2016-A year when a lot of people got pissed off and believed that the actual year was shitty and the unrelenting badness of it all wasn’t just life offering you a hot pile of actual shit. Here’s something you don’t hear me say very often: Life sucks! Bad things happen to all kinds of people- good, bad and ugly, no matter the year or the season. We can always hope for better/easier/happier times, but I hate to break it to you- shit will suck in 2017 too. Hopefully most of us will put on some red lipstick, turn up the gangsta rap and handle it. It’s important to be equipped with the right tools, though. As someone who frequently makes lemonade, I’ve got plenty of tools to share with you and I’m happy to lend them out.
Some people probably even thought 2016 was awesome. Maybe they had their first baby or got married or won the lottery or found out that they did NOT have cancer. That’s fucking stupendous for them. Don’t get me wrong, 2016 was not my favorite year of all time, but some stellar things happened. My medication worked and thus I did not have to schedule additional cancer treatments. My kids are pretty great humans. My husband is
mostly rad. I went to Paris. I pretended cancer didn’t exist a lot and that felt pretty good.
Then again, in 2016, there was a lot of sadness around me. Many of my close friends and family experienced significant loss, betrayal, and huge life changes that made huge impacts on their health and happiness. People I know have children who are sick or dying or they themselves are sick or dying. That’s the true definition of bad times and it is hard to live with such grief. It is hard to figure out what to say or do when people you love are sick and dying or when someone they love has died. I haven’t seen the statistics so it’s a tough call to say if 2016 itself caused more sickness and death than other years. I can’t say if this is a unique phenomenon or just the unpredictability of life. I don’t necessarily blame 2016, but I hope that 2017 is better for people who think they have been wronged by 2016.
As for 2017, my resolutions feel pretty lame. I want to drink more tea, get more sleep and… what was the third one? Oh, right- eat healthy. I eat pretty healthy in general, although my portions are a bit ridic and the holiday butter/sugar/cream factor is always pretty high, but I think that’s always one to throw in there for good measure. Mostly lame resolutions, like I said. My resolution list last year kicked some serious ass and when I read back through it, I was like, WTF Maggie, what will you say now?
But then, as I was laying in bed with my sweet little 5 year old snuggle muffin, I spontaneously asked, “are you happy?” I have no idea where this came from except that sometimes as parents we can have these thoughts that we are royally screwing up our children. This weighs heavily on me as I feel like I have limited time. I’m always grasping for moments where I can expound to my children about my values. Where I can truly lay down my legacy. Where I can give my children a tangible memory that describes who I am and what I stand for so that after I die, when they are remembering me, they can have that moment to look back on. I have no idea where this question came from, but Emmet quickly answered, thumb in his mouth, blanket against his nose, “yes.” Oh, good.
Yes. I am happy. Are you happy?
What if each night we asked ourselves this before we went to bed? How would we answer?
If the answer is yes, then carry on. Think of what it is that is making you happy. Acknowledge and honor it. Remember what it is because one night, you might answer no.
If the answer is no, then the next question is why not? Why not takes a lot longer to deconstruct, but it is possible. Is it your house? Your family? Your relationships? Money? There are a lot of reasons you could be unhappy. Is it something you can change or not? If it is, change it. This is probably not an overnight type of solution (although it could be, you never know). It may require some long-term planning and may take some hard work on your part. If it’s not something you can change, then you have a choice to make. Are you going to keep allowing this static issue to make you unhappy?
Maybe you are suffering some grief or loss, in which case, of course, it will not get better overnight and maybe “am I happy” feels like the wrong question. I agree, it seems so basic. There are so many factors to consider and our lives are wrought with intricacies that manipulate our complex brains to feel certain things. Still, if there is something contributing to your continued unhappiness that you can change or shift to make life more manageable, maybe consider changing it.
My life includes this sense of urgency and obligation toward my children. Have I seen them enough? Am I giving them what they need? Am I too harsh? Too lenient? Am I choosing the right enrichment activities? Do they know how to be a good friend? How will they remember me? These questions and questions like these become pervasive when you have a terminal diagnosis. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, but I’m constantly aware of how I’m contributing to molding their lives in a way that I wasn’t before my diagnosis.
At night, when I go to bed, I could spend hours lying awake ridiculing myself for all of the things I fucked up. But what good will that do? I could continue pretending I don’t have cancer but then one day you find yourself listening to Brandi Carlisle, organizing art supplies and covered in glitter, sobbing in the middle of the floor while your children and their friends play Pokemon in their bedrooms. I need some balance, I think.
I’m a big fan of finding the difference between things you can control and things you can’t. If your answers to “am I happy” are things you can control, figure out how to change them or move them into a place you can accept, and stop feeling like your happiness hinges on these things. If you are unhappy because of something you can’t control, think about what you can control and try and shift it to make life more manageable.
Maybe this isn’t the answer to your 2017 dreams, and maybe I’m oversimplifying my solution. But I’m going to add this to my list of resolutions- ask yourself, are you happy? Then I’m going to eat a salad, steep some tea, and head to bed! Have a Happy New Year (but actually happy, I’m not just saying that)!