Why Are We Afraid to Admit When We're Happy?
Maybe it's just me, but...
Recently, a friend asked me how I was doing. She specifically meant as it related to working from home and taking care of my 7-month-old son. It was one of those situations where I felt completely comfortable talking about the realities of life minus the pretense. So, I readily responded with the answer you’d expect from a new mother willing to lay her soul bare: “It’s hard,” I said with a woe-is-me shake o’ the head. I prepared to withdrawal from my bank of internal complaints, ready to list all the reasons why embracing motherhood while keeping a career is exhausting.
“For example,” I began, “managing my time is….”
Hmm. My work day is certainly sporadic, often depending on Avery’s nap time and Matty’s schedule. I’m interrupted a lot. I have to be extremely intentional with the time I have. Come to think of it, I’ve learned a lot about intentionality. Intention is my word for the year, even. Honestly, I’ve probably learned how to enjoy my life better because I’m pursuing every moment with intention. But…is it hard?
Actually, no. It’s not hard. It’s new and it’s caused me to make some changes, but I wouldn’t say it’s hard.
But! You know what is hard?
“Sleep! I mean, I haven’t slept...”
I haven’t slept through the night in nine months. Avery wakes up a few times a night, I feed him or Matty grabs him, and he goes right back to sleep. I still wake up feeling generally rested in the morning and...uh… Okay. That’s actually not very hard, either.
Oh, but THIS.
“Plus, I can’t remember the last time we had a DATE.”
Matty and I, we practically never go out! We’re ALWAYS taking care of Avery. A kid is a full time job. Avery cries, but that’s normally because he’s tired, hungry, or frustrated. It’s really the only way he can communicate, so I don’t get too upset about it. Actually...he’s a really happy kid who makes me smile ear-to-ear on a nonstop basis. He loves Matty and goes absolutely wild whenever he comes home. Matty is both obsessed with the kid and being the best father he can be, which checks off a “that’s incredibly hot” box in my book. When I’m overwhelmed, Matty takes Avery. And vise versa. We’re a team. We’ve entered completely new territory in our marriage and while it’s a new challenge every day, it’s something we take on together. So really, I kinda love it.
I miss the nights where we could just go anywhere on a whim. I miss not being tied to a small child’s schedule. But what we’ve gained in return? A family. A little wonder. It’s SO AMAZING. So, to put it all in perspective...
“Actually, it’s not that hard. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my entire life.”
That's right — I'm happy! Matty is the man I dreamt about. Avery is the son we fervently prayed for. I have the things now that I wanted then, and I have every reason to be unabashedly happy. Life is never going to be easy, but I also don’t need to focus on the difficult moments to try and admit that it’s hard. I KNOW that motherhood is hard. I’ve had the days. (Boy, have I.) But I go to sleep (and wake up 2 hours later on repeat) so overwhelmed by this life I get to lead.
So why is it so, ahem, hard to just say it, already?
A while ago I wrote some thoughts on why it’s hard to admit when we’re sad and yet, here I am on the other end of the spectrum. Still in the same boat.
It seemed like a good time to go back and re-evaluate some of those myths I wrote about then, when I was struggling in a job I didn't like and a couple of negative pregnancy tests. It helped me then, to be authentic to myself and understand how I was feeling, so let's review a few myths that have kept me from shouting from the rooftops about how happy I am!
Perhaps you can relate?
Myth 1: My Happiness Means Someone Else's Sadness
I think one reason is because I’m so aware of how a person’s happiness can look like a perfect life from the outside. Goodness, when I was in the pit of my sadness I had a really hard time accepting other people’s happiness. They had a job they liked; I didn’t. They had a baby; I didn’t. I had to fight bitterness with a sword. It’s so easy to compare when you’re unhappy. To think, well, rub it in, why don’t ya?
I never want my happiness to send someone else deeper into sadness. I genuinely want it to be a story of redemption and hope. And I think that's why we share those good moments, right? The ones where you can't believe life could actually be so amazing. It's because we want to invite others into that possibility. Don't loose hope — it will always get better.
What are our stories meant for, if not to be told?
Myth 2: It's Not Possible/Okay to be Happy When the World is So Bad
I find this one the most difficult to refute. There is so much pain in the world and as a person who values empathy and compassion, it does seem near impossible to embrace happiness. But I've come to realize that one of the more powerful thing I can do to inject compassion into this world is give it. When you know something is good, TRUE and good, you can't help but want to invite others in. I start with my husband and my son. Let it overflow into my circle of friends, community, to strangers I interact with. I do NOT have this down, but it's an area where I continually welcome growth.
Myth 3: If I Admit that I'm Happy then it Won't Last
Okay, what is it about us as humans that makes us think like this: Oh no, I'm happy and things are good so that must mean things are about to get real bad...better pace myself with all this happiness! It's like we genuinely believe that we aren't worth the good things. Why can't we have the moments where our souls bubble up out our your chests and we're so thoroughly happy that we can't help but let it escape in the form of a laugh, smile, hug....daily? I don't know, y'all, but those are the moments I live for and I'm ready to accept the fact that it is a good thing to enjoy them, guilt and fear free.
I know the sad moments and the hard moments exist, but I guess what I'm concluding is that I can't let them stop me from all out waging for happiness in my life right now. If you're in pain, I hope you don't think I'm naive or tone deaf. I just hope that on the other side of it, and even in the midst, you can find those soul moments and embrace you're happiness, too. Because if no one told you, lately, please let me be your authority on this one: you deserve it.