It was today.
A really beautiful fall day.
And in fact, if you peeked through the curtains of my home you’d think that I had it pretty much together. In fact, again, if you saw it you’d think that I’d really gotten my life on track. The couch that I’ve complained about for years on the blog has been replaced. There’s a new rug, curtains, throw pillows and an adorable chair. From Target too, I might add.
You’d see me. Now with clothes from Banana Republic and airline stubs from traveling the world. You’d see planners signed and homework on the counter. A counter that’s clean and floors that are swept.
But you wouldn’t see me.
You might not see that behind this surface of having it all together I was in fact – broken.
More broken then I think I’d ever like to let on.
I covered it with busy and instagrams and I’m great and thank you very much and fun top ten lists and Starbucks Caramel Macchiatos.
But it was the facade. The surface.
Until one day I realized that I wasn’t waking up happy anymore.
How could that be since this was the year of me finding happy? The dichotomy didn’t escape me. It seemed the more determined I was to find happy the more elusive it became. Chores that were just chores now became a way for me to escape from the fact that deep down I was hurting. Simply stated. I was sad.
And chasing happy didn’t do anything except magnify the hole that had festered in my soul.
Busy tried to fill it. Laughing and humor too. Project Runway on Lifetime helped as well. But, time would tick forward and in the moments that I wasn’t busy I found bitterness and sadness and angst and worry and wonder about the future percolating into the normal that I was living.
What is this thing called life?
I’d wonder while I sat at the table. I’d wonder how I could be stuck in this place of losing happy while I watched friends deal with horrible things – death of children, sickness and marriages failing. I felt selfish. Like I couldn’t keep it all together. So I added pressure to the already crushing load of expectations and goals and keep it togethers that I had placed on my weary self.
And then I became frustrated because that very thing I wanted couldn’t be found.
Today I’m quitting.
I’m quitting chasing happy and instead I’m understanding the idea that I am whole.
And part of being whole means that I give myself grace for me. It means that there might be times in life where the tears fill my eyes and I don’t have to apologize for them. It means that I start standing up and fighting for me – my heart. I’ve pushed it on the back burner my entire life because of fear. Of fear of being alone, being forgotten and not being enough.
We just do that, don’t we?
But the time has come. The time has come for me to let me be me. And to embrace the wholeness that being ourselves means. It means not fighting emotions and learning to love the idiosyncrasies that make me, well me.
Those are the things that cannot be changed or morphed or manipulated by society’s expectations. They are the things that we celebrate about others but cut ourselves short with.
The way I blush over silly things. The fact that I love sappy epic music. The giddy excitement I feel every time I fly. The way my eyes tear up reading messages sent to me by all of you. The way I like to merchandise my garage sales. My need for a clean island. The fact that sometimes at night when the kids are sleeping I will peek in on them and tears will tumble from my eyes.
My family deserves me to be whole. My friends do as well.
In fact, I deserve it too.
So instead of lists and projects and more places where it feels like I’m failing I’m going to instead decide that today I have done well. I’m going to be intentional. Kinder. Thinking a moment more before I respond. And understanding that all those emotions that I shove to the corner maybe are telling me something.
Life is short.
I may be only 40 years old, but that could be half of my years. And in that first chunk of years I spent so many of them thinking that there was something wrong with me and thinking if only I was better or this or that and forgetting to see the beauty and worth in just being me.
I want you to see that too.
I know you will read articles after articles giving formulas to find happy. I know that you have so many pressures on you that sometimes you don’t know what is right or wrong or what you should say yes or no to. I know that many of you too have lives that are just a shadow of what you thought life would be. I know that there are some of you who always wanted to be a mom and now that you are here are wondering why you’re not happier. And then you use that to define your own motherhood worth.
Well, let me tell you this – you, the you right now might not need fixing.
I know, so counter culture. But it’s true. We could spend our whole lives trying to fix ourselves and become better and thinking that if we just did more and in that process we could be missing out on living, happiness and finding the content in life that is right under our noses. I realized that today when I was driving home from Target. Three years ago I couldn’t afford anything at Target – I’d write about angst over having $32 in my checking account. Today I spent $204 there and found myself just as angst ridden in the car. So money, well money has helped, but the loss of happy and the content was deeper.
So I made myself smile.
And, friends, I tell you this with tears in my eyes, it was hard. It was hard because I had become so accustomed in thinking more more more more and seeing the tough stuff that seeing the rolling countryside and dried corn and blue skies was lost. Until I smiled.
That’s my challenge to you.
Maybe smiling won’t make you snap out of it.
But, there is something in smiling that makes one realize damn I am thankful for today.
I’m thankful for my house and food in the back. For school pictures. For kids that fight – yes fight – because that means they are alive and healthy. For friends that don’t give up on me. Oh my word, that. Especially that because, friends, I have been a bear. And not a cute one, I’m talking a grumpy angry grizzly.
