“It’s the little things, the little things, not expectations…that make life worth living…”
I’ve been playing the song with this line in it over and over for the past week. I didn’t happen upon it–unless my kids scream “I love that song, why did you turn it?!” from the back of the van as I shuffle the radio or iTunes says “based on the fact that you downloaded (insert lame, 37-year-old mom band preference), we think you’ll like this” I don’t find new music.
Instead, my therapist (i.e. the wonderful person I pay to listen to me tell stories for one hour every Thursday) said, “Hey, I heard this and thought of you.”
That (and, oh, 57 percent of what I post) should tell you where I’ve been knowingly struggling for the past year.
Most of us, I would imagine, grew up thinking “happy” was a given. That as long as you did the things you were supposed to do and focused on the things you wanted to accomplish, with a little bit of strategy and skill and a whole bunch of luck, you’d be happy. Not blissfully happy around the clock, of course, but happy enough, enough of the time, that the pain-in-the-ass parts of life felt worth it.
And then, if you’re anything like me, it smacked you right straight in the face, seemingly (but not so much so, if you look back and pay attention) out of the blue….
Being happy can be hard. Really hard.
It’s weird, but it’s true. Because the stuff that makes us happy isn’t necessarily the stuff that impresses the world.
It’s not the stuff society “counts.”
It’s not the stuff you put on a resume or listen to your parents brag about as you stand next to them at an oppressively hot family reunion picnic.
More than likely, it’s not the stuff that makes us money (Note: As I was talking with my 11-year-old about one of my “happy” things, blogging—mainly about life with her and her siblings, their dad and the dog—she said, “How much do you get paid?,” to which I replied, “Well, not a lot, but that’s OK,” and she responded, with furrowed brows, “Why you do it?!” Being jaded is a new pre-teen milestone, apparently), and it’s not the stuff that gets us promoted.
And when you realize that “happy” isn’t a tangible achievement, then combine it with adult life—illness and death and disappointment and taxes (seriously, who knew?!)—you suddenly find yourself questioning what in the hell it is that we’re all chasing after anyway?
It’s the whole “meaning of life” thing, dumbed down from the profoundly philosophical to “You know, I’d just like to get through most days feeling like it mattered that I was here. Oh, and drink strong coffee.”
I spun and spun and spun on this for a very long time.
Like, longer than watching a stubborn toddler try to zip their own coat when the van is running and you’re already five minutes late.
I’ve only recently slowed down enough to start to “get it,” to understand that happiness is hard because you have to be disciplined enough to block out the noise and truly not care about the “should/could/don’twanttobutIthinkIhaveto” list that drags us under.
To sit with a beer and a fire and someone who makes you better and let everything else—the perfect house and the perfect job and the perfect kids and the perfect body and the perfect marriage–go.
Little things, not expectations…
I’m on a plane headed home from a business trip as I write this. And for the first time in, God, I don’t know how long—maybe ever–I’m not thinking about whether the floors are mopped or how much email I have to catch up on or getting in a quick run or what the calendar looks like; I’m thinking about how excited my kids will be when I pick them up from school.
That’s it. It’s also everything.
I’ll lose sight of this a hundred times in the next 24 hours. I’ll contradict myself in black and white, over and over again (follow me on Facebook for the play-by-play). But I’m learning to come back to “happy” more quickly. And stay there longer.
That makes life worth living.