Happiness deserved?

Happiness Deserved

 

Not necessarily – DESERVE being the operative word.

It seems to me that there is a common misconception that everyone deserves to be happy.  But the definition – to merit, be qualified for, or have a claim to (reward, assistance, punishment) because of actions, qualities, or situation – tells me that happiness is a product of positive behavior.

If someone is unhappy in their marriage, and assuming that we are all deserving of happiness, does that mean that she has a right to walk away from it in her pursuit of greener grasses?  And if happiness is deserved, than what about her spouse? He suffers so that she can be happy?

When we choose to be selfish in our pursuit of happiness at the expense of others, it’s impossible to be fulfilled and truly happy.

I posted the question “Do you think we all DESERVE to be happy?’ on my Facebook status.  I was immediately inundated with several responses.  This one, from Toni Sawyer, was exactly what I was hoping for:

Happiness comes and goes, I find that it is an elusive thing to pursue, and maybe not worth the pursuit, it is kind of a self-centered emotion. Joy, on the other hand, is deeper and much more satisfying, you can be joyful in unhappy circumstances. Happy people can be annoying to those going through trials, joyful people can be a Godsend. All that being said, I don’t think I ‘deserve’ to be happy, like an ‘entitlement’ thing, but I sure do ‘like’ to be happy.

This from Diane Smithson:

If we are focused with a steadfast mind, then we should experience God’s joy & happiness. (Isaiah 26:3)

Julie Atchley Robinson summed it up quite well:

happiness is a choice… it can only come from within you, it cannot be given to you.

And Miriam Taylor rounded it out with:

We deserve death. But I’m so thankful that HE gives us life and joy instead!

Happiness is not the same as JOY.

Isaiah has a precursor if we are focused with a STEADFAST mind” – steadfast meaning unwavering, firm in purpose, then we should experience God’s joy and happiness.”

Let me break it down.

If I eat a bag of Double Stuff Oreos every day, I deserve to be fat. If I drink a 24 ounce bottle of Coke before I go to bed, I deserve to be wide awake at 2 am.

The only people who DESERVE to be happy are children.  Or Mother Theresa.  Perhaps someone who gives his best, does everything humanly possible to give back, puts his family first, and makes a difference deserves to be happy.

Joy comes from within, but happiness is earned.

Have you earned it?

Chapter One

Until that moment, I never knew how much a mother could love her child.  My first child was but hours old, and the power of love and the urge to protect him forever set in immediately.  The thoughts that entered my mind about my son were quickly followed by an immense outrage.  It was the first time I had felt this rage, and I was appalled by it.  My rage was directed at the mother who didn’t want her child, the mother who would rather have alcohol than her child, who would rather have a man’s attention, the mother who used her child as a bargaining tool.  That mother was my own.

1972

Chapter One

Life as I knew it would never be the same again after that morning that Momma left me.  Hearing the crunch of the gravel as the car pulled away would become a sound that caused my heart to race and a lump to form in the back of my throat.  I wanted to run after her like a child who had gone mad and scream and cry and beg her to take me with her.  I was like a child gone mad; the insanity of it all was more than I could bear.

A million thoughts were running through my 9-year-old mind. Surely Momma hadn’t left me there!  Maybe Momma had forgotten something and had to go back to Grandma’s.  Perhaps she had forgotten me; after all, I had been sitting quietly for a very long time.  I refused to believe what my mind already knew but my heart wouldn’t accept.

And Momma had been acting strangely today, as if she hadn’t gotten enough sleep.  What if she had a wreck?  It had been all I could do to help her steer the car on the way to church.  She had borrowed Grandma’s car, and Grandma had told her “drive carefully and no smoking in the car” as we were leaving.  But it didn’t seem like she was being very careful at all.  The car kept slowing down and veering off the road and into the ditch, and even though I couldn’t see over the dashboard, I knew to turn the wheel the other way. I was trying to get Momma’s attention so she would wake up and steer the car on her own.  Momma’s eyes kept closing and getting stuck halfway between open and shut, and her head wouldn’t stay upright, her neck seeming to have no muscles in it to hold it.  Momma held her head up long enough to light a cigarette, yelling at me to “hold the wheel!” not realizing I was already holding it.

