Happiness is so cliché. Really. Happy? What does it mean precisely?
Recently there have been moments that have brought me palpable joy, you know, the kind you feel in your body as well as your mind –
1. Monday night, my classmates and teacher had praise for a reworking (my 5th revision … I know, it takes 11) of an essay that is eaking its way out of me. (That might not be an official word, eaking.) My heart just jumped with joy that I might be onto something.
2. Within the first hours of setting up my blog a young woman from Tennessee signed on to follow. I was shocked and delighted.
3. On a slightly deeper level, my son clearly recognized that it was grossly inappropriate (“He’s a creeper” were his exact words) when his girlfriend’s obstetrician said, “From now on the pants come down,” (indicating he planned internal exams).
4. Oh, here’s a good one: seeing my mother last weekend for the first time since the chemo effects wore off. She had dark, present eyes, a genuine life-is-so-good-to-me smile, and brand new white hair in soft thick curls. It’s gorgeous. People stop her in a store to ask where she gets her hair done. Its known as the ‘chemo curl,’ but my Mom says, “Well, honey, God knew I was 6 months with no hair, so now He’s giving me this. He’s like that.”
But the last time I was “truly happy”? That’s difficult. it's hard to remember a time before the deep dark streak of worry blocked it. Certainly it would be before my young son’s impending fatherhood, before my mother’s ovarian cancer and certainly, before the sexual assault.
I’d have to go way back, I suspect, to remember through-and-through joy. Perhaps even before my son was born – parenting has included a boatload of worry for me. Before that I feared I would “do harm” as I was learning medicine. And then there was the worry about getting into medical school at all.
And let’s not forget the fear and anxiety about being lesbian in a homophobic world. And that was a powerful place compared to the lack of power I felt relative to my boyfriend and father, before “women’s lib” hit.
Was it when I was a teenager, then, that I was truly happy? No, I was self conscious and insecure. And there were all those discipline problems in grammar school.
So, when was I not worried?
Wait... I know this. It was in the little yellow school bus right before I stuck my neck out and the bus driver landed his frustration about his busload chaos and noise on me. Right before that I was truly happy.
For more on that story see "sticking my neck out", my blog entry on january 20th.