For example, the day I finally stopped fighting the symptoms (i.e. PAAAAAAIN) and gave up was a day I teach. I knew I wouldn't make it through the whole lecture. To my displeasure, I planned on cutting it short and letting my kids out early so I could take an earlier bus home. So I announced that, "I realize this is exceptionally ironic, y'all, but... I'm not feeling well today. So we're getting out of here early."
They laughed, because the topic that day was...
Public health policy.
Add to it the fact that the bus I was planning on catching was really late, leading to me standing outside for over half an hour anyway, and we have some delicious, delicious irony on our hands. So I was chuckling to myself on the bus home, while I took my temperature, and while I made myself some soup and put my pajamas on before the sun was down.
So the thing I went in for that needed operating, yeah, it hurt like a mofo. And it was, well, on my tukus. So that led to some pretty ripe opportunities for schoolyard-level humor.
"You're literally saving my ass," has been said at least four or five times since all this mumbo-jumbo began. Quips about how I have no dignity left, how at least I can still wipe my own ass, etc., abounded while I was in the hospital.
And while in excruciating pain during surgery prep (I hadn't had anything for the pain in almost eight hours), gripping the hospital bed so hard I was breaking the skin on my hands, the nurse asked me what my pain level was on a scale of one to ten. I gritted my teeth and gruffed out, "Well, since I haven't given birth, let's go with 9.5. ::gasp:: I wouldn't wanna, like, delegitimize any women that've had babies." The nurse laughed and went with nine (apparently they don't do halves). Then the next morning, my surgeon's right-hand gal said she'd had women that had given birth before say the thing I was going through was worse.
"SHIT!" I exclaimed, slapping the rail of the hospital bed, "I shoulda said TEN!"
Also, they were monitoring my bathroom visits, so every time I did my thing in there, I had to tell my nurse. So I started making jokes along the lines of, "Mommy, I went in the potty!" at them. Ultimately, two of the four nurses said I was one of their funnest patients in a while/long time.
So why am I telling you all this?
Well, see, I'm handling it with such finesse because of my general outlook on life and how to approach a given situation. I was raised by my grandma and mom with a unique, I find helpful, outlook on how life works. I've honed it down and made it my own as I've become a growed-up, but the foundation is
Happiness comes in moments.
That's what they'd tell me. My addition/personal redundancy is
It is fleeting and fickle.
I've been saying the first line to myself since I can remember, and the second one, I came up with that part a few years ago during a particularly dark experience. So what does this mean?
(Sidenote: I feel like I perchance have discussed this before, but, um, I don't really feel like going through all of my older posts................ Call me lazy, I call me... well, lazy. ;) )
It means happiness isn't easy. It's not something that's a given or a perpetual state. Sure, we may feel, like, tepid or content, but happiness? It comes and goes, and while there's mood and depression that can affect it, it relies almost entirely on circumstance and our willingness to seize an opportunity (or lack thereof, yes). Happiness doesn't just happen on its own, or if it does, it's rare and doesn't last long- like you get happy because you find a twenty dollar bill on the ground, yeah, but that in itself doesn't last you the rest of the gorram year, right? No, usually happiness comes when you embrace chances for it as they present themselves. In order to be happy, you have to let yourself. Will it, even.
Happiness means embracing moments and chances for joy, taking them into your hands (metaphorical or not) and running with them, milking them for all they're worth. It means when given the choice between laughing or crying, you choose laughter. It means finding pleasure out of the little things in life and letting that feeling take over. A sunset. Finding a dollar on the road. Making a really delicious meal for yourself. A smile from a stranger. A kiss from someone special. Realizing you have a coupon for half off any cheese product at Target. Making every green light on the way to something/somewhere.
(AGH! I'm texting a friend literally right fucking now that said his whole day is better because he found something cool on Amazon. Stuff like that, folks.)
And it also means manufacturing ways to be happy, too. You can't just expect good things to happen to you. God, my life? I expect for the worst and hope for the best, because history says that's the safest route (less disappointment that way, less pain). So then to make up for it, I try my damndest to create moments where I can be happy. I my invite someone over, even if I'd rather stay in my pajamas. I may go to the movie I'm not entirely interested in seeing with some friends, rather than staying home and vedging. I'll go see a live performance of a band I've never heard of, just so I can lose myself in the moment and the music.
And it means holding onto those moments, being stubborn and defiant in the face of potential sadness, anger, etc. Finding silver lining. One thing may be bad, but at least some other thing is good, right? Or maybe there's something good to take out of it. It's a grey line dividing realism and pessimism, but I try to be as realistic as possible without ever giving up hope that things can and will get better. Happiness means doing your best to not be a glass-half-empty person. No, that doesn't mean you'll always be happy, but it makes it easier to be happy when the opportunity presents itself. Granted, there are times and situations where I'm just so used to things getting fucked up, I'm totally lost when they don't... But that doesn't mean I'm not happy, I'm just, um, confused; still milking it for all it's worth, though, absolutely, and putting all my strength into not letting old bad memories get in the way of making new and good ones. If anything, those previous negatives make the present positives all the sweeter and more meaningful.
And that's so much of my life. Every time a friend actually follows through, is there for me, I'm so gorram grateful, for the act in itself, and for the fact that I wasn't treated like shit for a change. When I got my car loan through the dealer, I was sobbing because I had been turned down by two banks already. When I got River, I was totally excited (and am still totally grateful and excited, really) because the last dog I had wanted was claimed by someone else at the shelter. I was blown away by the understanding and kindness I got from various bosses in light of my recent surgery, since the one I had as an undergrad caused me a lot more grief from authority figures.
I could go on, but the point is, past pain gives me more reason to carpe diem the shit out of life whenever I get the slightest chance. I make my own joy when I need to, and I dive in when an opportunity presents itself.
And happiness ebbs and flows, comes in and out all the time. It's okay if something that used to make you happy doesn't anymore- that's no reason to sulk, just find something else. And don't get sad if the euphoria fades; find a way to make a new one. You've got to fight for it, and if you're anything like me, you have to fight more often than not.
So while there have been moments this past week where it's all I can do not to break down, and even though I do start crying after every visit to the nurse for gauze changes (not from the physical pain), I bounce back and try to enjoy myself somehow. This morning, for example, even though I really wanted to go home and curl up in to a ball, I instead took the friend that was driving's offer to go over to her place for a little while. Not just because I'm starving for human interaction, but because I feel safe with this person, and I knew that even if I did start crying, it'd be okay with her. And it was. And so I had a lovely time.
Now, I know every person is different. What works for me specifically may not work for the next person. And vice versa.
Take clowns, for example. Or, you know, don't. Because I, like some people, am afraid of them- I made the mistake of hiding behind the couch as a little kid while my parents were watching I.T., and, well, yeah*. But some people take enjoyment out of clowns, and that's their right- and I'd totally encourage them to seek clowns out if they were having a rough time of it (hah).
Still. The general premise, that expecting happiness to be easy is pointless, stands, I think. You just have to find what works for you, that's all.
I think this song by The Weepies does a good job with it.
Now, I have to go. My washer is leaking, so I've got to find my surfboard.
*I think it's pretty fucking telling when you Google Image search "clown" and get so many pictures of intentionally scary ones. Just sayin'.