I Do Not Want Happiness

A couple years ago I was scrolling around on Pinterest, like I do, and came across this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Upon reading this I am sure I scoffed and mumbled some bullshit under my breath. At the time, I was really fucking confused. What do you mean the purpose of life is not to be happy? I thought that was the ultimate goal, the end game, right? Happiness. That is what everyone says they want to find! How the hell could happiness not be our main priority? There are 87,094 books on Amazon about finding “happiness”. This is insane. If it is not our purpose as humans, then why do we all want this illusive thing and why is it that no one seems to know how to find it?

Nine months ago my ex-husband said he needed to talk. He wasn’t happy and wasn’t sure that he was even capable of happiness and needed “time” to figure it all out. So, I too, took a step back and have been contemplating the idea of “happiness” and came to this conclusion:

Happiness is an empty word for lazy people.

Whew, I said it.

Remember back to middle school English- inevitably there were several posters like this ticky-tacked to the walls:

100 Words for "bad"

There are hundreds of more accurate and precise words.

Happy is lazy. More importantly, happy is passive.

Let us consider: content, fulfilled, utilized, honest, trustworthy, peaceful, compassionate and kind. These goals are more feasible. A blanket statement like, “I want to happy” is too big, too undefined and quite frankly, too misguided. How does one become happy? Who knows. Or maybe, ask one of the 87,094 authors on Amazon.

The idea of finding one’s happiness tends to be an outward idea. Those seeking the simplicity of happiness look for things that make them happy: a new car, new shoes, money, sex, food, vacation, cocktails. These items may bring temporary happiness for a week, a day, or maybe even just 10 minutes, but when the excitement of the thing wears off- it’s over. Happiness is consistently fleeting idea, especially when combined with tangible pursuits.

I am urging us to look deeper. Look within. Be more precise. We all want to be happy, but what else do you want?

I want to be compassionate. I want to be helpful. I want to be inspiring. I want to be loving. I want to be positive. I want to be encouraging. I want to be confident. I want to be friendly. I want to have purpose.

These are smaller, more specific goals, but most importantly, they do not rely on outside factors. The keys to compassion, inspiration, confidence and positivity lie WITHIN yourself. You cannot buy these items or rely on someone else to give you them. Their impact is not momentary. Confidence will stay housed within you forever. Compassion, once learned, is a life long skill. Positivity is a way of life.

I truly believe the only way to “be happy” is to love yourself- every little piece of you, even the dark and scary corners. When you wake up in the morning confident in your choices, you, my dear, have found the purpose of life. Stop worrying about “happiness”. Take it out of the vernacular. Happiness is lazy. Search for something greater.

xoxo

Advertisements

Compassionate Co-Parenting, Part 2.

My co-parent and I had been together over a decade when we agreed to divorce. We began dating in college when we were only 20 and 21 years old. We have spent over a third of our lifetimes together but our children will have little to no memory of us all living under one roof. At 6 and 3, our oldest may have a couple fleeting memories from here or there, but our son won’t have any memories at all. None. Our children will never remember waking up and crawling into bed with us for sleepy morning cuddles or cleaning the house while belting out the Frozen soundtrack or even huddling in the shower together during a tornado warnings.

Our relationship as “mom and dad” will be not be defined by our marriage, but only by our DIVORCE. They will not remember our 7 year marriage- only our lifetime of divorce. This divorce will end up being our legacy and how we handle this separation, move, and co-parenting relationship will be the foundation that our children will base their knowledge of love, support, and partnership between their parents.

Our marriage went up in flames, but holy crap, we have the incredible opportunity to have an AMAZING divorce! We can rewrite history. We can let bygones be bygones, forgive each other of our trespasses and be the best fucking co-parents on the planet! We can wipe the slate clean, begin at the ground level and start all over again. We can be the friends that once went to a J Crew sample sale in college and joked about our cobblering skills to fix a broken sole. We can be friends that once drove around one New Years Eve in my old Ford Probe looking for a party and ended up ringing in the New Year at a stop light. We can be the friends that discuss the previous night’s episode of The Daily Show (RIP) and how glad we were to see Jon Stewart in NYC before he left the show. We can be friends that commiserate over home repair and our that time we got ripped off by the roofing company after the massive hail storm. We can be friends that enjoy each other’s company while hanging with our progeny and are happy to part ways at the end of the day.

