Lately I’ve been wondering how to maintain my focus on learning how to be happy while juggling a newborn and a new identity. The roller coaster of hormones and emotions that have raced through me during the last seven weeks have left me feeling pretty drained these days, and my usual resources when I need to recharge are (usually) no longer as easy to access. I knew life would get a lot more complicated once I became a mother, and figuring out how to balance everything now can sometimes be pretty overwhelming.
This post from The Happiness Project was a good read for me today, for two reasons: first, the interviewee says this:
… I cannot rely on other people and my environment to make me happy. I don’t ever want to make the mistake of thinking my happiness is dependent on something–a different job, more money, another child, wood floors, a remodeled bathroom, etc.
and she also says this:
Whenever I compare myself with others, my happiness takes a shot in the back.
I’ve found myself falling prey to these two things more often lately. I think they are my go-to vices, my “pigeons of discontent” — things I struggle with over and over again without ever quite overcoming them. I wonder if I will always feel tempted to believe that material things will make me happy during hard or overwhelming times.
Cute, but not going to make me happy for longer than about 30 seconds.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how to be happy when it’s not easy to be happy. This isn’t to say, of course, that I’m not happy to be a mom or that I don’t enjoy my baby. (I mean, come on.) But this new life has brought up a lot of complicated emotions, and those feelings combined with weeks of sleep deprivation, a tiny baby who relies on me (and only me) for everything, and a brand-new inability to take a moment to just breathe when I need to and not just when it’s convenient for the baby can come together in a really powerful way at times. Like I said a few weeks ago, I’ve missed my mom more since Will was born than I ever have, and I’ve discovered that I don’t know how to stop assuming something terrible is going to happen. Two of my deepest, bone-chilling, how-will-I-ever-go-on fears in life were confirmed just six months apart last year, and now I’m imagining all of my new worst fears coming true — I guess because I no longer have any reason to think that they won’t.
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten —
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm—
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the Lord your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.
I feel like locusts — in the form of cancer, miscarriage and death — ate a lot of the last five years and I don’t want them to eat this year too. This is why I am trying so hard to be happy. I am sick of letting grief and fear inform my emotions, my thoughts, and my decisions. Grief is hard to escape, but I believe that fear is a choice. The only question is how to overcome it. How do I trust that God really will repay me?
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
So because of all this — the grief, the loss, the fear, the new baby, the out-of-control hormones, the new life — I’ve found myself falling back into the traps of believing that happiness can be achieved in superficial ways. Things will make me happy. My circumstances will make me happy. Running and yoga in and of themselves will make me happy. — Even being a mom will make me happy. It’s just so easy to place my trust there instead of fixing my eyes on what is eternal. On true joy.
I understand the what and the why pretty well; I just need to figure out the how.