Softening a little, Momma looked at me, “Talk to me, honey, help keep Momma awake.”

She reached down and turned the radio volume up, as if that would give her the boost she needed to hold her eyes open.  “Alone Again, Naturally” was playing on the car’s AM radio, which only made Momma start to cry.

“Stupid song,” she complained, fumbling in her purse for a tissue, pulling out a very crumbled, obviously used one, “why can’t they play the Carpenters?”

Momma had always loved the Carpenters, but lately she seemed to play their recording of Good-bye to Love over and over, which annoyed me greatly, especially since the album had a small scratch right where Karen Carpenter said ‘good-bye’ making her say ‘gggooodgggooodbye’ instead.

Suddenly Momma looked like she was going to pass out, and I said nothing, afraid that maybe we wouldn’t make it to church in one piece.  If Momma was so sick, why was she bringing her to church at all, and why weren’t they going with Grandma to the old people’s church in town like we always did?  And why was she carrying that old suitcase with her?  The blue Samsonite only closed on one side, and I noticed that my Sunday pink panties were sticking out the other side.  I had looked for my Sundays while I was getting dressed for church and couldn’t find them, and Momma had seemed in such a hurry that I gave up and wore the plain white.  I always wore the right panties on the right days, not like Kari Robinson, who had to wear her Monday and Thursdays all week, since Kari’s momma had 4 other girls, and they had to share the packaged 7 days of panties amongst each other.

Momma always insisted on clean panties, since you never know when you might have an automobile accident and someone would see your panties.   I wasn’t planning on being in an accident any time soon, but should the occasion occur and I was to die tragically, at least people would know that I had the sense to know my days of the week.

“Poor little thing,” they would say, standing over my lifeless broken body, “but at least she’s wearing her Tuesdays.”

The parking lot was empty except for a dusty red Ford Falcon.  Grandpa Joe had one just like it, except his was blue.  The church was a weathered white building, with a tall pointed steeple sticking out of its pointed roof.  It reminded me of those churches you always see on Christmas cards, only without the snow.  As we got out of the car and walked up to the church, I could hear a high-pitched shrill voice singing, or rather, shrieking over the hum of the organ.  I recognized the song as one of the hymns we sang at the church Momma and Daddy and I used to go to.  But that was before.  Momma and I didn’t go to church anymore.  She said the church was full of hypocrites, but I didn’t know exactly what a hypocrite was, so I just listened and nodded like I agreed with her.

As we opened the double doors at the front of the building, the singing stopped, and the lady who had been the apparent source of the noise jumped up from the bench and headed toward us.  As the lady made her way toward Momma and me, I noticed that she wasn’t wearing any shoes, but instead was wearing pink fluffy bedroom slippers.  The closer she got I couldn’t help but stare.  Her hair was piled so high on her head that I was almost afraid she would fall over if she didn’t balance it just right.  She was wearing lipstick that looked to be the same color of the orange crayon I had at home in my Crayola box, and her eyes were smothered with bright blue eye shadow, lined in black, and topped off with heavy black eyelashes.  She reminded me of those clowns I had seen at the Barnum and Bailey circus last year.

If Momma was good at anything, she knew how to put on makeup and look pretty.  Momma had blonde hair, dishwater blonde as she called it, and big blue eyes.  She wore her hair like Marilyn Monroe, poofy on top and flipped out on the ends.  She wore blue eye shadow, but hers was soft and lightly applied.  Never would Momma have ever worn orange lipstick!  Frosted pink was her color.  And she always dressed real nice, like those ladies in the magazines she bought at the dime store.

“I need to see the Pastor” Momma told her before organ lady had a chance to speak.  Momma’s voice sounded shaky, but I thought it was because Momma had been so sleepy on the way to church.  But underneath her voice was a sense of urgency that I didn’t recognize at the time.

“Well, Pastor Hallett is studying right now, could I help you?” the organ lady said, reaching for Momma’s arm, as if she wanted us to leave.

“No, I won’t be a bother; I just need to see him for a minute – alone” Momma said, her voice sounding louder than before, but still shaky, “just a minute if he wouldn’t mind.”

