As I write this blog post, I’m sitting on the deck of an oceanfront house, looking out at the bluest water I’ve ever seen. Next to me is a half-eaten grapefruit and sand covers my feet. My two best friends Kelly and Paige are in the chairs next to me, laughing about something we did last night.
I am in paradise. But it’s not paradise because of the incredibly nice real estate or the perfect weather or the great company. It’s my paradise because – for the first time in a month – I’m happy.
Yes, I said it: happy.
I know, for my family and friends, everyone is thinking: thank GOD Marjorie has gotten to a place where she feels better.
Maybe, for the widows who read my blog, you are thinking: well, great. Marjorie has found happiness but I still don’t have it.
So I’d like to pause and say this: I am happy NOW. I make no guarantees about how I will feel in a week or even in an hour. That’s not how grief – or life – works. I don’t find a happy moment and then live in it for the rest of my life. No one does that. But it’s strange that society seems to want me to do that – find happiness and then stay there. That would make a good story, or at least a good Hallmark movie.
Kelly, my therapist friend, is in the chair next to me and I just read her what I wrote above. “Yes,” she said, “when I’m with a client in therapy, we talk about this sort of thing often. The goal is not to get yourself to a certain place, but to remind yourself that things can change. When you are happy, it’s helpful to try and recognize those happy feelings, not so that you can recreate the happiness at will, but so that when there are harder times, you can remember that you CAN feel happiness.”
It took a few days into my spring break before I realized that I was feeling bits of joy. I spent most days writing, breaking to stare out at the sea as I listened to house music playlists my friend Pete sent me to cheer me up (everyone finds their own way to help – his is through music.) Sometimes I’d break to eat some grapefruit. Sometimes I’d break to cry a bit.
About two days in, I stopped writing and looked out at the horizon. I started to think about what I wanted out of my life. I started to think a little bit about the future.
Maybe, I thought, I could contact one of my editors about an article I’d always wanted to write on parenting. Maybe she’d take my pitch.
Or maybe the big kids and I should go ride rollercoasters one day when my dad can take Tommy. They’re tall enough now, and we haven’t done that yet.
Maybe I could call up that pastor I met who wanted me to talk to a group of therapists about grief. Maybe I could try out my public speaking.
Maybe I could sign up for a cooking class downtown. Or better yet, maybe a class where I learn how to make great mixed drinks. Maybe I could get a friend to come with me.
Maybe I could do something experimental in class next week. We do have that weird day when I don’t have to follow the curriculum exactly. Maybe we could try something really out-of-the-box.
Maybe I could sign up for the next 10K in DC. Maybe I’d do it alone or maybe I’d find someone to do it with me. Maybe even Claire.
It was funny – in all those “maybes” I started to see possibility. And that thought – that I could have something other than dread in my life – made me feel something new.
It made me feel happy.
Maybe it was the sunshine. Maybe it was my friends. Maybe it was the break from the monotony of daily life. Maybe it was the grapefruit and the million dollar view.
Or maybe it was the idea that life is not over for me.
Life is full of possibility. Sometimes that’s overwhelming. Sometimes I feel trapped by the million things I have to do.
And sometimes I think: maybe I can try something new. Maybe there can be something exciting in my life. Maybe all the best parts of my life are not just going to be in the past.
Well, here I am tearing up at my desk at work reading this… Is it weird that I don’t know you, yet have been following your blog and FEEL like I know you? THAT is a real testament to your writing. And, I love that you are finding some happiness right now. : )
Thanks for reading! And it’s funny that you say this, but I feel the same way about other people’s blogs that I read. Words can connect us!
Great post. I’m glad you’re enjoying the much needed sunshine. Not sure where you are, but it soundslike you’re in a beautiful environment, and I’m sure being with your good friends makes it that much better!
That’s true! Sunshine and friends = the best combo!
This served as a very salient reminder about the nature of happiness for me, as well. Thank you for sharing and may such moments be many and as drawn out as possible…
I love this. And I love your blog. It’s real and relatable and raw, and as a therapist, this is why I’ve recommended it to clients. They can connect with you and your writings. Like your friend, what you wrote about is something I talk about often with clients. The goal is healthy, not happy. As you say, happy is a moment, not sunstianable as a constant for anyone. I want my clients to feel healthy, healthy so that they can recognize and embrace the moments of joy, happiness, etc and healthy so they can cope with and work through the moments of sadness, fear, etc. I’m glad you were able to feel the happy on your trip, and I wish you much healthiness in your future.
I love that you share my blog with your clients – that means a lot to me. And yes – it’s super helpful having a best friend as a therapist because she helps me to re-frame how I see my life. I have had moments of joy, and in the other moments, I try and remember what it felt like to feel joy.
I ran across your blog while researching some psychology to better understand myself. I too was widowed at 38. It has been a year and a half. As spring has truly shown itself here in Kansas for the first time today, I find myself feeling content. I opened up every window in the house to let the breeze in. It is quiet right now and I like it that way.
What you wrote is so beautiful. I love that your moment of joy is this one – it’s perfect. Thanks for reading and sharing.
I find a lot of comfort in nature. I went to see the cherry blossoms in DC two weekends ago. It was almost sunset as I walked around the Tidal Basin. There was a warm breeze and I hardly noticed the crowds. The sunset was a stunning backdrop against the delicate blossoms and as I sat there taking it all in, it truly felt like nature gave me a special gift. This was one of the first times that I felt a bit of happiness and joy.
I love this and I feel the same way about the cherry blossoms! They do bring me joy – every year.