Happiness

What does it mean to be happy? Are you happy now? How do you know?

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Happiness is what we all want. A happy family, a happy home, happy children. A happy life.

I’ve struggled with happiness this year. I’ve searched for it. I’ve found it where I least expected it, and lost it where I was sure it would be safe. I’ve misunderstood it. And I’ve learned about what happiness means, at least for me.

Right now, in my life, I am happy. And here is what I know: happiness isn’t a permanent state of being. It’s not an overall glow that brings smiles to my lips and infuses my life with light, just because. Happiness doesn’t just happen. It’s a choice. It’s waiting in the everyday moments for me to grasp it and hold on. And so I’m doing that, or trying to. I’m choosing to notice and celebrate the good and beautiful that occurs in the midst of the ordinary, and I am happy.

Here is where I’ve found happiness today:

The way Bean wrapped his lanky arms and legs so tightly around me this morning, so that as I carried him downstairs for breakfast he seemed weightless in my arms.

Listening to D and Monkey in a dad-baby conversation, imitating each other’s sounds and laughing.

Pushing my body through a hard workout and feeling sweaty, drained, and satisfied at the end.

Finally booking a long-overdue date with D.

Wearing my favourite scarf, for the gazillionth day in a row, because who cares if I wear the same thing every day? It’s my favourite.

What makes you happy?

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The juice

As kids, my older brother and I had nothing in common. We were connected by a house, a set of parents, and a couple of little brothers – nothing more. But somehow as we’ve grown, we’ve aligned. Now we’re often on the same page, in the things we find funny, the memories that stand out, what we want for and expect from our kids.

Yesterday, my brother and his family came over for brunch at our place. The usual plan-confirming text conversation went something like this:

– The girls’ swimming lessons are over at 10, and we’ll come over right after that.

– Sounds good.

– What can we bring? Don’t say nothing.

– Maybe some juice?

– Like, oj?

– Sure, thanks.

And he brought o.j.

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My brother will go pretty far for a laugh. It’s a safe bet that if he thinks it’s funny, so will I. (O.J.-covered O.J. included.) So why is this? Has our shared childhood experience finally found us through the years of distance? Or is it in our genes? Maybe we’re genetically predisposed to think a poor-quality print of O.J. Simpson taped to an orange juice carton is funny. Whatever it is, I appreciate my family more now as an adult than I ever did when I was young.

Thanks for The Juice, big brother.

I’m still here.

Blog-wise, December was not the greatest month. After the blogging extravaganza that was November and NaBloPoMo, I posted four times in December. Four. And I read very little as well. I could blame it on the holidays and all the go-there, do-that, make-this, visit-here, eat-that (and that, and that). I could blame it on a fit of last-minute crafting that had me knitting scarves and making Christmas cards instead of writing at night after the boys went to bed. But maybe I’ll just forget the blame and resolve to do better. It is the season for trying harder, right?

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions – every time I start to think of one, there are so many things I’d like to change that my list grows longer and longer, until I might as well cross everything off of it and just resolve to be perfect.

So this year, instead of making specific resolutions, I’m going to make a list of somewhat vague intentions to set the tone for 2015.

Presence. Kindness and forgiveness, to myself and others. Face time over screen time; outside over inside. Gratitude. Simplicity. Inspiration. Action.

Happy 2015, everyone. What are your intentions for this year?

My Monkey

Monkey

There is something sweet and slightly painful about the babyhood of my second child. Maybe it’s that my memory of my first baby is slightly foggy and coloured by my knowledge of him as a toddler; maybe it’s that Monkey will likely be our last baby. I don’t remember the same sense of mine with Bean as I have with Monkey. Maybe it’s that I’ve learned to savour it, because as he grows he will not be just mine anymore. Maybe it’s that I’m beginning to know firsthand what all the elderly ladies who stop me in the grocery store say – it goes by so fast.

Monkey’s smiles are still mostly for me. He looks into my eyes and his face lights up. I imitate his sounds and he chuckles. I enter the room and he looks for me. I sit down on the floor and he crawls over to me. At 8 months old, he is still mine. And I am selfish. I don’t want to share him, yet.