We could literally put everything shitty aside and move on into our new lives and new roles as healthy, functioning, compassionate co-parents. Wouldn’t that be crazy? We could be Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet. We could be supportive and caring and just put our own baggage away for the happiness and stability for those fantastic little people we brought into this world together.

coparenting

You can read more on my take on Compassionate Co-Parenting, here. Thanks!

Love WINS!

JusticeKennedy

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.” -Justice Kennedy

I still believe in love. My own love may not have worked out so well, but I still believe it is possible. I believe in a real, true love of epic proportion. I don’t think that I am being overly optimistic, I think that I am finally asking for what I deserve- a love based on fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. I deserve fidelity. I deserve devotion. I deserve sacrifice.

I have had crappy boundaries. In fact, I have had practically non-existent boundaries. Maybe I didn’t think that I was deserving of anything more. Maybe I didn’t have the self-esteem to stand up and demand better. Either way, due to my lack of boundaries, I became bitter, resentful, suspicious and angry. This is not love. I think this is what they mean by “a thin line between love and hate”. I never really understood that saying, but it is beginning to make more sense.

Love is a choice. Everyday. Everyday you must choose to put time and effort into caring for your delicate and precious love. Everyday you choose fidelity. Everyday you choose devotion. Everyday you choose to sacrifice for your family. If you are not waking up every morning with the intention to choose LOVE, then it will not flourish. Love cannot be taken for granted. Love is special. I love love! I love love even more now that I have lost it. I loved being unified by marriage and I do not want to turn cold and unreceptive to the idea of love.

My hope is to continue to practice compassion. Compassion with defined boundaries. Giving with defined boundaries. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life suppressing venom and vitriol. I don’t want to consume poison hoping the other person dies. It is so easy to get caught in the sticky web of animosity and revenge and I do not want that kind of negativity in my one precious life.

I choose to let go and move on.

So, today is a great LEAP forward for love! We should celebrate those brave enough to love fully, deeply and completely. Those that choose the profound union of marriage. Those willing to exemplify the “highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion and sacrifice”! What a beautiful opportunity to LET LOVE WIN! Because, after all, love is love.

Love is Love

Update: By the Numbers

28: Pounds I have lost

89: Days without alcohol

36: Days until the kids and I move into our own home

5: Days left before the divorce should be final

31: Days we will both live under the same roof after being officially divorced

1: Time in the last 2 months that I have completely lost my shit and exploded into a fiery mountain of rage and completely broken trust

6: Times I have looked up Al-Anon meetings

0: Al-Anon meetings I have actually attended

3: Times I have looked up Co-dependent Anonymous meetings

0: Co-dependent Anonymous meetings I have attended

45 (ish): Times I have wanted to take a Xanax in the last 2 months

1: Times I actually took a Xanax

5: Average number of times I work out a week

174, 609: Cuddles I have given my kids lately

235, 090: Number of “I love you” daily

79: Days until I have my first day of junior high all over again

5: Times a day I cannot keep my head from rabbit holing into unpleasant places

5: Times a day I pull myself out and back into the sunshine

1: Hour I have brushed up on American History…you know, the subject I will soon be TEACHING.

300: Approximately the number of hours I should spend brushing up on American History

3: Nights I will be gone for a teaching conference that I was invited to attend in New Orleans

10: Teachers from my school that were invited to the conference

3: Times a day I have thoughts that literally make me sick to my stomach

10: Times a day I have thoughts that make me smile

1300: Calories a day I need to stay under to lose 1.5lbs a week.

500: Average number of calories I burn at the gym every day

1.5: Longest distance of miles I have consecutively run

3: Average number of miles I run/walk a day

1: (maybe 2) Times I look around everyday and think,”it will all be ok, I got this”.

My Collection

This morning I was listening to Taylor Swift while on the treadmill, you know, like you do- and I had an epiphany: to make sense of this world I will become a collector- a collector of experiences. A collector of happiness, pain, sadness, excitement and passion. I will collect the good and the bad so that I can understand the depth and breadth of human capacity. We may not seek out some of these experiences on purpose, but they happen and we need to accept that they can happen to all of us eventually. Mourning, grieving, pain and death- they are all inevitable and universal. If you are lucky enough to experience great love, you will eventually experience great loss. Given a long enough timeline, everyone will share these same experiences and it is how we react and learn from them that is the true test. So far, here are some gems from my collection:

Embarrassment.