And I’m not fighting the whole me. Fighting what I thought was wrong spiraled me into thinking that I couldn’t measure up and I missed seeing where I was awesome. It’s about time to see that.
It’s about time for that in my life.
It’s about time for that in this Finding Joy Community as well.
We have so much living to do. So much life to give. So much.
Thanks for walking this stretch with me.
You have no idea how much that means to me too.
So smile. Even if you don’t know why. Because chances are then you’ll start to see just how much you have in your life that is worth smiling for.
You're allowed to be happy. You're allowed to have bad days, too, and you're allowed to go back to being happy — or content, or peaceful, or grateful, or even realizing that happy isn't always an every day thing. It's beautiful when it visits, and we need to greet it with open arms and sing. But even on days when we don't feel like singing, we're okay. Just because you write for thousands doesn't mean that you're not allowed to feel anything you feel. Give yourself grace, be gentle with yourself, and don't guilt yourself into believing that you don't deserve to feel. <3
Beautiful and full of truth.
Thank you for being brave and real and counter culture. It is so refreshing and appreciated and important. I love all that you said and i feel you. I’m in a similar place. If you do not yet know the work of Brenè Brown please google her and watch her ted talk the power of vulnerability and look for her living wholehearted manifesto from the book ‘daring greatly’. Lifechanging. Keep smiling and crying and feeling and sharing and generally being your authentic awesome self ♡♡♡ Linda
I re-read this post several times. There was so much that resonated, comforted, and almost called out to me. From reading your posts, I learned what “grace” could mean. Acceptance takes so much courage and strength, and grace. Thank you for showing the way.
Thank you for this. I have been following your blog as it is an inspiration and comfort to me when I struggle most with motherhood. Your writing has been genuine comfort and solace that I’m not the only one who feels this way. And I love this post. Because I sense a peace and calm that it seems you have found. I will think about what you said and see how I can embrace the same. You post reminds me of my favorite poem, “For Strong Women” by Margaret Atwood. Look it up. I think you might appreciate it like I do.
Love and light,
This spoke volumes to me. Thank you! I’m so happy you found peace!!!
when i became a mother i never anticipated both my children would have severe special needs, i thought we’d travel and have adventures…life suddenly became very different to the one i’d dreamt of. i’ve struggled with acceptance of this fact and have believed for a long time that this makes me a bad person. until i realised that ‘the pursuit of happiness’ is robbing me of my experiences else where…its time to accept, not just my childrens future but the fact that i am enough.
What a humbling article…. So real and eye opening….. Thank you for the real, matter of fact simple understanding of being a mom….. Smile😉
Thank you for saying what some of us feel but cannot say. I am in a much better place today than I was 2 years ago but I’m still not happy. I make more money but I have more bills and I still struggle. I didn’t get married and have kids to raise then on my own. When their father left I had to figure it out and I’ve been figuring it out for the past 11 years. You inspire me to find my happy even if it’s forcing myself to smiled once in a while and not to fight my emotions. I so enjoy reading your blog while I drink my coffee. Two of my favorite things.
Dear Rachel – You are speaking right to where I am now in my life. I’ve been so unhappy, for no good reason, and I keep going to bed at night, wondering what is wrong with me! I’ve been so tired of getting up in the morning and facing life, then laying down at day’s end and feeling guilty for being sad because it feels like ingratitude when God has blessed me with so much. But your words are such an inspiration and I can’t tell you how much it helps to know that I’m not alone and that it’s normal to walk through this! I feel more whole than I have in awhile and I thank you for that.
Thank you Jenna.
Thankyou. Plain and simple thank you xx
Thank you for reminding me, as my little one does as well, that I need to smile. It helps me and those around me. Thank you. 🙂
This really touched my heart! I too am going through the exact motion of the day to day but at times I am not happy but reading this article made me think I am not alone. Thank you for all that you do =)
If there’s one thing I could help my kids learn right now, is that emotions are ok and make them human! I often tell them “it’s ok to be sad” “it’s ok to be mad” “it’s ok to be happy!” IT’s OK! I worry they bottle up these feelings and think they need to put a facade on, and I don’t want them to. I want them to be whole.
Thank you for this post today.
This. This so much. I have been having a revelation about this exact subject for about a month. God has graciously given it to me in layers, as to not completely overwhelm me at once. I read a book called “What Alice Forgot,” a fiction book, that led me to the same realization. Find joy in the little things, and the “bad” things. Just as you said, if the kids are fighting it means they are alive! God gave us one life,to live it with no regrets!
Raechel as i read this i am going thru a lot tears streaming down i have been thinling abt ending this whole agony and still mulling abt why me what went wrongreading this madee me cry and afew minutes tto think if u know what i mean with many thamks
Raechel as i read this i am going thru a lot tears streaming down i have been thinling abt ending this whole agony and still mulling abt why me what went wrongreading this madee me cry and afew minutes tto think if u know what i mean with many thanks