On Being Happy and Sad (At the Same Time)

My good friend Jenny (a half-Korean, half-American ball-of-fire) recently fell upon hard times and was forced to move back in with her parents at age 28. She knew it would be difficult to get along with them (since they are emotionally abusive– in my words, not hers) and she called me the other night when she was at a particular low. She didn’t know if she’d be able to keep her sanity.

After about an hour of venting, she asked, “Haven, do you think I can do this?”

The first thing that popped into my head was “Yes! If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all this infertility business, it’s that a person can feel happy and sad at the same time.” And furthermore, if you numb one emotion, you numb them all. (A round of applause for my therapist, please!) In Jenny’s case, she can simultaneously feel angry at her parents for their abuse AND feel excited about her new boyfriend and her tap dance lessons. In my case, I can feel frustrated about infertility AND feel gloriously happy to be alive on a beautiful fall day. Our hearts are big enough to hold every emotion, so we don’t have to pick just one. (I know, that’s totally cheesy, sorry.)

Later at orchestra rehearsal, my stand partner, who is 35 and divorced with three kids under 7, asked me, “And you don’t have any kids?” She used that naive tone of voice that says, “How on earth could you not want children?!” You know what I’m talking about. When there is any implication that I don’t WANT kids, I simply cannot let it go. They have to know that I am NOT some heartless, selfish, career-driven b*tch who doesn’t want to “settle down” and give up her high-end lifestyle (HA) to raise a bunch of snot-nosed, bratty little kids. (Note to self: I should really get better at letting people think what they want.)

Despite my not really wanting to get into it, it was actually not bad to talk with her. She said twice, earnestly, that she was sorry to hear about my (3 years of) infertility. In an attempt to nip this conversation in the bud, I mentioned how much I appreciate my husband since our relationship is so solid and we are very happy together. Other women would trade A LOT to be in my position. She nodded her head and said, “Happiness is all about balance. You have to balance being happy with your life as it is right now with looking forward to what the future will bring.”

It took a few seconds for me to process her statement. “Being happy now” and “looking forward to the future” don’t seem like opposites to me. And the great thing is… they aren’t!

So, if I’m choosing between two ways of being happy, where the hell does my grief fit in? Well, I think grief overshadowed my happiness for a long time. But the happiness was there all along. It was a candle in the dark, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Jenny said that in some cultures, it’s common to pray for suffering because suffering brings wisdom. If that is the case, we’re all very wise. ❤

——————————–
P.S. AF arrived on Thanksgiving. 😦

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