Tonight as I wrote, I head Fox’s voice from downstairs, “Go potty so Daddy be happy. Mama be happy.”
And again as I told him goodnight, he gave me one of his beloved monkey friends: “Be happy, Mama.”
Obviously, this just squeezes my heart and not just because it’s irresistibly sweet. It’s because, for me, there’s a burden to happiness. I am someone whose daily emotional life could produce a Richter scale read-out of peaks and valleys.
Our au pair’s hours end as I walk through the door at 4:30. So without a bathroom trip or a change of clothes, I am punching into my second full time job after arriving home from my first. Of course, my boys are on my mind all day long, and their happy greetings are a highlight every time I return. Still, pulling myself out of the afternoon sloth and throwing myself into the rigors of motherhood does not always result in my outward happiness.
I also tend to dwell on things, turning them over and over in my mind like a stream working a pebble. When my mind starts to tumble problems around, I again find it hard to be mindfully in the present, “being happy.”
I think I’ve always been one of those people who is always waiting for the next good thing. Dinner was great, now where’s dessert? It felt like having babies was supposed to be the next big thing after marriage. And, of course, all the cliches apply: the boys changed our lives, they’re the best thing that’s happened to us, they make us happier than we have ever been…but the dirty truths also apply: I think we’ve both never felt fatter, older, or more tired. We’ve both never felt so useless at work. We’ve never felt less romantic, less desirable, and at times, less in love.
I tell myself that this takes time, that we will feel human again someday. And I really hope I’m right, but I can’t help but consider John Lennon’s idea that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Maybe there is no finish line where I weigh what it says on my driver’s license or can have impromptu guests over without throwing things in a panic-cleaning box. Maybe I won’t ever have the time and energy to invest in my work like I once did. And maybe it’ll be years before I sleep eight hours again.
However, there’re two other quotations that are helping me get through this time. One is that nothing in nature blooms year round. This reminds me that to everything there is a season. Maybe this isn’t my season to crusade for teachers’ rights or to implement rich and complicated new ideas in the classroom. However, it might be my time to do my best at being a mom. And maybe, the times in which I bloomed are now supporting my dormant years.
The other quotation is, You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once. I’ve lived in a foreign country, I’ve driven a car that made me feel cool, I had a flat stomach, my husband took me on surprise trips…but there was never a perfect storm of happiness when every aspect of my life was peaking all at the same time.
Wait, there’s actually one more mantra that I’m working on-kind of faking it until I make it-“Be happy, Mama.” I’m doing my best.