The orange lipstick organ lady turned motioned for us to follow.  As she padded toward the door in the back of the sanctuary, she glanced back at me and smiled.  When she opened the door to the pastor’s office, all I could see was his hair looming over the sports section of the Sunday newspaper.  He folded one side of the paper so he could look at us, peering at us over the top of his glasses, which were pushed down low on his nose.  That’s when I saw it.  His hair that had stood up over the top of the paper was really a wig, a toupee.  The top part of THE HAIR was cold black, and it was thick, and it had been combed back but not flat, so that it stood a good two inches off the top of his head.  The underneath hair, which seemed to have a mind of it’s own, was sticking out all over, and had a greenish tint to it’s natural gray color.  Still, he seemed to have a granddad face, the kind that kids are drawn to.

“Yes?” he asked, looking questioningly at the orange lipstick organ lady.

“This woman asked to see you alone, Pastor,” she said, “She just needs a minute.”

At that the Pastor looked from me to my mother, and as the recognition of her reached his brain, he reached for her hand.

“Sandi, how are you?” he asked, as the door between us closed.

I was awakened by the sound of the pastor’s office door closing.  I must have fallen asleep waiting for her to come out.  When she walked out of his office, she had black streaks running down her face from the Maybelline mascara that she wore.  She didn’t even look at me, she just looked past me, and her eyes had a look to them that scared me.

She took long steps, quick steps toward the same doors we had come in, and I sat still for a minute, trying to figure out what she was doing.  She opened the door, and paused a minute, almost like she didn’t have the strength to walk out.  But her hesitation only lasted a few seconds before she walked out, closing the door behind her.  I jumped up from the pew I had been resting on and ran toward the door, thinking she must have forgotten me, but just as I opened that door, the pastor grabbed me, stopping me from following her.  I began to flail out against him, trying to get away, trying to get to Momma, but his strength held me close.  Panic set in as I realized she was leaving me there, leaving me with the orange lipstick organ lady and the pastor with the rug on his head.  I tried to cry, to scream, to make my mouth move, my legs run, but nothing came out and my legs were like rubber.

That’s all I remember.  Everything else was a blur.  The mind has a way of helping us forget the most painful memories.  The next thing I remember is waking up in a brown lazy boy recliner with slobber dripping down my chin, dried slobber on my cheek where I had been sleeping.  It was the cold wetness of the slobber that had awakened me.  It was getting dark outside, and as I tried to focus on the events that brought me to this strange place, I knew instinctively that Momma had left me, and wasn’t coming back.

P.S.

Just wanted to add a post script to “For your consideration…”

I sincerely appreciate the comments and feedback I’ve received, but I’m afraid I may have come across as though I feel sorry for myself, or perhaps it seemed as if I was trying to make you feel bad for my situation. That was never my intention. Never.

Any time my health restricts my ability to get out of the house or socialize, obviously some may question my whereabouts (not too crazy about that word whereabouts, but moving on…). I simply wanted to let people know that those of us with Lupus are not home eating chocolate and taking leisurely bubble baths. Or if we are, we’re not enjoying it, we’re self-medicating!

Sympathy is something we don’t want – nor are we looking for pity. We don’t want to be labeled with a big, flashing “LUPUS” sign around our necks. We don’t mind if you ask how we’re feeling, and we’ll be honest and tell you only if we are certain you REALLY want to know.

As for me, I would rather NOT spend any time talking about how I’m feeling, simply because I’d rather use the time to catch up on the latest gossip…er, uh, news. I want to talk about potty training, the tacky grill you got for Mother’s Day, your job, plastic surgery, hot celebrities…

Again, I apologize if any feelings of sympathy were evoked from my last posting. I’ll make sure that I make it up to you in my next posting as I’ve already been working on it. I don’t want to completely give it away, but let’s just say that I will be dealing with why I don’t like to have trash in my trash cans and other idiosyncrasies that I think are perfectly normal…

Don’t cry for me Argentina!

No time like the present…

Having not emptied my brain for several weeks, I feel the need to purge the thoughts that have been invading the little space I have left in my head to make room for new ones. For some strange reason I’ve yet to understand, my clearest thinking occurs at the most inopportune times.

