Sunday, January 20, 2013

When I Was Happiest

Dustin-16 months old. This was a happy time! 
My dad sent me a picture he found of me when I was in high school in a text message yesterday.  When I saw it I laughed because I forgot how fat my face was when I was a teenager.  I definitely looked younger, but mostly I could still see the girl I was then; passionately optimistic and determined to leave my mark in some profound way. I had a glint in my eye and nothing standing in my way. My life was just beginning and it was full of possibilities. I was happy.

That picture got me thinking...when was I the happiest?

Before I go on let me say that I don't believe that being happy is the most important thing about life nor even a worthy pursuit really.  I believe that happiness ebbs and flows and our lives are full of seasons.  I also believe that it is possible to be full of joy even in the midst of miserable circumstances, even when happiness eludes us our cup may still runneth over.  And I also believe that unhappiness is a powerful driving force.  It is often a catalyst for growth and change more effective than our will.

Yet, it is nice to be happy.

And there is nothing wrong with being happy.

I miss being happy.

I was the happiest EVER IN MY LIFE from September 2005-January 2006.  I was pregnant with my first son and although my husband was on deployment in Iraq which was not ideal I moved home to live with my parents to make the most of it and get ready for my son's birth. I didn't have any other children yet, I didn't have to work, my morning sickness had ended, and it was fall in my hometown which is a lovely time of year.  I had a beautiful pregnant belly, took long walks every single day, and sat by the fire every single night with my feet up talking with my dad feeling my baby kick.  Life was what I always dreamed it would be.  The holiday season was full of excitement and anticipation of my new baby due January 11th.  I took long baths.  I ate holiday treats.  I spent time with my friends and family.  I had a baby shower. I felt safe.  I was so happy.

And right when I though I couldn't be happier my son was born on January 7th at 3:45am and I remember holding my arms out for the midwife to hand him to me and I said, "where have you been all my life?" It was the happiest moment of my entire life.  It changed me.  It was the purest joy I had ever felt.

I spent the next three weeks doting on my son.  As far as I was concerned he was perfect and I was so proud of him. I showed him off every chance I got and took about a thousand pictures of him. I put beanies on his head everyday to keep him warm and nursed him by the fire.  My grandmother would come over everyday to hold him and my mom cooked my meals and even stayed up with me all night one night to help me so I could get some sleep.  It was an ideal situation.  All I had to do was rest and take care of my precious baby.  It was truly the best time of my life.

And it wasn't like it came to a crashing halt, not right away anyway, and certainly not in some catastrophic way.  Normal life challenges emerged. My idealistic happiness was knocked down a few notches as my precious baby boy became the boy who never slept.  My husband came home from Iraq when Dustin was just three weeks old and I was thrilled to have him back and for him to see his new son, but it also meant all the responsibilities that go with being a wife and adjusting to life with a new baby.  And although it was certainly not all bad I have to be honest and say that was one of the hardest years of my life.  Chronic sleep deprivation and loneliness had a way of wearing me down. But it was just a season.  We've all been there.

When Aubrey and Ellie died it was as if the air got sucked out of my lungs and the happiness got sucked out of my life. Happiness is impossible when you can't even breath. And I knew it wasn't just a season.  It was forever.  And it hurt.

It has been a while since I can honestly say I was happy. I've had moments of joy and peace, I don't want to give the impression that my life is miserable because it isn't.  But genuine happiness has been missing for a while now. Even the addition of my little Colton was profoundly bittersweet. He brought me (and still does bring) so much joy and so many sweet moments, but I also have to fight so much fear and aching. I love him with my whole heart, so much so it hurts.

It is unfortunately a reality of life after loss I think.  There is a consistent looming feeling that something is missing, something that cannot be retrieved, and I don't think that feeling ever really goes away. So I am forcing myself to learn some new skills. I can feel myself getting stronger in that way.  I used to be afraid to feel happy because I knew an avalanche of sadness was waiting to steal it, and it was exhausting. I am teaching myself to handle the sadness better now so when I feel the happiness I don't fight it.  I know the happiness will still be worth it even if I have to spend a few minutes crying in the shower. It is just how my life is now.  It is kind of like getting in shape.  At the beginning it hurts, it is hard to breath, and the recovery is crippling,  But over time a workout that used to be hard becomes standard and recovery happens more quickly.  That is me these days: feeling stronger and bouncing back a bit faster.

Thinking back to my happiest time has made me hungry to feel that way again.  I feel that my happiest memories don't have to be found only in my past anymore.  I'd like to be brave and see what happiness I can add back into my life. It is all around me.  I just have to let it in somehow.

It's kind of exciting actually.

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