What Happiness Looks Like

First, What Happiness Does Not Look Like -

Being on the mood roller coaster and feeling like there's no way to get off the ride.

My husband and I were discussing the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with our oldest daughter.  She was asking about the werewolf character, a.k.a. Professor Lupin.  She said he was the scariest part of the story to her and asked why he acted so mean to his friends after he turned into a werewolf.

My husband said, "Remember, he doesn't remember who he is or what he's supposed to be doing when he turns into a werewolf."  We looked at each other and started laughing because I had completely lost my temper before dinner and run off to another room to pout.

After my daughter left, I said, "Well, I guess Professor Lupin is going to be diagnosed with a mood disorder in a minute."

My husband said, "Well, he's not that scary."

After we had a hearty laugh, I sincerely thought I might rather be a werewolf than be controlled by uneven brain chemicals.  I could predict my awfulness by the phases of the moon and I might also be romanticized in novels and on t-shirts.

Now for the Happiness -

From time to time I have felt a small disturbance or a subtle shift in my being.  It happens over a period of months or weeks and without being completely aware of it, my idea of happiness is different. 

Most of the time, however, it is a milestone or a life event that radically shifts everything down a notch in priority to make room for something new and important.

Before marriage, kids, and any serious responsibilities, happiness meant a great night out with friends and making the most of my education.  After marriage and a job, happiness meant a great night in with friends and making the most of my work.  After kids, happiness meant any period of time when I was completely alone and it was entirely quiet.  Sadly, there was no time for friends or work.

One of my favorite comedy acts ever was by a man who describes buckling his young kids in the car.  He talks about how the best part of his day is the walk around the car after buckling all the kids in.  It's quiet.  He's free.  He can pretend for a few seconds like it's not going to sound like a gaggle of geese when he opens his door.

It's not that I wanted my kids to be quiet all the time.  Quiet can be suspicious.  At that point in my life, I just needed more balance.  I would have loved to work outside the home just 2 days a week. 

A few years into motherhood, when I only had one child left in diapers, I decided enough was enough.  I was going to figure something out to help catapult myself out of self-pity and fatigue.  I made a bold diet change by eliminating grains and sugar.  After shedding weight I didn't know I needed to lose, I just felt so great.  I took back the control over one huge thing in my life.  I had so much more energy!

After that the next few risks were easier.  I took the kids out of school to homeschool them full time.  We decided not to keep waiting for the housing market to improve and just moved where we wanted to be.

And the latest risk - I started a blog to reinforce to myself how far I have come in the last few years.  It is fun to share my life with friends, family, and other people who have ever been in my shoes, but it's even more important to me that I feel heard and connected.

One of my favorite quotes:

Me "Before Kids" in Paris.  The next time I visit I'll have the joy of seeing my kids experience Paris for the first time.

That is what happiness looks like to me -- the ability to start new things and break out of old cycles.

What does your happiness look like?

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