I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. Must now, quickly and with no time to waste, contemplate the meaning of life, the new year, the holy grail of balance, and life goals.
Ready, set, go.
I’m a driven person. I always have several long term and dozens of short term goals brewing. Life with small children means that many, if not all, of those aspirations are on hold. Panic waxes and wanes, with the sensations that life is passing by and that life is exactly what it needs to be as other things wait.
And I was pretty sure I was unhappy in this limbo until I read a series of articles on happiness in Southwest Airline’s in-flight magazine. I should have been reading one of the dozens of books on my nightstand, or writing something compelling, but the bags were overflowing with boring wooden, BPA-free, phthalate-free, battery-free toys, and there was no way I was packing another bag just so I could have something to do. My whole life is about filling every nook and cranny of time with something productive, and, dammit, this holiday vacation I was going to stare aimlessly out windows.
Of course I can say that but can’t really do it, so while Butter was sleeping in my arms (after four hours in the airport waiting for a delayed flight) I was reading article after article on being happy. And during the course of 30 minutes, was interrupted 17 times (I counted) by my delightful children. So I figured, what with the inability to have two freaking minutes to myself, the deferred goals, the lack of comfort in my own older-and-not-springing-back-from-pregnancy skin, and the predictable winter mid-life crisis that makes me want to move, get a job, quit a job, go back to school, sell my soul, and run away from home all in the same day, that I’d score more than a few ticks below happy.
Shows what I know.
Apparently, since I find joy in something every day, since I’m still compelled to make progress toward those goals and dreams, since I’m frustrated as hell but interested and engaged in what I’m doing, I’m actually quite happy. Above the 50th percentile, anyway, which shocks me.
[Aside: how Eeyore does that make me that Fair-to-Middling seems impressively upbeat?]
The nature of the questions asked in the Authentic Happiness Inventory point out what I’ve known for 5 years: though it’s important to me to raise my children myself and defer fulfilling my needs and desires while they’re small, I would probably be happier working in a situation in which I am skilled, respected, and see direct results of my efforts. It’s the way I’m built—this steep learning curve, 30-year deferred feedback game is not my strong suit. I’d be more engaged and interested in and proud of my work if it were not the trying-hard-to-be-patient and doing-my-best-to-be-gentle direction of small children.
Yet refusing my near-constant need to follow my avocation is actually reminding me almost constantly of my current purpose in life.
Frustrating as hell though it may be to do what I believe in rather than what I crave, I know why I’m happier than I perceive myself to be outside the smattering of joyful moments in each day.
Because as stupifying and frustrating and scatalogical as my job is, I genuinely believe it’s important. And research suggests a sense of purpose and usefulness is one of the most important factors in feeling satisfied about your life.
So, sure I’ll eat more vegetables in 2011. And write more. And eliminate the stuff that isn’t necessary so I can do more of what I, personally, thrive on (housework and corn syrup). But I’ll also spend a fair amount of the time I was budgeting for blinking on recognizing that I’m a happy frustrated, agitated, unfulfilled person.
See how I’m already looking on the bright side? Way to go, 2011.