Soaking in the bathtub, for example, is not the best place to bring a pen and paper – it’s impossible to write with wet, soapy, wrinkled fingers. Drying my hair also seems to provoke contemplation on various topics, perhaps because of the lengthy time it takes to complete the process. Left with the option of moving the computer into the bathroom or washing and drying my hair several times a day, I’m tempted to plug the hair dryer next to the computer and listen to the rush of hot air for inspiration.

The need to share EVERYTHING, but consumed with the fear of being too vulnerable, too transparent, leaves me in limbo. Trying to convince myself that caring what others think doesn’t matter, but I’m only able to believe it until someone judges me and I feel wounded. I have grown accustomed to judgment by now, but not to the human side of me that still hurts when it happens. If there was a guarantee that read “no family members were harmed during the process of blogging” I would be able to remove these chains that bind me and WRITE.

Perhaps I underestimate the broadness and strength of their shoulders. My children are adults, my husband loves me, and maybe I’m over analyzing. My commitment to being the real me and living in truth is important. Mistakes, choices, and all that is a part of me is potentially not as big as I make it.

When I was 5 or 6 or 7 years old – too much time has passed to know exactly – my dad taught school but during the summer he managed the city swimming pool. I remember it as HUGE, but having seen it as an adult, it was not nearly as large as my memory of it. It was oval in shape, shallow around the entire edge, growing deeper towards the center where two diving boards stood facing each other. One was low; the line to jump from it was always long. The other was high, disappearing into the clouds… (I was a kid, ok? My perception at that time is my reality, so get over it already) and though the wait was shorter, the climb up the hundreds of stairs took forever. Getting to the top was the easy part, walking out onto that platform TO THE EDGE made the urge to empty my bladder overwhelming and still makes my legs tremble just thinking about it.

My dad had a rule – what goes up must come down. In other words, if I chose to ascend the steps of the “high dive” the only way down was to stand at the end – not the side – the end of the board and JUMP. With only seconds to pray for a painless entry into the water, tuning out the “hurry up’s” being voiced behind me, I would ever so carefully ease myself into the air. Eyes squeezed tightly closed, my body waiting for the inevitable slap of the water, plunging deep and then forcing myself to the surface, reaching it at the precise time my lungs were close to bursting was…amazing.

My head holds me back while my heart is exploding with the need to share my life experiences. It’s time to start the journey. I will never know “amazing” until I walk to the edge and jump.

Mother


Over the course of the past several weeks, it has occurred to me that my mother took the easy way out. She quit. She left me when I was 9, then she turned around 21 years later and did the same thing to my sister. And although I never gave up the frustrating pursuit of being mothered by her, it was to no avail. It was too late. Cancer took over her body. She left me for the final time within a matter of months. I was only 32. Forever gone, her death only reopened the wounds of abandonment.

I missed her. I needed her. But I came to realize I didn’t miss the relationship, or lack thereof, of mother and child. I missed what she never was, and now, never would be. I missed the memories we didn’t create, and I missed the memories that would never be created.

She took the easy way out. Not once, not twice, but three times. She just quit.

I became a mother in my early 20’s. My expectant condition became my identity. Questions. Choices. Feel pain while giving birth or no thanks, I’ll take the drugs. Boy or Girl? Not my decision…that had been decided before I knew my body was carrying precious cargo. Before stretchmarks and hemorrhoids. No one told me how much contractions HURT. That bladder control would no longer exist when sneezing, laughing, crying, walking or talking.

No one told me those things because the good not only outweighs the bad, it overshadows it. Childbirth was painful, but somehow, when it was over, it was quickly forgotten and replaced by love I never knew existed. Only a mother can gaze at her newborn baby and see beauty through the sticky remains of placenta.

In a matter of seconds, I had become a mother. A flood of passion and pride and feelings that could not be contained were released through my tears. But now a new ache. Heartache. Loving my baby so much my heart hurt, I wondered how my mother could seemingly stop loving me. How could my mother leave me? Why was it so easy for her to walk away?

My mother may have taken the easy way out, but I wasn’t the only one who was denied memories – she was. Because being a mother is a job that sometimes just makes you want to turn in your “mommy badge.” Not just when they’re toddlers, preteens, or even teenagers. Choosing to remain committed, be committed, and LOVE your child, even when it hurts so bad you can’t breathe.

During those times, it can only be God who breathes for us.