His older brother is a part of the world. He has friends. He smiles and laughs and talks to other people. Bean is his own little person, and it is wonderful and beautiful to see him developing relationships and friendships and opinions and independence. But Monkey is still mine. I am his world. He is my baby. He fits on my hip; he belongs under my chin. His little body was so recently a part of mine, and our bond is still physical.

What is it that changes this bond? It loosens and stretches without us being conscious of it, exactly. As our babies grow up and grow in independence, they grow away from us, bit by bit. Bean still needs me, and will always need me in some way, I hope. We will always be bonded, but nothing is the same as the elemental, physical bond of a mother and baby.

As I gaze into my Monkey’s sweet, smiling face and open, trusting eyes, I am struck by the gift that babyhood is. I am privileged to hold and nurture and protect a life that is pure and innocent. There is nothing dishonest in a baby – his smiles mean happiness, and his cries mean sadness, discomfort, or need. There is no guile, only instinct. And this baby stage is so fleeting.

So I will hold onto my Monkey for as long as I can. One day I will have to share him, I know. As his small world expands day by day, I will explore it with him. Gradually my tight hold will loosen, and one day I will let him go. But not just yet. For now, he is still mine.

Unexpected kindness

Today’s daily prompt:

Is there a person you should’ve thanked, but never had the chance? Is there someone who helped you along the way without even realizing it? Here’s your chance to express your belated gratitude.


We’ve been waiting 45 minutes. The air in the clinic waiting room is stuffy and stale, and one of the harsh fluorescent lights is flickering. Three month-old Monkey is asleep in my arms. Two year-old Bean is sitting on the chair beside me. I am regretting the decision to bring the kids to the clinic, but Bean’s cough sounded so painful this morning. It must be our turn soon.

Bean has been so good. He’s been bringing me book after book from the basket under the clinic’s magazine rack, but now we’ve read them all. He starts to kick the chair. He asks to go home. I tell him we just have a little longer to wait, and he needs to be patient. He kicks the chair harder and asks to go home louder. In the packed waiting room, a couple of heads turn our way. After 45 minutes of sitting still, I know Bean has reached his limit and we’re headed for trouble. And I know I don’t have it in me today to deal with it.

I haven’t slept. I haven’t eaten. Though I don’t know it now, I am at the lowest point in my struggle with postpartum depression. I’m fragile and thin-skinned, imagining judgement and accusation in the eyes of everyone in the room. In my lap, Monkey starts to stir. Within the next two minutes I know that I’ll have a crying, hungry baby and a clinging, misbehaving toddler. I can’t do this.

With one more look up at the clock I tell Bean that we’re going to go home and try another day. Though it’s what he asked for, in typical toddler fashion he is upset at this change in plans. His eyes start to fill with tears, and so do mine.

An elderly man is sitting next to us. Until this moment he has been immersed in his book, showing no signs of noticing us at all. He gently puts his book down and deliberately drops the plastic tab with his waiting-room number onto the floor.

“Oh dear. I seem to have dropped my number. Young man, do you think you can pick it up for me?”

Bean picks it up and hands it back to the man shyly, never meeting his eyes.

“Thank you! What a kind boy you are.”

Bean straightens, puffed up with pride.

“Would you like to see my cane? My son carved the handle.”

My curious boy reaches out a hand to touch the wooden handle of the man’s cane. The tears that flow so often spill out of my eyes and down my cheeks. I look down, hoping no one can see. Just then, our number is called. I take Bean’s hand and whisper to him to say thank you to the man. But as we make our way through the clinic door, I don’t trust myself to look him in the eye, to thank him myself. By the time we are finished he is no longer in the waiting room.

Life with small kids is measured in moments. On some days, each moment has us teetering on the edge, and these small, everyday kindnesses are the difference between isolation and community, between okay and not okay.

So, to that elderly man in the clinic waiting room, thank you. Thank you for your kindness to my son which was compassion for me. Thank you for showing me, in that moment during the dark days, that I was not alone.