It's easy to forget what happy looks like. Every day life gets in the way. Work, school, bills, laundry. All of those things pile up. Some days they suffocate you, and you can't see past bedtime. Some days breathing takes effort. Then, on other days, the laundry doesn't bother you. Chicken nugget dinners seem like your biggest success. The work load doesn't feel so heavy. It's in those moments that I don't recognize happy. I don't recognize content. I sometimes forget what they look like.
Recently I realized that I had been angry for the better part of a year. Damn, that's hard to write. At the time, I thought I was sad or just really stressed out. I felt like I was forcing the smile on my face. I was forcing the words that came out of my mouth. Every small detail of my life stressed me out. The littlest hiccup set me off. The slightest blip could bring my entire mood tumbling down. In my mind, I convinced myself that it was stress. The stress of being a working mom after so many years of staying home. I convinced myself it was because I was being a cry baby because I was going to miss this class party or that school event. Snap out of it, I told myself time and again, lots of moms miss school or dance things. They still go on, they are still smiling. They are still happy. So I waded through all the bullshit in my heart, I looked past all the disappointments that began to pile up. I told myself that if I just got through (insert life event here), then I would be able to pull myself out of it.
But I never did.
I left my former employer the day before my family's trip to Disneyland. I was too excited that we were going to the Happiest Place on Earth to really feel the magnitude of the goodbye. I spent a blissful four days in Anaheim. I said "yes" so many more times that I said "no". I teared up multiple times so thankful that we were on a family vacation, that we had hit a major milestone, that we had made it after all those days spent working out butts off. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that I was so much lighter in my heart and my mind. The very idea that I didn't have to go back to work immediately seemed like a freedom I hadn't tasted in months. Almost eighteen months to be exact.
In all I spent almost four weeks without working. Between my vacation and transitioning into my new job, I spent that time at home, with my kids and my husband. I didn't hate it. Sure there was laundry and a birthday party to plan. A preschool graduation and the last days of school. I enjoyed them all. Even when I did start my new job, it was with a new and fresh perspective. I was excited to move on to something new. Something that was exciting and scary and really out of my comfort zone. That changed my whole attitude.
My first few weeks at work have been completely different than what I was doing six months ago. Sure the hours and work load is different, but I'm flexing "muscles" I haven't flexed in years. I'm having to go back and re-learn things I once knew in my early years in retail. My new job doesn't exhaust my mind or my body. I come home with energy and positivity. It's amazing how different your day can be when you are no longer angry at every aspect of your day.
I'll admit that I really didn't want to go back to work in January 2014. I was happy being a stay at home mom, and a blogger/writer in progress. I enjoyed my day, even if they had no routine or schedule to them. But my checkbook didn't like my at home routine, so after seven years, I went out and made that change for all of us. And for awhile it was a good thing. I tried to stay positive, I tried to make the most of it. But really my heart was never in it. In hindsight it was the job, the actual job and job description that my heart was never on board. I loved the people and the idea of the job title, but the actual job drained me in a way I never knew could. Yet, I'm so grateful for having it. I learned so much about myself. I learned that I still could be a career woman. I still had some smarts rolling around in my mommy brain. I could be successful in a place other than motherhood. Those are all very good things, and I felt really good about those things for a while. But over time, I realized that they didn't really make happy. The hours, the exhaustion, and the resentment I felt about missing my family settled hard in my heart. In the end, I learned that this wasn't making me happy, and I missed being happy.
I don't want to be angry anymore. In the last six weeks so much has changed in this family of four. With their mother back, my kids are happy. I selfishly spent too long being angry at the world and at the circumstances. Sure I still yell, I still lose my temper over string cheese wrappers on the couch, but I'm no longer side tracked by anger. I no longer feel like I'm running out of time, that I will be working more than I'll be with my kids. Now, I hug more. I stop and say yes more. Yes, let's read Harry Potter. Yes, tell me all about your Shopkins. Yes, chocolate chip pancakes sound like a wonderful idea. Anger takes a lot of energy, I now realize, and without it, I have a lot more energy to be myself. The happy self. Even the Hubbs asked me for two weeks if I was okay. He must of thought I'd found a new drug, because it was that noticeable. Nope. No new drug, I just finally recognized what happy looks like.
A few weeks ago, when I was talking to a friend about my new job, we got to talking about the anger I've shed. I told her how much lighter I felt, how free I felt as I walked into a new job, quite possibly a new career. I told her that I would never go back to what I was doing before, I wouldn't sign up for angry and miserable again. She agreed and said something that is so quotable that it needs to be cross stitched on a pillow...
"We're too old to sign up for miserable".
Yes we are. I don't want to waste anymore time being miserable. I don't want to carry anger around like an extra twenty pounds. I want to forget what anger looks like.
Because happy looks like trips to Target just before bedtime because we are out of milk. Happy looks like sitting in our neighbors yard watching the kids fight over bikes and otter pops. Happy looks like my daughters sitting at the kitchen counter waiting for me to flip pancakes. Happy looks like a trip to the car wash with my family, on a lazy Sunday, followed by ice cream for dinner.
Today, I remember what happy looks like. It looks a lot like contentment. Lately, it looks a lot like me.