Monday, May 12, 2014

Lily and Mette: On Happiness

I was reading this post by Mette Harrison (author of, among other things, one of my favorite books from my dissertation sample, The Princess and the Hound).

She pretty much outlined everything that people don’t want to think is true about publishing their books. (And she’s pretty much right about all of it!) Publishing a book isn’t going to automatically fix our problems and make us suddenly more confident and/or emotionally stable. The people who will be happy after publishing a book are the ones who were happy when their book was unpublished. The miserable will find a way to stay miserable and the goal-chasers will discover that achieving the goal of publication only leads to the sudden appearance (and importance) of newer, bigger, more urgent goals. It’s not the achievement of our ambitions that makes us happy. It’s not really any single event that brings happiness to us. We are happy people, or we’re not. Maybe we can choose to be happy. But it’s never going to come from outside. Happiness is internal, not external.

I’ve known that. I’ve read people who argued the same and I’ve seen studies confirming the argument and I believed it before and I believe it now. (Most of the time.)

But Lily hasn’t. And Lily doesn’t.

And the timing of Mette’s post (well, the timing of my reading of the post)… it made me laugh!

See, just yesterday, Lily was having this epic meltdown.

This, in and of itself, isn’t terribly surprising. My beauty of a daughter has a meltdown every.single.night at exactly 8:30pm (or, yunno, pretty close to then;). She has done this every night for the last eight years. (aka, her entire life.)

We call it “The Eight O’Clock Blues.”

But even though it happens every.single.night, even though I take pictures of her crying every night and post them in a “eight o’clock blues” journal next to a picture of the clock and her explanation-of-the-day-for-said-tears-that-is-absolutely-not-and-never-will-ever-be-just-because-she’s-tired, she will NOT believe there is a pattern at work. She says,  “Mommy, I’m crying because I had a fight with so-and-so” or because “I miss grandma,” or “I just can’t get over how much it bothers me that even though I want a puppy so much Daddy keeps being so mean and lame and saying no just because he’s allergic and afraid his throat will close!” or she says she's crying “Because, Mommy! You always take my picture when I cry!" (okay... I’ll give her that one!) or “Because, Mommy, YOU WON’T BELIEVE ME THAT I’M NOT TIRED!”

Basically, she’s sad for a million reasons as long as they’re NOT about the clock on the wall. (Or the “T” word.)

So, yesterday she’s having this epic meltdown and it’s escalating and devolving rapidly into full on tantrum/F-5-level-destruction mode.

I said to her, “Honey, just take a breath and close your eyes. If you just trust me, I promise you will be totally asleep in 2 seconds and it will fix all of THIS!”

She did not appreciate this advice.

She said, “Mommy, you just don’t understand! If Daddy had just listened to me and put a swing in my bedroom today like I wanted him to, I wouldn’t be sad at ALL!”

I said, “Honey, I promise you: you still would.”

Her face got that purple hue of that kids faces get when screaming at the top of their decibel range. “I WOULD NOT!!! IF HE HAD JUST LISTENED TO ME IT WOULD HAVE FIXED EVERYTHING!!! I WOULD BE COMPLETELY HAPPY AND I WOULD NOT BE CRYING AT ALL!!!"

I stopped trying to reason with her.

wanted to tell her about all those happiness studies. About how external events don’t really have control over your long term happiness. About how the experience of happiness is a chemical one and how her brain would be miserable at 8:30p even if every single one of her wishes came true and every person on earth listened to her demands and readily agreed to them.

But I would be wasting my breath.

Because none of us really want to believe that. (Let alone tired 8 year olds.) We all want to think that something can fall out of the sky and make us permanently happy forEVER. That the “fix” for our problems can and might and will probably occur without our work or thought or input. It will just happen and everything will be better.

Actually, yeah. That sounds really great. Maybe I’ll change my vote on the issue...

So. What would make you happy?


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MaJaTo said...

Hi K -I know I'm a few months behind on reading this and even longer since I last commented on one of your posts. Just wanted to say great post! :o)