This past Saturday I turned forty. I woke up in the morning and asked myself, “How the hell did this happen?” I have always had a Peter Pan complex. As a child, when other little girls my age said they wanted to be mothers or brides or teachers, I thought they were insane. Why in God’s name would anyone actually want to do any of that? Being an adult didn’t look like any fun. I just wanted to remain a kid..forever. For years, I wished that I would remain young. Of course that was one wish that would never be fulfilled unless I was going to sell my soul to the devil in return for semi-eternal youth. I had to remove that option from the table, however, because someday that pointy tailed, pitchfork carrying psychopath would come to collect my soul as payment for all the wrinkle free years I was granted, and, frankly, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am really, really, really afraid of the devil. I also considered, but later determined that it was also highly improbable, that I would find an artist to paint a portrait of myself as a youth which would age for me. Of course, I would hide it in my attic so no one would discover my secret, but, as we know, the whole aging portrait in an attic thing didn’t work out very well for poor debauched Dorian Gray. Occam’s razor my friends, Occam’s razor. The simplest choice is usually the right choice. Portraits and artists and deals with the devil are just too complicated.
So I grew up and aged. I don’t look as grizzled as I expected to when I turned forty, but age I did. And this brings us to the day of my fortieth birthday. Giorgio had to work all day and it snowed..a lot. The kids, Ginger and I were snowed in on my birthday, with no hope of going anywhere or doing anything special. Despite the fact that we weren’t going anywhere, I put on my new faux leather leggings (they just make me feel good) and the kids and I made gingerbread houses. And at some point during the day I had a startling revelation…I was happy! Not just happy in the moment (being with my kids has always filled me with joy; I just adore them) but happy in life, happy with myself, just plain old happy.
The funny thing is that I haven’t really been happy since I was ten years old. Over the past thirty years I experienced supremely joyful moments, the greatest moments in my life in fact, as in the birth of my children, but pure complete happiness had eluded me. Over the years I, along with stress, neurosis, perfectionism, insecurity, anxiety, and fear, sucked the joy out of my own life. My children and my husband became my happiness, but if I was alone, with just myself and my thoughts, I was a fearful, anxious wreck of a woman.
So how did I recover my happiness? Here it is. But first, let me assure you that there is no need to worry. I am not going to parlay this blog into a tool to kickstart my new career as a self-help guru. I still have a lot of work to do. Also, I am a late bloomer. Most forty year old adults figured this stuff out long ago. So, please, take it for what it’s worth. Now, back to how I became happy.
I discovered that most people are inherently good. No. I am not naive. Of course there are wicked people who do evil things, who choose to do evil things, but, the vast majority of people in this world are good, or try to be good, or, at the very least, fancy themselves to be good. I deeply believe that insecurity is the primary reason why people act like assholes. Insecurity, not pure wickedness, explains why people are jealous, why people malign others, why people hurt others at school and in the workplace. And it is so much easier to forgive or at least understand someone whose actions are driven by insecurity rather than by nefarious intent. Once I decided that people are good, despite the fact that they act badly, the world became a happier place.
To the best of my ability, I try to live each day so that I would be proud of it if it were my last. This is not the same as living each day as if I knew it was going to be my last. That’s ridiculous. In that scenario, I’d likely attempt to numb my pain and quell my fear with martinis and denial. When I reflect upon my day, I want to feel proud that I tried to do the best for my children and family. I want to feel proud that I tried my best to be kind and patient and unselfish. I want to feel proud that I worked to my fullest potential. I don’t need perfection. Perfection is a myth. Striving for it will destroy you.
I went to a shrink. That’s right, I went to a shrink, and it was the best thing I could have done for myself and my family. Just a few years back, I became crippled by fear, anxiety and OCD (something I did not realize I had as a youth, but, in retrospect, of course I did). While I don’t want to get into the gory details at the moment, I will say that when mommy is unhappy, when mommy spends much too much time crying and worrying, the family becomes unhappy. When you have everything, and by everything I mean healthy children, a loving spouse and enough money to pay the bills and your still not happy, for Christ’s sake, it’s time for mommy to take care of her shit. So I did. As a parent, it’s our duty to take care of ourselves, to take care of both our physical and mental health.
I discovered who I am and I actually like myself. I just took some time to figure out what I really like, who I really like to be with, and what ideas and opinions are authentically mine.
There it is…how I became happy. Oh, in case you’re interested, what did I learn about myself? In a nutshell, I’m a faux leather, sparkle eye shadow, stiletto wearing, zany chic who unapologetically admits to living for her kids and loves her husband. I like quirky people with wild stories, dancing, club music, old episodes of Columbo, Cheetos and martinis. I love ballet…and B movies. I like earnestness and absurdity. I like to laugh. Mostly, I love to be with my children. I still dream. I still choreograph dances in my head when I hear great music. I am happy. Finally, at forty years old, I am happy.