Aug. 8, 2014

Just Be Happy Already

I wake up angry every day.  I am seduced from my dreams with a sense of floating to the surface of a pool of water.  I am vaguely aware of lights and sounds until my brain forces my eyes open.  I have two questions: What day is it?  Where do I have to be?  I have one emotion: Anger.

 I have searched my psyche for the cause of this anger and have come up empty. I have never suffered any meaningful discrimination. I have never been abused by a violent father, boyfriend, or husband.  I am not poor, and aside from some early career mis-steps, I have never really struggled financially.  I have never lost anyone who was close to me, I have never been left standing at the altar, and I have never slugged my way through a bad marriage or a messy divorce.  I don’t know the pain or disappointment of raising children who turn out to be selfish, lazy ingrates.  I have never walked five miles to school uphill in a snow storm, and yet, I wake up with this burning dread rising in my throat like bile.

It begins with the opening of my eyes and continues with the logging into of my favorite websites.  One after another I click through a parade of articles proclaiming that I can have it all and that my best life is out there waiting for me. Every other month some new celebrity doctor is anointed the savior who can help me make all the right choices so I can be… what?  Rich? Happy? Skinny? Healthy? Trendy? There are so many aspirations placed in front of me every day that it is frankly overwhelming.

Up to this point in my life, I don’t recall trying to have it all.  Here is what I recollect.  I was a broke college educated woman who couldn’t get a job.  I remember waking up every day and going out into the world and doing what needed to be done. My greatest fear was that I would end up pushing a grocery cart down the back-alley ways of Chicago.  I morphed from a telemarketer, to a resume writer, to an inside sales rep, and even a part-time nanny, until I finally landed squarely on a career path.

The fear of poverty has been my sole motivator for the last twenty years.  The only thing that got me out of bed every day, angry or not was the fear of being without means.  I dreaded that twist in the gut at the end of the month wondering if I could pay all of my bills and have enough left over for groceries.  My eye would twitch at the thought of bill collectors calling my house, or a store clerk declining my credit card.  That brief time of financial instability I endured immediately after college was unbearable and I worked hard every day to make sure I never faced those circumstances again.  

My idea of prosperity is paying all of my bills in full and on time, and then curling up with my dog and cat on a super comfy sofa enjoying the silence.  That is how I define having it all. When I am alone within this space that I have carved out for myself, I am content.  When I engage with the outside world and the values of our society flood in, I am shaken.  It seems as if every voice I hear telling me to choose this designer hand bag and that celebrity diet plan are really telling me that I am not good enough. They want me to want something more.  But, I don’t. 

Is it possible for us to define our own happiness?  Is it possible to live in this world, but not be of it? Can I be comfortable enough with the choices that I have made for my life, and not be angry when other people imply that I am wrong so they can sell me stuff?  I’ll let you know when I wake up tomorrow.