Sometimes I wonder if it’s time for me to stop talking about the ups and downs of my life, just stick with . . . I don’t know . . . upbeat thoughts, perhaps. I won’t, though. I do not believe it is either healthy or wise to always put on a smiling face. Life is good, but it is also cruel. Life is happy, but it is also sad. Life is easy, but it is also hard. How can we ignore the parts of life that might not be comfortable?
The truth is, although I can handle the downs of my life, the emotion lows, most other people can’t. It makes them uncomfortable. And rightly so. People who are smug in their couplehood don’t want to have to think of being the one left behind. People who own houses do not want to admit that some people might be homeless (not in a disfunctional sort of way, but in simply a roofless and rootless sort of way) through no fault of their own. People who are surrounded by family don’t want to know what it is like to be a generation of one.
Perhaps oddly, I have never considered happiness something to pursue. It seems more of a hindsight sort of thing, realizing after the fact that one was happy, which makes happiness a thing of the past, not the present, and therefore irrelevant. Being unhappy at times in the present is not a crime. Sometimes not being particularly happy is a proper response. Most reasonable people, in a hurricane, try to get out of the wind, not revel in the devastation. And above all, I am reasonable.
It is not just the loss of the brother closest to me in age ten years ago, the loss of my mother nine years ago, the loss of my life mate/soul mate six years ago, the loss to mental illness of my older brother two and a half years ago, and the loss of my father one and a half years ago. It’s also the loss of my livelihood (my life mate and I were in business together; although I am a writer, I am not one of the lucky ones who make a living at it). The loss of my home — twice (once six years ago when I came to the desert to take care of my dad, and then again a year and a half ago when my dad died.) And the loss of the feeling of purposefulness more times than I can count. (Lost the feeling of purposefulness that came from building a coupled relationship, from taking care of the sick and the dying, from grieving.)
Considering all that pain and loss, I do not think it is unreasonable to still have times of sadness. To still have times when death makes me cry. (I ran over a snake this morning, couldn’t stop in time, and I cried over the pain and eventual loss of that beautiful creature.)
I do not need to be cured. Happy or sad, I am perfectly fine. Happy is easier, of course, but why does life have to be easy?
I often mention my difficulty finding a place to live, but it only bothers me sporadically. Like when the outside temperature is over 100, and I am exhausted. Then life gets daunting. Meantime, I am staying in an incredible part of the desert, at the foot of the Ord Mountains. I have to drive the worst road imaginable, but I have made new friends, hiked some glorious terrains (and gloriously hot terrains), will go hiking tomorrow with a woman who can show me hidden trails. I am negotiating with a fellow for a room in his house for next month (and space in his garage!). And if that falls apart, I will stay here on the road from hell another month. And if that becomes impossible? Well, something else will come along. Or not.
Happy or sad. Comfortable or uncomfortable. Easy or hard. It’s all part of the adventure.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)
July 19, 2016 at 6:50 pm
Too right it is Pat; keep plugging away 🙂
July 19, 2016 at 7:30 pm
Life is hard: once that is accepted, then life is easy. Hard times come and go. Good times come and go. I spent a good many years wearing a happy face for everyone else. Keeping a stiff upper lip. Being strong in the face of adversity and never letting them see me sweat, cry, etc. Now I just try to work through my emotions and come out the other side. That’s all anyone can do. For my two cents, you are doing that very well indeed.
July 19, 2016 at 7:33 pm
Working through emotions is for our emotional health. Putting on a happy face is to keep others comfortable. An easy choice when you know the truth.
July 19, 2016 at 8:04 pm
“”There you go again~~~” ……..and you said it so very well. Really, really well.
I have come to believe that life is SUPPOSED to be a challenge, and that those people who always ‘appear’ happy, may in reality be struggling to make themselves to ALWAYS ‘appear’ happy, even through the cruelest times of their lives. How sad that someone can’t be true to their own feelings and be able to recognize how they feel~
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing the bad times, sad times, and even the lowest of times, because without them, we wouldn’t be able to look back and realize what were the good times, nor would we know how to look forward to the time when we can expect some more good times! Keep posting! Your message is inspiring, and is sharing information with others who may not be able to put their feelings into words! Please don’t come through Texas without coming to see me!!
July 20, 2016 at 6:44 pm
Great post Pat. When I entered the field of Emotional/Mental health it was not to seek keys to happiness, indeed I didn’t even consider happiness. My motivation was to understand emotional pain and the healthiest way to deal with it. I am attempting to write a book on this and I smiled when I read your post because in my intro I write:
‘Why should you listen to me? Good question because if you looked at the self-help section of any bookstore it seems there are quadrillions of people who have the key to your happiness. Well I do not. I have the key to misery and the tools to journey through that misery so that the ‘happy’ moments, that do occur in everyone’s life, can be experienced and not missed because of unresolved pain.’ xx
July 20, 2016 at 7:10 pm
Leesis, When your book gets to the point of publication, be sure to ask me for an endorsement. You have helped me find my way through the “happiness is all” fallacy, to accept grief and find my way to a gentler happy/sad cycle. It is hard in light of all those “keys to happiness” books for people to admit their pain. It somehow feels as if we are letting other people down, but if you can’t think of your own needs when you are going through great grief, when can you?
July 21, 2016 at 12:31 am
I just stumble on your blog and I really loved your post
July 21, 2016 at 8:31 am
July 22, 2016 at 2:17 pm
You always amaze me with you honesty and great words.