You took my joy,
I want it back.
You took my joy,
I want it back!
— Lucinda Williams, “You Took My Joy”
There are some who would say I’m not a happy person. Some of those people may even live with me. I used to be happy, didn’t I? Old pictures of me show me smiling, enjoying the moment, experiencing joy. But then, somewhere, I guess, my joy disappeared. It was taken, or I lost it…I don’t know which, but it’s apparently gone.
How do I know?
A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, sent me a blog post from one of the many positive parenting purveyors out there that explained in detail how their life was a series of aggravations until they were persuaded by another blog post that other people have it worse and we should enjoy what we have. I didn’t trash it immediately. I read it thoughtfully. I thought about the impact it had on me and what is says about my life that this friend would forward this to me. I did a few moments of navel-gazing and conceded that it was possible that I was an angry person. Maybe even an irrationally angry person. Now, I’ve laid out on this blog before that I am prone to having a short fuse, but I think this hints at a deeper problem.
Is it possible that I’m angry all the time? If so, why?
I lead a comfortable life. I have a good job with a great team. I have a wonderful loving family and we live in a nice neighborhood. I have an excellent family support system in both parents and in-laws. So, what’s wrong with me? Not too long ago I was diagnosed with depression and have been duly feeding the pharmaceutical industry to alleviate the symptoms. Honestly, I feel like I’m fine. I don’t notice that I’m angry, until I am. However, at that point, other people (apparently) notice.
So what is it that angers me?
It’s safe to say that the garden variety issues, like traffic and waiting in line, bother me to some extent. I have found coping techniques for these events such as extemporaneous karaoke in the car or reading a book to pass the time in line. But on a different level, the fact that I work two jobs and so does my wife and still we are unable, seemingly, to pay bills. The fact that my children, as sweet as they are, can be impossibly stubborn about the most minute things, not least of which is insisting that my wife do things for them when I’m the one with availability. The fact that sometimes my wife’s availability is compromised by what I perceive as her inability to rouse herself from bed on time. Aside: she is cute when she sleeps though! But, these things are minor…I should be able to move past this. Still, these things seem to be the tipping point for when I’m not able to filter out the facts of climate change that affect our health, gun control in a state where toting a military weapon is second only to bouncing an orange ball, continuous assault on educational institutions in the form of budget cuts, a world where I can’t allow my children to play in the yard alone without fearing they’ll be snatched and subjected to any number of horrific experiences, among other things. I’m angry because the world is not sunshine and lollipops. But then, no one said it would be.
Still, I’m angry. I’m angry because I have responsibilities like taking out the trash and making lunches for my kids. I’m angry because I can’t just sit and read a book or travel the countryside at my leisure. I’m angry because the pragmatist in me sees the world and how I live in it as it is and not how I would like for it to be. My power of positive thinking extends only as far as my sensible, and some might say misanthropic, mind will allow.
To that end, I’d like to be joyful. I would love to wake up with bluebirds whistling a happy tune on my bed post, but that would probably only draw my attention to the mountain of laundry on the floor and the less than clean bathroom just beyond. I do have happy moments. Just the other night, I watched my daughter smiling as she enjoyed a television show. Last night, I sat playing my mandolin out in the backyard while my son played on the swing set and I enjoyed his playfulness. I’ve also been more cognizant of giving my wife a hug every day because I read an article that said that women need daily hugs and that is joyful to me.
So, to that friend who sent me the blog post that stated “Things look a lot different when you hold your current annoyance against the fragility of life” I say, yes, that’s absolutely true. And I wish that I could curb my reaction to those annoyances, but it’s the very notion of the fragility of life that causes these annoyances to anger me. “Choosing to be joyful…” as the blogger suggests is a fine notion, but it’s not a realistic view for me. I am as joyful my circumstances allow me to be and I’m not likely to fake it in order to project happiness.
See you in the funny papers!