When faced with an open path and a thick uncleared mess, the open path seems like the obvious choice. But what if the open path is full of poisonous plants, darkness, and scary creatures? Wouldn’t it make sense to clear a new path devoid of danger? It would seem so, but we tend to go towards the familiar. It takes a lot of energy to clear a new trail. Courage too. The new trail will undoubtedly present its own problems, and sometimes it’s easier to go with what you know even if there’s a greater chance at something better.
It turns out, I’m not talking about hiking. I’m talking about the way a depressed or sad mind works. At least mine. It takes physical effort to choose happiness. Years ago, I remember laughing at a depression commercial thinking, “What’s this nut whining about?! She clearly lives in middle class America and has a husband and friends surrounding her. She needs to buck up and be happy.” I no longer have the same sentiment or haughty judgement. Maybe her mom had recently died or she was sad that she didn’t get into her first grad school choice. Maybe she found out she had incurable cancer. It doesn’t matter. Each person’s worst experience is his or her worst experience. No sense in comparing or belittling. In the end, sadness and depression have the same devastating and terrible effects. Once the mind perceives or experiences awfulness, it takes more than a good thing occurring to shift the thought process.
In my case, I experienced an indisputable and universal shit storm in which any human would find depression a normal response. Infertility, threatened miscarriage, a child with critical illness (90+ appointments, three heart surgeries, and 6 hospital stays), divorce, letting go of a career, and losing a home have caused a sadness that can’t be put into words. But then miraculous healing took place (thank you, God, for my son’s successful heart surgery!) This alone should be enough to sustain my happiness for a lifetime. But it’s not. I’m glad prayers and God aren’t like wishes and a genie …it’s just that I asked Him to save my son, and He did, so what right do I have to ask for more? And how ungrateful am I for still feeling sadness? I’m learning it’s possible to be all at once over the moon happy and at the bottom of the barrel sad. I’m learning that giving thanks and asking for more is not a bad thing- you can be fulfilled and empty in different areas. Back to my path analogy…there are paths that are safe and sunny. I’ve cleared some (with a lot of help from others), and they are a joy to stroll along. But the biggest path comprises of my own thoughts…it’s the one that exists in my mind and must be cleared alone. Or at least with minimal assistance.
So, here I go, trying to let my mind meander away from the familiar funk it’s become accustomed to experiencing, and instead, steer it towards the hard job ahead of me as I begin clearing a better path. Unfamiliar but likely happier.
Instead of, “Men leave. That’s what they do.” I know better …”Some men leave. Some women leave. A lot stay or take you with them. Either way, you’re still capable of love.”
When my mind thinks things like, “Fuuuuuu$&!! You’re alone with a baby.” I laugh and say, “You’re not alone, never have been, and never will be.” Depression makes us feel isolated even when we’re surrounded by people. It’s a mind thing that is unequivocally maddening. I know better though. Someone in the world feels like I do, God is ALWAYS there, and if I need anything, all I have to do is ask. I hate when I choose to feel loneliness…
Then there’s the lurking fear that I’ve mostly overcame due to recent events and lots of love, hope, and faith, “How long will my son be out of the hospital?!” Instead, I have to say, “We have today. It has its own worries. Like how to get strawberries out of the cracks in the couch…” But after so much time (over three months) spent in a children’s hospital, it makes sense that I would have this fear.
This one is tough…”No one will want me and Charlie. It’s a lot of responsibility.” Why on earth would I go down that path?! Because I’ve heard it, and I’ve experienced it. So that makes it an open way to travel. I love turning my back on this one though…to clear the honest trail instead, “Charlie and I are the real deal. We’re a lot of joy in the form of a mommy and her boy. A real man wouldn’t see it as a responsibility, but rather, an honor.”
It also makes sense to think, “You can never marry again. That shit is a sham.” But it only makes sense to a mind that’s been forced to process divorce. I wasn’t always this way. I don’t even know if I want to be this way…so I think, “Marriage isn’t a sham for everyone, and never say never. Maybe with the right person and the right time….After all, love is real, and when you love a man, and a man loves you, love will win.” Maybe I’ll Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell it anyway…
I could go on forever, but the point is, happiness is sometimes such an easy choice. But sometimes, it’s almost impossible. Currently, it’s a hard choice. Life gives us all different paths to choose, and the way we go about handling ourselves after loss isn’t an indicator of strength or weakness. It’s not as simple as love or loneliness. It’s just an indicator of our humanity. Today I choose to allow myself to be sad (and happy), to go down a dark path, but then, turn around.
These are our daily choices, and if nothing else, at least we’re alive to make them. Most importantly, perhaps, people are impacted by our choices. For me, I owe it to my little man to make the right choices (which begin with thinking good and right thoughts) that bring us both joy. Especially when the other choice is an obvious (but easier) wrong.
Whether for yourself or someone else, make the choice to clear a path towards happiness. The struggle is worth it.