Saturday, July 6, 2013

Flash of Brilliance: Happy-ness

Sometimes I have these moments that I like to give the fancy fixed up name "Flash of Brilliance". A sort of superhero that swoops in and saves the day. A gentle reminder that I really am growing, and changing. Getting better! Feeling.....happier.

These often come at the tail end of a really sad, hard time: just one day I wake up and I don't feel blah. Not a little frantic in my head. And I notice that I've been reading more, running again. Being patient when I want to yell and freak out. Putting flowers from the yard on the dining room table. Not calling myself names. 

You know....."normal". :)

This particular flash comes from my oldest. He is a serious kid. He isn't carefree. He is a kind of grumpy 60 year old man in an 8 year old body. He is so smart, and witty. Sharp. He has a temper, and is a terrible loser. He wants to be the best, and he wants it handed to him with no work at all. As in: "I should be able to show up at the swim meet and be the best at all the strokes just because I showed up." I don't know if you'll understand this but I had to quit drinking just to keep up with him and how he sees the world in this really sharp intuitive way. So we could talk about it at night like we do and I wouldn't become a big drunk dumbass. So I could still be smart and teach him stuff. So I could help him be happy.

Whoa. Now there's the part that I got brilliant about. It is not my job to make him happy. Or anybody else for that matter. I can twist and bend and gumbify myself into a thousand versions of best mom ever and guess what? He still might not be happy. And here's the bad part: neither will I. So I have to let that go.

That is hard. When I was little I don't remember anyone really caring whether or not I was happy. I didn't feel tenderness. Adored. Needed. Wanted around. I was more of a nuisance than a gift. And then when I drank I was the bad daughter on the outside that I felt like I already was on the inside. I have made it my personal mission to make sure my children know they are loved and adored. Important. Cared for. Thought of. Needed. That I am happy they are here. 

But see, that is my mission. And mine and theirs are two different things. Just like mine and yours.

One reason I love Gretchen Rubin is because she emphasizes how different what makes people happy can be. Muddy kids in the backyard makes me happy. But perhaps you can't stand dirt. Lists of hopeful goals makes me feel.....hopeful, whereas to some people that is way overdoing it. Going to bed early and getting up early makes me feel real good. But maybe 5 AM is much too early for you.

It seems like the real unhappiness creeps in for all of us, whether we know it or not, when we are trying to live someone else's happy life. And by doing that we make our own lives miserable. Oh. OH!!!!


I realized that everyone has their own truth. Their own way. And that where I was really fucking up was trying to fit my path to someone else's. This was so concretely true when I was drinking, heavy and true. Now that I'm sober I see that clearly: I cannot make myself happy when I'm not making myself happy.

Get it? I have other people's standards for a lot of my inner/outer stuff. Weight is a big one. The way I dress is another. (Although sobriety has released me from that big time. I hardly ever have outfit anxiety like I used to.) I feel so judged by my outward appearance that I forget to let my eyes shine when I smile, or I forget to smile at all. I tend to want what other people want rather than take some time to figure out what I want. Being sober makes me not so much that way. And then the F.O.B. showed up and I can lighten up some.

Cause it's amazing how trying so hard to make others happiness makes me so so un-happy.

I've had a rough time of it lately. Not overwhelming, not awful. Just blegh. Sometimes I feel guilty because my demons aren't in the shape of wine bottles, but repetitive soul searches- paths in my head worn paper thin from traveling them over and over again. For me, at this point in my sobriety it's not the booze I miss, it's a sense of well-being. I feel like now I'm getting my groove back, ready for another trip among the pink clouds until the next life lesson comes along. The nice part is that I feel better- stronger. Like I'm becoming more and more me.

P.S. Going to the recovery meetings (I've been to 2) has been a blessing and a curse. The relief, the be-lief, the connection to others has been extraordinary. Cleaning out the closet of my shoved down secret self is no fucking fun. But seeing the look of compassion from other people that says "You're still OK with me even with all this stuff" has helped me. Shored me up. Made me brave and unashamed. Proud of who I am.


  1. I frickin love this. I was kind of laughing as I read this because I was looking over at my Co-Dependents No More book that I have yet to read that came in the post a few weeks ago. I think we all have a touch (or more than a touch) of Co-Dependency in us. Like you, I don't have it in large quantities, but I have it at times. I had it a lot more in my drinking days - trying to control others to "fix" them to take the heat off of me and my inner demons.

    But you're bang on - we can't make other people happy. We can certainly show them our selves as happy individuals, and especially as parents, give our kids the opportunities and chances to grow into themselves and bring about their own happiness...but I can't make them happy. And that's tough as a parent.

