Choosing My Happiness

The summer of 2009 wasn’t the best year. In fact, it was my rock bottom year.  I had just separated from my husband, was laid off, had a mountain of debt, couldn't afford rent and about $8 in the bank. My son had hit the terrible 2’s and my brain was mush from lack of sleep. Mom, who was no stranger to hard living, took my son and I in with open arms and the utmost compassion. She’d been there as a single mom working herself to the bone so she could afford a cooked chicken from the grocery store and enough leftover to put $2 worth of gas in the tank to get me to school. I’m amazed at her sacrifices as an adult of how much she worked to support me. And yet, I had no idea how much she struggled. But, she knew. As moms do. 

We moved into her mint green house with white gingerbread trim at the corner of a cul-de-sac surrounded by white blossoms of linden trees that went around either side of the street. Her house became a sanctuary where I didn’t need to worry about food or putting a roof over our head-at least temporarily. The house always smelled of dark roast coffee, freshly picked basil and sour dough bread right from the oven. The backyard was lined with lilac trees along the fence that the wind was kind enough to carry into the house from the open windows. The house smelled fresh and felt safe. There’s a hint of magic that comes with a mother’s unconditional care, especially during a time where you may feel stripped of your own light.

At the time, I felt I had nothing pointing me in the right direction other than my own finger of self-doubt in the mirror telling me I was a failure in all aspects of relationships, stability, finances and motherhood. How could I be a good mother with $8 in the bank and a severe lack of hope that everything was going to be ok. On top of my negative self-talk, lack of sleep, stress and guilt, I was hard headed and even harder on myself for being such a let-down. I cried myself to sleep almost every night for months.

Everyone has an idea of their future self; the perfect relationship, the perfect finances, the perfect family and somehow it all comes together to live your perfect "one day" life. This idea motivates us day in and day out to keep striving for this perfect tomorrow or next day or the day after that. Despite this, life happens. Life happens to remind us that the universe brings us forks in the road, closed doors and people who give us lessons-often painful, but always important teaching moments.

Change is meant to rip us out of our comfy roots and plot us somewhere else we are meant to bloom. And, somehow one morning I got up and realized that all these failures were really opportunities to make the kinds of changes I wanted to make in my life. I wasn’t happy and now I had the opportunity with all these holes in my life to fill them with the things I wanted to fill them with. Suddenly I realized that I was exactly where I was meant to be and, for the first time I felt calm and had a glimmer of hope. I felt gratitude for my seemingly disaster of a life so that I could pick myself up and start over, which was, oddly enough, the beginning of something really exciting. Terrifying…but exciting.

I decided to let go of my expectations of what perfection was and instead, decided what happiness was. Deciding I wanted to feel that everyday was probably the defining moment where I got up off my butt, grabbed a pen and paper and started to map out how I was going to live my happiest life everyday. It was time to make changes, to be brave and go out on a limb outside of everyone else’s expectations and my own. I didn’t at the time know what that would look like but, knew what it felt like and that was the best start I could ever hope for.

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