Thursday, March 3, 2011
The Thing About the Happiness Factor
Last night, Teri and I stumbled across an online article that stated the happiest people are young, married, hetero couples who are childless and have been together less than five years. We chuckled. I guess that rules out us old lesbians with children and a naughty dog! Who knows what criteria were used to determine what constitutes happiness and I don't know who decided that blissful happiness was the ultimate goal of life anyway?
Lately, we have been locked in some temporary power struggles around here with our dog, Lola. There have been changes with our varying work schedules, weather, furniture re-arranging and other seemingly ordinary life adjustments. Anyone with dogs or young children knows that neither are very keen on having their routines upended. Lola has not been happy and I have been channeling Joan Crawford in my attempt to bring order and neatness to a not-very-chaotic home scene. Heck, two peri-menopausal women and a 9-year-old dog could actually make a somewhat interesting reality show if you were to go by any of our recent rantings.
The thing is, she really is a great dog but she is a middle-aged female too! Sometimes, it isn't so much about happiness as it is about working through other bits of psychology. Lola wants us to be home more and provide settled laps for her to snuggle into; I would like to have her stay in and on her designated areas so that I come home to a house as tidy as the one I leave; Teri would like some consistency and manners (she says from the dog, but I think she means me as well.) As two seasoned mothers, we are well aware that this is not unlike many power struggles we found ourselves in with our kids over the years before the light went on and we figured out how to pick our battles and just let go.
Would we be "happier" without five adult children to worry over and a dog to keep things unpredictable and messy? To be honest, we do sometimes fantasize what it would be like to be able to come and go and move and maneuver without concern for these others--but I don't think that is what we really want. Like typical complicated humans, there are things that we value even more than ease and supposed happiness!
Every time Teri and I problem-solve through one of life's challenges, I feel a renewed sense of love and commitment; when we debate how best to parent the dog and find a way to compromise and support each other, I feel as though I have accomplished another layer to our working as a team; the struggles may not make us "happy" when we are in the midst of them, but the sense of resiliency and humor that bubbles up in living a real and authentic life feels even deeper than the surface happiness.
The thing about happiness is that we Americans often overlook all of the other positive life-affirming things that come from living in connection and community with each other. I am more content and pleased with my life than I ever was in my twenties and that does not come from being able to do whatever I want.