Hatred.

Jealousy.

Being on stage.

Falling in love.

Sex.

Graduating college.

Living dollar to dollar.

Being dumped.

Engagement. Twice.

Devastation.

Cancer scare.

Marriage.

Infidelity.

Labor.

Addiction.

C-Section. Twice.

Buying a house.

Bailing someone out of jail.

Separation.

Filing Divorce papers. Twice.

Unconditional love.

Heartbreak.

Soul mates.

Best friends.

Rejection.

Death.

Panic attacks.

Car wrecks.

Getting my dream job.

A million Dave Matthews Band concerts.

Unrequited love.

Supernatural.

Regret.

Happy tears while crossing off an item from my bucket list.

collection

Failure

I went out to dinner with a friend from high school the other night. She married a man that had been head over heels her since they were 14.  They now have two adorable kids and a brand new house in the town we grew up in. She is a successful oncology PA and he is a CPA. They both do very well and are happy, but, get this- she feels like a failure.
Her words not mine.

Wtf.

She has a man who loves her deeply, two wonderful kids, a great job, a big new house in the suburbs and yet still feels like a failure. This boggles my freaking mind. I asked how it was possible that she could feel so negatively about her life and this is what she said, “I am not sure where I thought I would be by this age, but this isn’t what I thought my life would look like.”

She never thought she would end up back in her home town, a mile from her parents house with kids that would be attending the same elementary school she did. She had a ten year plan and never thought she would slow her career mid-stream to stay home with her kids. She definitely didn’t think she would have resigned to the suburbs so quickly. She had this vision of living in the cool, fancy (read rich doctors close to medical center, great schools and restaurants) area of town, pushing a stroller to a downtown festival on the weekends.

I was shocked. Stunned.

Here I am 33, nearly divorced, 2 kids, job hunting and moving back into my childhood home thinking I am the one that failed. We even said the same sentence:

Do you ever feel like you failed?”

Jinx. You owe me a margarita.

Two completely different paths have brought us both back to the same geographical location and somehow we both see ourselves as failures. This fascinates me.

I have often remarked how we are so much more alike than different. We all have similar fears and hopes. We all have struggles and pain. We all are striving for something that we cannot quite reach. We all have vices. We all have demons that we are trying to quiet. Yet, here I am with a good friend, who seems to have her shit together, and she too feels like a failure.

I think we get so caught up on other people’s Facebook lives and want that. We want the adorable kids in oversized bows and matching outfits. We want the gigantic new build with a Tahoe in the driveway. We want fabulous date nights with a handsome spouse and beach vacations with cabanas and fruity drinks. We want. We want. We want. We want this made-up image in our head. An image that we may never truly be able to define. An image of perfection that we will not be able to obtain- mainly because it’s not real. I know this because I love people. I love to get to know people. I like to know what makes them tick and what makes them happy. I hear from people all the time about their own struggles with marriage or depression or raising children. It’s hard. Life is hard and unexpected in its twists and nothing turns out quite like we want it to. But that’s okay, it’s the journey that brings us to someplace we didn’t know existed. We reach a distant land with opportunities we didn’t know we were missing out on. I feel like we are so busy planning and plotting that we miss the journey while waiting for the next destination.

I followed the path. I graduated college, got married, brought a house, had kids…I followed the fucking path and it got shot to hell. I played by the rules and I have nothing to show for it but anxiety attacks and a shitty failed marriage. But, I also two amazing kids and I am closer to my family and old friends that have known me for 20 years. That’s a different path than expected, for sure, but it’s been comforting. I am so happy to have friends I can meet me for dinner and explain how our perfect lives became such failures. It’s rare to have such honesty in our world today and I am so thankful that I made such amazing connections all those years ago. I may not have known why real, true and deep friendships would be so important, but now, I know why I work so hard to make and keep good people around me. Some day you may find yourself lonely, in the middle of a failed life, and need support from friends that understand you in a way that few people will. I am glad all those years ago I made smart decisions for the future me. Subconsciously we know what is truly important: family, deep friendships, love and grace. That’s all we need. The rest of the stuff is just a bonus.

Full Circle.

