Posts Tagged ‘definitions’

Illusory Happiness

February 15, 2012 Leave a comment


It’s been said that, “When you look at your life, the greatest happiness [es] are family happiness [es].” One of the questions, for me, is whether that statement is true or not.

I’ve had many happy moments in my life with and without family members in attendance. I tend to focus on how one quantifies happiness.

Does extreme happiness always have to be accompanied by tears, for instance? Or, is such a deep emotion as true happiness so overpowering that expression of any kind is beyond the ability of the one experiencing it?

What about a lack of happiness? I’ve seen occasions when great sorrow, not happiness, was what took over when family arrived. Where does a person draw the line of family involvement in one’s personal happiness?

Here’s another example of relevant questions. How many degrees of happiness does a person feel and does everyone feel the same degrees of that emotion and label them the same way? I don’t think anyone has a definitive answer to either of these questions simply because each person’s emotional thermometer registers feelings differently based on personal experience.

When you realize how genuinely moved a person is to meet you, does that evoke great happiness, sweet satisfaction, or deep humility coupled with gratitude. If humility, does that constitute a portion of happiness? If you feel satisfaction only, does that mean that conceit has crept into your thermometer?

You see how complicated emotional definitions and signals are? What if you feel nothing at all except seeming boredom when someone exhibits excitement at shaking your hand and talking with you face-to-face? After all, this could be a cousin that you’ve never met before.

Does your lack of emotion mean that you really don’t want to know any more family, that you’re too important to worry about those on the fringe of the family, or that you’re just a jerk?

Or, could it mean, as it does with me, that caution and trust issues rule your actions and responses during first meetings?

Circumstances dictate our responses to events in our lives. The exact experience also contributes to those responses, as well as the circumstances immediately preceding an event.

For instance, many years ago, when I was teaching in an elementary school, I’d gone outside during recess. I needed some quiet time without children’s voices in my ears or designs on my next thought. I spent my ten minutes breathing in the scent of blooming forsythia and tulips in nearby private yards, listening to birds announcing their romantic intentions, and generally decompressing. The afternoon sun warmed my face and hands, clean air wafted past my nose, and a sense of rightness filled me.

On my way back to the classroom, a curious sensation flooded my body. I stopped walking. I closed my eyes and felt my whole body fill with blinding light from the inside. I could see it, behind my eyelids, flooding through me. Such a wave of pure joy washed over me that there were no words, no other sensations, no sound. All else in the world fell away, leaving me held within this personal lightshow.

It ended, and I nearly cried. I felt in that instant the most amazing happiness. I’ve yearned for another taste of it ever since. I wait for the day I can feel that sensation, that joy, again. Where it came from, or why it came, I have no idea. I don’t care.

I only know that that one blazing event taught me more about joy than a lifetime of other experiences. Nothing can compare to it. I wish everyone could have their own instant of pure joy that they can aspire to feel it again.



Measuring For Familyhood

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

What constitutes family? Does it come only in the form of childbirth placement, bringing baby home from the hospital, and then living with this new creature long enough to include them in the family photo carried inside your heart?

For myself, I’ve adopted people into my heart and my family many times during my adulthood. Yesterday I talked briefly about one man and his whole family whom I adopted in the 1990’s. Today, I chose to talk about another. Before I do, I want to explain one point.

I believe that as adults we adopt, whether acknowledged or not, those people who help define us to ourselves. Lou was one who encouraged me to play and not be so serious all the time, to relax without losing focus, to enjoy without dismissing the importance of other things. He and his family taught me many things. Through them I gained a broader understanding of the quality of family.

My first adopted sister was a college roommate. She and I survived tuna casseroles and pasta staples for a school year in a tiny apartment that gave us independence and an opportunity to exercise by walking to classes a mile away. We grew as people and as sisters.

Her family adopted me. I gathered them all into my expanding basket of potential family members. Cheryl was the first person to encourage me to write, who, in fact, sat down with me in off time and helped me write my first science fiction book. We wrote seamlessly together.

When she graduated at the end of that year, the book ended, but not the dream or intent of writing. Our friendship and sisterhood didn’t falter there, either. She named me Maid of Honor for her wedding, named me Godmother of her girls as they came along, and drove with her husband for two hours to be there for me at my mother’s funeral. She loved my mom almost as much as I did after having met her only a couple of times.

We no longer get the time to talk like we once did. Her life of motherhood, wife, and work keep her busy. My youngest goddaughter is getting married before long. I’d love to be there for that.

Throughout these many years of our friendship, Cheryl and I have remained connected. We could meet tomorrow and pick up conversations where we’d left off twenty years ago. That’s the kind of relationship we have. I would feel comfortable in her newly renovated kitchen; a kitchen I remember sitting in several times with her and her family, laughing, kibitzing, sharing.

I could rummage around in her new fridge and grab whatever I wanted to eat at midnight and not feel a bit of guilt or distress, because she’d be more upset if I didn’t feed my hunger. That’s part of who she is. I’m family, after all.

And while we’ve been separated by thousands of miles since the mid-eighties, we manage to talk once in a while, catch up, and commiserate. If we’re very lucky, one of these days we’ll meet somewhere for a few days and just play, shop, and laugh like we did at BSU. That would be a capper.

Yet, the real capper to the whole story is that my mother adopted Cheryl into her heart as well. I guess I followed my mother’s habits more than most realized. Mom tended to adopt all sorts of people, sometimes as much out of necessity as anything else.

In the end, I suppose, family is defined by those we hold close in our hearts, our thoughts, and our memories. I would be a lesser person if I’d never known this sweet lady with a smile that shines across a room and a generous spirit who holds true to her convictions and faith, regardless of provocation.

Like Lou and his family, Cheryl helped me define myself and what family really means for me. That’s what more important than bloodlines.

The way I see it, family is all relative.