While alone in a quiet house on a Sunday afternoon, sipping a Fat Tire and waiting for my family to return from a walk, I had a startling revelation. Pleasantly heavy with a delicious birthday dinner, (prepared by my mother, who visited this weekend), refreshed from a peaceful nap, and warmed in my heart by messages of love and good will from friends all over, I realized, yesterday, that I am truly happy. And, moreover, I suspect that I have been for quite some time.
I don’t mention it much because I don’t remember it often. Somehow, I manage to avoid the pleasure of contentment by keeping frantically busy washing tiny socks and checking mundane chores off a never-ending list. I seek happiness in the tepid thrill of minor accomplishments, foolishly ignoring the pervading peace already here.
It is not, I’m afraid, very fashionable or even polite to profess happiness these days. People seem to assume that such a blatantly positive attitude betrays hopeless naivete about the myriad problems facing our generation or–worse–a lack of concern for the suffering. Many also labor under the assumption that if we don’t have a litany of personal problems to share and suffer through, than, well, there won’t be much left to talk about. So we smile patiently, and explain how everything is fine, or would be if the mechanic didn’t charge so much or if this case of the sniffles would disappear or if our bosses didn’t expect us to do quite so much work. Graciously accepting the mild pity offered in return, we rest comfortably on our pillars of martyrdom and quietly dare our friends to trump our set of woes.
But I’m done with replying to the casual “And how are YOU?” with a list of difficulties that temper my happiness: none of the minor problems that crop up in daily life deserve to be first on my list of conversation topics. I can bear testimony to much greater, and vastly more interesting truths.
It’s easy to say that, I admit, when I’ve just received a bunch of lovely gifts and I’m well-rested and my fridge contains over half of a decadent chocolate Kahlua cake. (Cake which I will gladly share: yes, I’m talking to YOU, local pregnant friends. Chocolate glaze. Coffee ice cream. You know you want it.) But the glow of birthday bliss has, in this case, served as a much-needed reminder of the graces I enjoy year-round.
Some of you know that my perspective on aging is traditionally tainted by a measure of distaste and more than a little fear. The gray hairs sneaking in around my temples and my complete lack of interest in trying on jeggings remind me that I’m slowly becoming decrepit and dead. (I know, I know–just bear with me). But this year I can honestly say that turning 27 is okay with me. Because, for the first time—thanks to my husband, my son, my parents, and my ever-loving friends—I actually believe that this will be the best year yet.