 

Holy shit. De-com-press. Holy shit. Sit. Breathe. Be aware. I am not sure what has happened with my life but here are the facts:

I spent the last 45 minutes driving around my hometown.

I spent the last 4 hours before that at a job fair for the school district I grew up in.

I am moving back into my childhood home in August when our lease is up and the divorce is final.

My daughter will be going to my old elementary school.

The weird Chinese food drive-thru is still there and I wonder if the fried rice is still crazy amazing good. They introduced me sriracha.

I am will be 5 miles away from my very favorite Mexican restaurant, which means only 5 miles from my very favorite margarita. (Although, I am not drinking right now.)

I had a great interview with the same middle school I attended.

I never ever ever expected to move back to the area.

There are a lot of Stripes gas stations here, what’s up with that?

My high school is still in the middle of a field next to the railroad tracks. I kinda hope that never changes.

I never ever ever expected to live in my parents old house.

I never ever ever thought that my life would come around so full circle.

Ever.

I am on the verge of tears. Not sure why. There is some comfort in knowing my “new” house and my kids “new” school. There is comfort in knowing my way around, although l the roads have been widened and there is SO MUCH commerce. It’s familiar and scary all at once. Part of me feels like I have failed. I have wound up in the same place I started. The EXACT same fucking place. The same precise longitude and latitude I spent 12 years of my life. Omg.

I feel like my whole world is changing and yet nothing has changed at all. It’s overwhelming and confusing and I am trying to live in the moment. I am trying to experience the anxiety and confusion and magnitude of divorce and moving and supporting myself. I am trying not to mask the feels with alcohol or xanax. I want to be here now. In the shit so when I come out the other side- it’s that much better. I don’t want to fight the tears or the sleepless nights- I want to live the human experience and that includes all the pain, sadness, fear, anxiety and excitement of my situation. You have nothing left to fear when you allow yourself to experienced it all. You know hurt and pain. You know sadness and depression. You know anxiety and self doubt and it can’t scare you anymore. Half the anxiety is the anticipation of the event, not the event itself.

So, here I am, at my very favorite mexican restaurant looking down the street that I will live off once again and thinking how weird life is. Really fucking weird. I would have never thought this would be my path and yet, here I am traversing the same damn roads.

Full circle.

Feel the Fear

Fear is almost tangible. At times, I am convinced that, with some leverage, I could pull off the heavy weight that bears down, most inconveniently, upon my chest. I am fairly certain I have had lengthy conversations with fear. Fear can be a pretty quiet dude, sneaking up on you when you least expect it- often kicking you when you are already down. He can be a bully- overwhelming, persistent and exhausting. He is also persuasive- he can talk you out of almost anything. He can convince you that it will be too scary, too hard or simply impossible. Fear can be a jerk and he tends to be almost impossible to ignore.

Growing up my Dad used to say “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Whenever I was nervous about an audition or completely overwhelmed with a term paper or learning how to drive on real streets in an actual car- he urged me to take a breath, feel the fear and do it anyway. I think about this often. In fact, it may be the single sentence that has gotten me through life his far. When I walk into a room full of strangers or meet someone for an interview, when I go to the doctor, when I submit a blog post or get totally freaked out about a life as a single parent…fear is there.

We cannot escape it. Fear is our body’s natural response to anything out of our comfort zone or scope of knowledge. We should not ignore fear; it alerts us to situations that may be dangerous. We should not silence those instincts, but, the great majority of the time, the little alarm that goes off is only warning us to proceed with caution. Note, I said PROCEED.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

There are so many opportunities that we miss out on because fear works his way into our brain. We miss out on taking new career leaps, traveling to exotic lands, applying to dream schools, even getting that watercolor tattoo we all covet on Pinterest. Fear permeates into our being, defining the person we ultimately become. Fear doesn’t care if we are comfortable in our lives, if we feel fulfillment with our current situations. In fact, fear tends to hold us back from the really BIG things in life- those scary, crazy, amazing things we would do if we knew that we could not fail.

