay comatose and unable to do anything about it.
It was awesome.
A few weeks ago a friend and I attended a function at my church, where we listened to someone describe how lonely, miserable, and forgotten she felt. My friend, who is not Christian, said to me later, “Wow. That woman has a church and a women’s group and friends to talk to, and she still feels like that? I have almost none of that, and that’s exactly how I feel. It must be more about the person than about the circumstances.”
Yeah. That’s probably exactly what it is.
Am I suffering loneliness or relishing solitude? Do I ache for the attention that comes with fame, or enjoy the freedom that accompanies anonymity? Have I nothing that I want, or everything that I need?
Hubby and I have been down some rocky roads (and I wish I were just talking about the ice cream), and once while getting some help and counsel I was asked, “Are you actively grateful for your husband?”
Hmm. Wasn’t that an interesting question? Was I actively grateful?
I was generally glad to be married and have a family. I recognized that things could’ve been worse than they were. I thanked my husband when he did stuff like take out the trash, or get the oil changed in the car, or kill the man-eating spiders that seek me out from all ends of the earth with a blood-vengeance bordering on a horror-movie trope. (I’m not paranoid. Those hairy, eight-legged monsters have it in for me.)
But was I actively, daily, moment-by-moment grateful?
Not so much.
So I started working on that:
I am grateful to always have a date to friends’ and family’s weddings.
I appreciate having my own human radiator from which to glom heat when I wake up cold at night.
I’m thankful that God gave me a man who appreciates my humor. When he gets it. (The problem is him. Seriously. I’m way funny. All the time.)
This made a huge, enormous, mind-blowing difference in my marriage. My husband became a better person. Almost overnight. He turned into a thoughtful, chivalrous, charming prince of a man. He became more romantic, attentive, and affectionate. He even got even better-looking!
Hmm… maybe it’s more about the person than the circumstances?
So I’ve been trying this active-gratefulness stuff out in other areas of my life, too:
I’m grateful for all eighteen people who subscribe to this questionably gripping blog.
I’ve prayed a blessing on every single person who’ve told me they read one of my books.
I am grateful that I have the time and energy and good health to do things like write books.
I’m happy that none of my children are ill today.
I recognize that it’s a gratitude-worthy gift to be able to take my kids to a qualified doctor, whose office is mere minutes away, when they’re hurt or sick.
Wow. This changes the light in the room of my life quite a bit.
So, would I prefer to be reclined at the seaside with a Sangria in one hand and my Kindle in the other right now? Sure. Even if a spider did once come after me at the beach.
But I don’t have to go there to be happy. All I need is a grain or two of gratitude for that.
And maybe a flyswatter. A big one.
And a can of Raid.