That is what I have entitled this chapter of our life. While I just realized it is also a book, and I should probably read it for insights, it's what I've thought aptly describes the ongoing work-in-progress that is our life. I've thought a lot about it because, believe it or not, I am always the happiness cheerleader of our family. (I know, from the dreary posts you read on here it's hard to believe!) I understand the theory that life is a journey, not a destination and all that business. I'm not saying I'm good at it, only that I get the idea, so when I see a constantly harried and worn out husband, I try to remind him that, hey, this is our life. It's not so glamorous, but it's what we've got, so we might as well enjoy it. After a slew of unpleasant evenings with him, I finally sat down next to him one night while he was on the computer. I waited until he actually looked up at me, hesitated, and then asked softly, "When is happiness?" He thought about it for a long time. It was probably the most thought-provoked I've seen him in a long time. (Because frankly, he's usually too worn out to provoke many thoughts aside from those that have to be there.) He finally responded with an, "I don't know." To which I responded, "Because in 15 years, I'll just be uglier and the kids won't want anything to do with us."
He may feel weird having me be so candid about him; usually I try to keep it just to my own ramblings and issues. But I know it's something he struggles with, and I do as well. And frankly, my cheerleading came to an abrupt crash this weekend. See, the past few months Ryan has had to go in to work to do rounds every Saturday morning. Then the first week in February he was on call in the hospital. Then the next week he had a big presentation he had to get ready. Come last Friday night. He got home, and after a while, I sighed happily as I realized, "Finally! A real weekend!" To which he responded, "Oh, I have a conference all day tomorrow." I was crushed. I felt my soul melting. This coming only days after my last post. (Does he not read the blog?! Did he not realize another Groundhog Day alone with the kids would put me over the edge?!?) But alas, Saturday came, and I was alone with the kids while he was gone until 7pm. And not only that, but the diarrhea came. And came. And came. And poor little Ashton just pooped and pooped the day away. Every episode soaked through all his clothes. And whatever happened to be nearby. I spent the day cleaning couches, high chairs, carpets, and changing clothes and more clothes and diaper after diaper. Then came the phone call that there was actually a fancy dinner that night that spouses were invited too. I was dying to go. I wanted so badly to get out, to have a reason to get dressed and talk to adults. I even knew exactly what I wanted to wear. I tried to find a sitter, but when it wasn't working, I realized I couldn't leave anyone with Ashton anyway.
And that's when I shut down. And the happiness left. And I went into autopilot and all life was sucked out of me. I was an emotionless robot by the time Ryan got home. And guess what? Sunday I did it all. Again. By myself, so Ryan could go do what he needed to do at church. And then he could come home and sleep. Sunday night the utter meltdown came; floodgates let loose and I bawled my eyes out. Not only was I so burned out from the kids, but the only person I talk to most days is an over-worked husband who really has no energy left for anything or any interest in conversation by the time he gets home. And here I am in a city I don't love, far away from family... and you know, poor me.
That was the low point.
I can say Monday I tried my best. I took the advice and actually got up and showered before the kids. I got all ready. I was on top of the day. And then I realized - it's raining and I have a sick child. And I got back in my pajamas. But. We got out old toys we haven't played with in a long time. We made a picnic for all the stuffed animals. I even made a really good breakfast and lunch and the kids ate them. I spent a long time telling finger puppet stories to Cash. I didn't even take a nap. I made an impromptu meal for someone I had just heard had a baby. And I don't even know her very well. And I didn't knock myself out doing it, and over-doing it like I usually do. It wasn't my most proud meal, but I felt good that I tried, and didn't kill myself going overboard and trying to be perfect like I usually do. I had dinner ready ahead of time. And we even had a good family home evening that the kids even sort of paid attention to. And I exercised.
Then I read my scriptures. I was reading in the Book of Mormon, in Alma where it talks about however we were in this life is how we'll be in the next life: "...and if there works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good. And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil....all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame....raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil..."
And then I hit this line: "The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness." And I didn't read any further because I just sat there and thought about that for a long time. That, hmm, is it possible that if I don't learn to be happy in this life I may never learn it? It's probably not just desiring happiness, because I could be always desiring happiness and never feel like I had it. I realize there will be a lot of things different in the next life, that there may not be so many things that burden us as now, but if I'm someone who is constantly unsettled and always looking for something else to make me happy now, I will probably be so then too.
So I realize, that is the point of this life. To be faithful no matter what life throws at us, and to find happiness. But more accurately, to learn happiness, and to create happiness. Because I have a feeling we don't find happiness the way we would happen to find a coin on the ground. More likely the same way we "find" an elephant by looking at the clouds in the sky, piecing together oddly shaped bunches until we make something of it. I think for a lot of us happiness is a learned behavior, one that takes more conscious effort than we would wish. It's obviously that way for me.
I know there seems to be a never-ending tone of desperation and despair to my ramblings. I do hope the underlying theme shines through - that humor seems to be the key to my sanity. I definitely don't take myself too seriously and hope anyone else finds amusement in my anecdotes and predicaments. I know people tell me in person that they're always amazed by how calm I am. I figure if I have to spend hours at the doctor's office with three screaming children, I still have to do it whether I'm frantic and frenzied or whether I'm laughing about it, so might as well just let it roll off my back.
But I do get the big picture. I know how fortunate I am, and I do realize that happiness is right under my nose. When I look up at that family picture in the top left corner of the blog, I realize - it literally is right under my nose. It's just all those little clouds that make up my day to day life that I'm trying to piece together to see that elephant. So for now, I am, and we are definitely a work-in-progress. Which today, and for probably a long time to come, we will term the happiness project.