So, let us challenge each other to take the leap. Make the call. Submit the application. Buy the plane tickets. Say I love you first. Quit your job. Run the marathon. Sign the papers. Put yourself out there. Take a chance. Take a risk.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

No “Plus One”

I have been invited to two weddings in the last week. TWO! I am a bridesmaid in one and a guest in the other. I kinda love weddings although I cry at every single one of them. I am sitting at my desk Pinteresting “nude/gold bridesmaids dresses” when all of a sudden I think, “The wedding is in November…it may be pretty cold…I most likely won’t have a date’s jacket to steal to keep me warm”. Awesome. No date.

Being married is advantageous for many reasons, but one of them is an automatic “plus one” to all occasions. Who will escort you to the fundraiser/wedding/holiday party? Your built in date of course! I am not saying that I cannot or will not go to an event alone, I just really like having a buddy. Its fun to have someone order your cocktail or save you a seat at the cool kids table. I like that. Someone that keeps tabs on you and makes sure no one has stolen you. (I am not paranoid, I promise). I love the camaraderie of relationships but now I guess I can be that slutty brazen and independent bridesmaid that can sleep with the groomsman or hot cater waiter or go home alone and happy- its up to me!

It is still weird, though. I don’t have to match anyone’s tie to my dress. I don’t need a king bed. A twin would be fine for little ol’ me. In fact, I can just bunk up on an air mattress if necessary…just me, my champagne flute and my nude/gold sparkly bridesmaid dress.

On the flip side, I suppose I also don’t have to wonder if he is having fun or drinking too much at the open bar. I don’t have to worry about keeping track of him while I socialize with friends and family. I don’t have to go home early if he gets tired. I don’t have to feel bad that he has to occupy himself while I take pictures before and after the ceremony. This sounds easy. I can just worry about me, my hair falling flat and remembering to bend my knees during the ceremony so I don’t pass out and embarrass myself.

I still have 8 months until the wedding, which mean lots of time to continue growing and become more confident in my new role. Mom. Co-parent. Employee (hopefully). I am really excited and anxious to meet the future me. I wish she would come visit me now and reassure me that everything works out well. I want to know that everyone is happy, healthy and thriving. I am sure we will, we have been working our asses off to remain respectful and civil.  But in the mean time, maybe I will look for an elegant gown with sleeves, that way I wont need a suit jacket to keep me warm anyways.

I really like this one:

gold bridesmaid dress

Divorce: Part 2

I have sat down 100 times to write this. Some versions are sad, others happy. Sometimes it is angry and harsh, sometimes even calm and rational. I want to be diplomatic. I try to be strong and composed. But, other times, the fact that we are back at this point FUCKING INFURIATES ME!

For the most part there is a calm that is different than last time. Last time. I am so ashamed that I even have to say “last time”. Last time, when we decided to get a divorce- a year and a half ago- I wallowed in the separation. I chronicled the events and my emotions. It overtook my daily routine and became a whole new facet of me and I didn’t want that to happen again this time. I haven’t written much and for the most part I think it helped keep me in the present, living in the moment instead of introspectively behind the laptop. But, I felt like a liar. I felt like a huge part of me was remaining hidden but I wanted to wait until I could write the words with conviction:

I am getting a divorce.

Again.

I am so afraid of being the girl that cried divorce. My biggest fear is looking stupid. I feel like divorce makes me look stupid. It makes me feel stupid. Stupid that I have made bad decisions. Stupid that I failed. Stupid that I thought first love could be true love. Stupid that I am 33 years old and have to figure it all out again like some angsty college co-ed that can’t decide on her major. Only now, I have two kids and a soon to be ex-husband and I am just as lost as I was at 20- but with so much more responsibility. I have a new chapter to begin and that chapter starts now.

So, with heavy heart and anxious nerves, we will part ways.

Our kids are an amazing gift from this love affair gone askew and we will forever continue to put them first. We may not be married, but we will always be family. A family who always wants the best for each other. A family who loves fiercely and fully. A family full of support and encouragement.  A family that couldn’t quite keep it all together. I am so very thankful for the lessons I have learned about both life and love and my hope is that when we emerge on the other side, we are happier, healthier versions of the people that we have left behind. Sometimes you have to accept the fact that certain things will never go back to how they use to be…and maybe you don’t want them to.

So what is my “scary, crazy, amazing goal for 2015, if I could literally accomplish ANYTHING in the world?”

An amicable divorce.

I file the papers, again, this Thursday. The ones we filed in 2013 have already been thrown out by the court, so we start the process over.

xoxo

ambiguity