Jennifer Kesler of The Hathor Legacy:
Rebecca Traister at Salon has written an insightful and funny article called Screw happiness. It starts off talking about how women are bombarded with studies about which women are happy and how we can become happy like them:
So, in short: have babies young so as not to imperil your fertility; do not marry early or you’ll be at higher risk for divorce; get married to an appropriate guy as soon as possible so as to guarantee companionship; don’t forget to have kids! And also, don’t have kids! …Stop doing those spoiled things that bring you fulfillment or you’ll never find fulfillment!
Then she takes it further than the quest for happiness and wonders if constant happiness is even a natural state for humans. Unhappiness and dissatisfaction are motivators: they make us want to strive and reach new heights of potential contentment. And sometimes they’re just an inescapable part of life, and that’s okay too – being unhappy does not necessarily mean you’ve failed somewhere.
This is a really great piece, that is, what Jennifer writes as well as the article to which she links. Here are my own thoughts:
I suffer from anxiety and depression. One of the things about depression is that, in order to deal with it, you need to unlearn certain mental habits, and one of the big ones is the pressure to be perfect. I know I’m often in the situation of enjoying something, but worrying that I’m not enjoying it enough. Would I be enjoying it more if I had some soda? Would I be enjoying it more if my mind were clearer, if I were more attentive? Would I be enjoying it more if I didn’t have to clean up the cat’s mess this morning? etc. It’s an extremely hard pattern to escape, and I’m still stuck in it almost constantly.
So, yes, part of my anxiety is that I’m afraid to do something if I don’t think I’ll be perfect at it, when the truth is that nobody is perfect and we are individuals in how we fuck up (and do so beautifully). And, this extends to being happy, and the ever-present worry that I’m not happy enough, or as happy as I could be. Of course, thinking about it, in a sort of happiness Heisenberg principle, just makes me unhappy.
And, what’s more, often I do need to be sad, often I do need to bitch and complain, and often I do need to cry. If I deny myself and try to be happy all the time, I just fall apart. If I’m in touch with my emotions, they don’t need to be so rough, and if I respect my own sadness, it’ll allow me to enjoy my happiness.
I was once at a wake where someone told me not to cry, because it’s not what the deceased would want. I want to confirm two things right now: (1) I don’t know about the deceased, but I want people fucking bawling at my funeral, (2) I had just finished with a really, really long cry, and it was so good for me, so cleansing, that I’d just let it all out. I felt, well, happy, in an odd way. His memory allowed me to undergo this catharsis, and I felt all the more grateful for having known him. I still miss him, but I can deal with it more easily having been honest about my emotions.
That, and one last thing: I’m sick of women being pushed around and told what they should do, say, and feel. We’re writing our own rules, and if you don’t like it, you can stuff it.