Happiness is…Sometimes Not So Easy To Feel

I haven’t added a post here in a long time. It wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to write about.  There’s always something to write about or think about or to appreciate in my day.  But sometimes I get distracted and life is busy…or I’m getting thrown a curve ball.  That’s what happened to me.  In June 2011,  I was informed that there would be no position for me for the coming school year.  In short, I was laid off.  So now I join the ranks of so many other Americans who, as the economy is plummeting, are facing similar difficulties as myself.  Maybe some are facing worse.

I think, since the numbness and shock have worn off, the worst has been to feel that my work has not been valued, that I am being rewarded for my dedication with being shown the door.  It doesn’t matter that I understand that a budget doesn’t support my position there, or that enrollment has declined because the school districts have taken their students back.  It just hurts, especially because I loved my job and I put my heart and soul into my work.  It was so much a part of my identity and who I am.  I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to do the work that I did and to work with the many wonderful people who I did.  I will always be grateful for that.  However, the way I feel now is sad and heavy.  It is so hard to move forward when all that you’ve known and all that you’ve been a part of for 10+ years is, in effect, taken from you.  I am still dealing with these feelings and other, practical headaches right now. 

So it is hard to feel happy and to see the simple pleasures when you are dealing with heartaches and headaches and anxiety.  There are days when I feel myself letting go and enjoying the moment, but there have been many days of feeling burdened and that it is not okay to be happy.  And it doesn’t matter that I know, intellectually, that the situation is not my fault and that, with my best efforts, I will see my way through.  When you feel such strong emotions and you are grieving the loss of a job and facing all that comes as a result, it takes every ounce of your energy to get through the day.  For at least the first two months, being laid off was the last thing I thought about before going to sleep, and the first thing I remembered upon waking.   At times it has been the only thing I could thing about.  That’s a horrible feeling.

The other day I was reminded of an activity I did with a class of 7th and 8th graders once.  These were kids who were challenged with a lot of emotional instability, family problems, and hardships in life.  I shared one of my favorite books with them.  The first time I read (maybe I was read to) Happiness is a Warm Puppy by Charles M. Schulz, I was in elementary school, in the early grades.  Now I was introducing this “baby book” to kids who thought they were one step into adulthood.  But they stuck with it, and while a student was reading the book I asked them to jot down some things about what happiness is to them.  I had expected superficial, tangible items to be listed.  I listed some of my own favorite “things”, like popcorn and the first snow.  But when it came time to share our lists, boy was I blown away.  One student said that happiness is “when my dad is one year clean and sober.”  Another student said happiness is “when my baby sister says my name for the first time.”  Yet another student said happiness is “making people laugh.”  There were so many others like these.  Like I said, coming from kids who could be explosive, who sometimes needed to be hospitalized for mental health issues, who came from parents who struggled with their own problems, this was not only a fantastic discovery for me, but also a wonderful reminder that we all want to be happy and that sometimes, even if we don’t feel happy right now, we know that the possibility that we will at some time exists.

In the meantime, I am trying to broaden my network of support as I move forward and look for the next opportunity.  And I am trying to “turn off” my negative thoughts and anxieties when they arise, but that is very difficult.  One ray of sunshine that always brings me great joy is to spend time with River, my husband’s beautiful 20-month-old granddaughter.  Every week she is learning more language and doing new things, so when I see her I see growth and change.  She is a happy child, and in her cheerful, simple way she brings great happiness to us.  Spending time with River is a true simple pleasure.

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