Laughter. Full on, no holds barred, tears streaming down my face type laughter. To me, there’s really nothing better. When this happens to me, not a sound comes out of my mouth. My body shakes, my face turns bright red and it’s very contagious. Hannah loves when I laugh like this. She laughs right along with me but stares at me with probably as much confusion as happiness. I think she’s not exactly sure if I’m laughing or crying. If she should be wiping my tears away or wishing for more. This laughter occurred a few weeks ago when she watched this funny video of our family and again yesterday morning when she started tickling me (at 37 I still laugh like a 4 year old when I’m tickled – as long as you know the right spots).
But then, last night, after a long Thanksgiving meal, we got home in time for her bedtime and Hannah wanted round two of the tickle attack and mommy wasn’t in the mood. And I didn’t laugh. I got annoyed. And she said through her pouty lips, “Mommy, I just wanted you to laugh again. Why can’t you always laugh?”
“Why can’t you always laugh?”
It’s something that rang hard in my head. Through the entire bedtime routine, the words were repeating over and over.
Tim asks me too often, “Are you happy today? Are you going to be happy today?”
Hannah asks, “Why aren’t you happy? I just want you to be happy.”
And all of this, this questioning, this hassling, this PRESSURE of happiness, makes me UNHAPPY.
“Yes, I’m happy, Yes, I will be happy, I’m fine, Nothing is wrong…” are my common answers. If something is actually bothering me, I say it (usually).
But in this house, the pressure to be happy is sometimes too much. I understand that happy=easy. Happy is not complicated. Happy is everyone getting along. But being happy all the time, at least for me is not always easy. The pressures of running this household, making sure everyone ELSE is happy sadly wins out over my own happiness. Somehow I can’t let go of the mess I see around me, the tantrum that was thrown over the toy not bought in the checkout line, the low balance in my checking account, the comment made about how long it’s been since we last, you know.
And my quietness, my seriousness, my sleepiness is so often misinterpreted as unhappiness. Why am I not allowed to just be quiet. My day is filled with “noise”. The noise of my kids, other kids, the TV, the radio… the noise in my head. It’s not all “bad” noise, but it’s noise nonetheless. When I’m quiet, when “it’s” quiet, very often I Am Happy. I find myself forcing smiles. Just to avoid the interrogation of why I’m not smiling. Is it abnormal to not always have a smile on my face? To not want to dance on command? To not want to be picked up and swung around all the time?
I am not a downer. I LOVE to have fun. I’ll be the first to make up a dance to go along with the beep that Luke finds on the phone when he leaves it off the hook for too long. I make up songs to get through long drives, to enjoy baths more, to make everyone ELSE laugh. I can shake my butt during Yo Gabba Gabba like the best of them. But I cannot pretend to always be in the mood for silly fun. And one thing that does make me unhappy, is apologizing for that. And not being “allowed” to be sad, being criticized for a tired mood, being told to “snap out of it”… will also bring an eye roll and a frown.
I have often said that Tim is my perfect complement. He shoves aside the negative to let me see the positive. He sees the sun peaking through when I sometimes see clouds. And I LOVE him for that. But sometimes the clouds bring rain and the sun just isn’t warming me up. I need to feel that I have permission for that. I don’t want to feel like I can only be cranky in the closet but that I’m allowed to have moods in the open.
This is something relatively new to me. I am reminded often that I used to laugh more. I used to be more relaxed. I used to seem happier. Ironically, I’ve never been happier than this time of my life. My family brings me more joy than sleeping until 10, going out 4 nights a week, reading 2 books a month, having a very high checking account balance or wandering aimlessly with no plan every weekend. But somehow, finding my smile to show this happiness has become harder. I’m more tired. I worry more. I’m not just “me” anymore but rather an entity of three that sometimes sucks that smile from my face. But just because the smile isn’t plastered on my face, doesn’t mean it’s not overflowing in my heart.
I’m working through this. I am taking some tips that I’ve recently read to remind myself to take a break from seriousness and responsibility and “let go” and laugh more. But I’m also hoping to express better that the pressure to be happy every moment is not realistic to me. I’m trying to explain better why “quiet” is necessary for me and it does not mean I’m sad.
Happy= laughing so hard until my insides hurt. But happy is also being understood when the laughter is stuck inside.