Guest Post: A Day of Thx by Kristi Ashcroft

dog-sleeping-bed-110121-02

Dear dog,

Thank you for going to my husband’s side of the bed and nuzzling your cold, wet nose into his face this morning.  I respect your judgment in these matters, and if you believe he’s the one to take you for your walk today, I’ll happily enjoy my extra few minutes of sleep guilt-free.

Dear October sunshine,

Thank you for showing up so often this year.  We’ve enjoyed many extra picnics, park trips and bike rides as a result of your generosity.

Dear lemon-flavoured fat-free Greek yogurt,

Thank you for your utterly convincing portrayal of dessert, such that my taste buds and tummy come away completely fooled.

Dear Julia Donaldson,

Thank you for writing books that I never tire of reading aloud to my kids.

Dear sons,

Thank you for getting through an entire dinner without complaining about something on your plate.

Dear sons,

Thank you for simply bathing and brushing your teeth and getting on with life/bedtime.

Dear sons,

Thank you for staying in your own comfortable, warm beds ALL night!

Dear sons,

Thank you for being you.  You’ve given me my best job ever.

Dear husband,

Thank you for everything, every day.

Cheers,

Kristi

The Pursuit of Happiness?

I seem to find advice on how to be happy everywhere I turn.  Magazines have entire monthly columns dedicated to attaining it and numerous blogs tout the pursuit of it.

For me, the pressure to be happy can be crushing and there are times, more than I would care to admit, that “be happy” is just one more line item for supermom to check off.  There it looms on the list: above “nutritious short order cook” and below “sultry sexpot”.

Being a mother has proved to be my life riddle.  One that I am struggling to figure out.

How is it that I feel so utterly lonely but at the same time crave solitude?

Why do I want time apart from my kids but once I am alone, I count the hours to when they return?

At the end of the day, I beat myself up and wonder what is that I accomplished today?  What use did I make of my two university degrees?

At the end of the day, I am amazed by the magnitude of what I have contributed to our society: three small boys, who are learning to be thoughtful, compassionate members of the community.

There are days when I am deliriously happy and days that I feel as though I am clawing my way out of a black hole.

Today I didn’t feel happiness.  I felt claustrophobic, torn apart, pushed beyond the limit of exhaustion.  As I write this, the boys are tucked into bed and not a minute too soon.  My patience now sags like a hyper extended elastic band.

Hard days come with the mothering territory and when I feel less than sure, it’s not to the experts that I turn.  I seek solace from those elbow to elbow with me in the trenches and Glennon Melton’s Don’t Carpe Diem tops my list.

Am I happy every day?  No.  Am I happy most days?  Yes, and that’s good enough for me.

Life’s not a glossy magazine, folks.  If it were, I’d have better hair.

 

photo credit: http://www.symbolset.org

Sun and Shadows

I’ve read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, and I check her blog fairly regularly.  We think alike, I think, and I am drawn to her methodical ways and her “make a list and get it done” attitude.  I am nowhere near as methodical or productive as she appears to be (books and blogs are good at hiding her dust bunnies), but I do take inspiration from her work.  One piece of advice, I can’t remember if it came from the book or the blog, was to make the bed every day.  Since reading it, I have adopted it, and it really does make me happy.  It sounds so insignificant, so trivial, but airing out the bedroom and making my bed each morning helps me set the tone for the day.  It takes seconds, but it gives me a feeling of accomplishment.  It may be the only thing that gets done that day, but at least the bed is made.

And that’s kind of where I begin to falter, because, truly, on some days, that really is all that gets done, and the rest of what gets done is half-assed and graceless.   Sometimes, my days are more about surviving than living a meaningful life, and when I am in survival mode, the happiness crap makes me want to spit nails.  It makes me crazy to think that millions of women are managing to succeed and thrive and be happy, and all I can think is “Sixteen more hours until bedtime.”  I say those words to myself and feel the awful burden of the happiness imperative.  On some days, it’s not the ordinary stresses of being a mother of three boys that wears me down, it’s the fact that I’m not in or actively pursuing a state of bliss.  I feel like I’m failing when I am failing to feel happy.  Where have I gone wrong???

Well, of course, I haven’t gone wrong because happiness, like despair, is a transient state, and you can’t have one without the other.  “The stronger the sunshine, the darker the shadow.”  I can say that to myself a thousand times a day, but I still can’t shake the glossy appeal of Happy.  It’s like the insidious appeal of home decor or fashion magazines: we can all agree that the images on those pages are fiction, what we see is not real.  What is not real, is, by definition not attainable, but we still strive, don’t we?  We still measure ourselves against the glossy fictions.  Sometimes, the happiness advice that is doled out in column inches on the pages of national papers and magazines begins to feel like the anorexic model to me.  It is not healthy to aspire to that kind of thin; it is not healthy to aspire to constant happiness.

At Issue: The Happiness Imperative

First of all, I’d like to take the chance to extend a warm welcome to our many new readers.  March has been a month of surprising new growth, not just outside with the early spring but for our blog, and we are genuinely happy to have you all join us.

The happiness that comes from knowing that readers enjoy our work is a true and long-lasting reward.  But what about other kinds of happiness?  The more fleeting, less sustaining kind?

This month at 4 Mothers, we are looking at The Happiness Imperative.  It seems that lately, you can’t swing a cat without hitting someone’s happiness column.  Sarah Hampson has one in the Globe & Mail, Chatelaine has its own Happiness Plan, and, of course, there is Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, both book and blog, and soon, her Happier at Home, the much-anticipated follow-up to The Happiness Project, will hit the shelves.

But is all this advice and striving to be happy what we should really be pursuing?  Is there a down side to the barrage of advice on how to be happy?  Here is an interesting article on the pressure to be happy from Psychology Today.

How about you?  Do you find that there is a happiness imperative?  Please do join in our discussions this week.