    Muddy clothes drives me batty, as does a cluttered house. But I do love when the boys sing in the car listening to same song over and over and over again, or when they just run up and punch me on the backside as their way of saying I love you. They are teaching me how to find happiness within myself. and it's still a journey for me. It's taken me longer than I want, in terms of what I truly want. But I have learned a lot about what I don't want...and that's crucial.

    Lovely stuff, Amy.

    You rock :)

    1. Paul have you read Daring Greatly? It's so good I read it in clumps and then digest it.

      Ahhhhh, co-dependency. The best thing about being sober is that I'm figuring out who I am for real. I've piled on all these traits that I thought were mine over the years, only to discover that some are not me at all! Or that some (co-dependency) really are me. Can you be co-dependent on yourself? :)

      House clutter? UGH! You might not be able to eat off the floor at my house, but you won't trip over things on the way to the bathroom either. I'm learning to let my sons love me their way, not the way I think they should. This was a huge revelation to me: how I was never allowed to be *me* when I was a kid, and then here I am doing that same thing! And then expecting that of my husband too. Listening to people and letting them be who they are is much much harder than I thought.

      You rock too! :) Cheers!

  2. Wow. thank you for this. i am new to blog land, having twinkled over from DDG's page, who wrote an article about blogging herself sober, which led me to joining Team 100 2 days ago. that bit about not feeling cared about, needed, (adored, even) when you were small... i can relate. and the sense of 'ok-ness' that has come from recovery meetings was also rejuvenated for me... 2 days ago. looking forward to reading more. :) namaste'

    1. I'm so glad you've found all this cool stuff! The sober blogging community has been my saving grace. Welcome. :)

      That not cared for (safe?) feeling is one I carry with me to this day.

      Meetings all in all make me feel good. Even when they make me feel so tender and raw hearted.

      Namaste. :)

  3. This is a fabulous and such an important part of our recovery. So hard to just focus on being happy ourselves, from the inside rather than by making sure others are happy and trying to feed from that. The former is hard but permanent, the latter is easy but temporary.

    One of my blogging friends, Annette from Just for Today, has recommended the book Beyond Blue which provides insight into depression, alcoholism and how we're wired. I'm reading it now and I'm thinking you might like it too. The author is Therese Borchard.

    Great post and love the "flashes".


    1. Why do we feel so selfish when we make ourselves happy? I don't think everyone is that way. ;)

      Thanks for the book recommendations. I read like crazy. Actually, maybe I just am crazy. Heh heh.


  4. Oh this is a really lovely post.. deceptively simple but then I just came back and re-read it slowly.. it contains so much Amy. It coveys a beautiful calm that seems to be creeping into your feelings.. (putting flowers on the dinner table is far from normal, it's healthy-upbeat-lovely!).. a lovely growing acceptance of who you are and who your son is (sounds A LOT like my 8-year-old, seriously), and a growing awareness overall of all that alcohol did to your thoughts and actions. I love love love that you are sober. You rock indeed. xxxx

    1. I always imagine we would be sitting on a patio with all of our children running about laughing our butts off. If we didn't live half a world away!

      Calm is right- more acceptance. More forgiveness. I love these coasting wind-in-the-hair parts. :)

      You rock too! xoxoxoxo

  5. Oh big hugs to you my darling Amy. I am happy to read this and happy it sounds like you are bouncing back up again a little - I know it's been a bit of a rough patch for you lately. But it is so marvelous that you are still here, learning, growing, changing, embracing. And I would love to hear even more about your recovery group meetings and what you've been learning. You are amazeballs. Lilly xxxx

    1. Thanks Lil! I am feeling more "up", this is a hard part just altogether I think. It feels kind of like a series of small yet monumental revelations keep happening- which make me take pause and that make me think. It's good even though it's hard. The recovery group is another thing that's good but hard. Guess that's just like life huh? :)

  6. I've been neglecting the blogs lately but this morning I thought, I need to catch up. Your blog was the reason I got that "Flash Of Brilliance" this morning. I needed to read it. I have been struggling myself lately, back at work and really hating it and it's making me into a person I don't like. An unhappy, bitter, self-doubting person. My work used to make me feel the exact opposite, but I've changed. Life's too short to dread the next day.

    Good news! I only have 8 days left of work and then I can get to figuring out what it is I love that will also support me. I'm excited and scared. But that beats the hell out of unhappy.

    1. Ugh, I hate when I fall back into my old routine: hating life, hating myself for hating life. I figured out that me feeling that way means I'm not living my today life, but my old one. Like an old comfy shoe it's so easy to slip it right back on.

      And now only seven days left! Changing my work has made my life loads better- all goes back to taking care of me, not doing what I'm "supposed" to do, but what I tell me I need to do. xoxoxoxo :)