I love my neighborhood. I don’t think I can say that enough. I love my neighborhood. We are blessed to have built our family home over the course of 2015. I originally convinced my husband to buy a lot in this particular neighborhood due to the number of children I witnessed riding bikes and playing in their yards on the numerous drive-by stalkings I did during the search process. What I did not know at the time is that this neighborhood would be a support system for me and my family, bringing some incredible people into my life.
One particular reason I love my neighborhood is Book Club. (Yes, we read the books. I know you’re questioning it!) This past month we read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. The main character’s happiest day was spent at the Museum of Natural History in New York City until he meets his potential wife. Which prompts a discussion question asking “what is your happiest day?”. Such a simple question, right? The twelve of us in the room give some sideways glances to one another waiting for someone to speak up. Finally, someone says, “this should be an easy question to answer, but it’s actually difficult”.
Book Club is compromised of married women, single women, mothers, sisters, grandmothers, all with an age range spanning 30 maybe 40 years. Surely one of us can jump in with the happiest day of our life from our vast experiences. Silence. Someone finally asks, “what about those of you who are married, what about your wedding day?” You can see the wheels turning in the married women’s heads, a few head nods here and there. Someone else asks, “what about the day your children were born?” Now some conversation commences. But yet it’s clear to anyone in the room that we haven’t really been able to pinpoint a great response to generate further discussion.
My friend sitting directly across from me offers up an idea that has resonated with me over the past few days. Choosing one day, for the entire day that is the “happiest day of my life” is challenging, rather she offers up the idea that there are many moments of happiness from particular days that comprise one’s most cherished memories. A series of moments.
I reflect on this idea of a series of moments as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep after Book Club. A highlight reel of my life begins playing in my mind. I think back to the happiest days of my childhood. The long summer days playing in the woods, swimming in the lake, and riding bikes to the trout stream; the carefree simpleness of childhood resonates as pure bliss. The day I got my driver’s license was definitely one of the best days of my teenage years. That license represented sweet freedom.
Jumping ahead a few years, I envision sitting on my neighbor’s swing, my head resting on my then boyfriend’s shoulder while we admire the view of the lake. This is the moment when I realize that my boyfriend is proposing to me, that this man is going to be my husband! I then see myself and my husband bawling during our vows. But after that, I have to fast forward almost 7 years to find the next moment because if we are honest, marriage is hard, really hard. It’s not until the day a nurse tells me that I am pregnant that I feel authentic glee, the type that brings tears to your eyes. I can barely see to dial my husband’s phone number to share the incredible news.
But then comes the darkness. Neither time I gave birth was the best day of my life, rather the days were traumatic, stressful and many tears were shed. Besides my husband, my children are the best things that ever happened to me, the days of their births, however, are not. These are not memories I share because quite frankly most people do not want to hear them. After our son died, finding happiness was a struggle, requiring actual effort on our part. Joy is supposed to be natural, effortless, would we ever be able to just laugh freely again?
Struggling through our mourning period, I force my highlight reel back on track and recall the day I found out I was pregnant for the second time and then the day the ultrasound showed not one but two babies. Once again dialing my husband’s number through tear filled eyes to share this joy with the man that has been my partner through all of the moments. The next ultrasound would bring tears but not the joyful kind, diagnosing one of our daughters with a congenital heart defect. This rollercoaster of life is taking me on a ride I never could have anticipated. I am once again struggling to find emotional stability much less happiness.
Reminiscing about the happiest moments of my life has brought up memories of the most painful as well. Which leads me to think back to the Book Club discussion. If the question was asked, “what is the worst day of your life” I feel that I could have easily recalled the lowest points of my life, but the highest require extensive reflection. This reminds me of the concept that it takes 10 compliments to undo an insult. Does it take 10 jubilant memories to outweigh the lousy ones?
Through this contemplation, I recognize that I need to spend more time concentrating on the good parts of life. I also realize that I equate a lack of stress with happiness. The moments that bring me the most joy are those that are simplistic in nature, with belly laughs and tears of joy. It’s time to focus on these moments in the series we call life.