Sunday, April 19, 2009

Be Happy...Part One

Carmon's post On Choosing Happiness has sent me in an emotional spiral....upwards...but a spiral nonetheless. The last paragraph was a doozy for me. In it, she asks her readers to see themselves on the last day of their life, how they want to feel and reach for that. Or how you want to remember yourself on the last day of a loved one's life.

Both of these really hit home for me. I look at my precious mother, 86 years young, and think of all the unhappiness she's had. She was born a poor farm child during the Great Depression in South Mississippi. She was the only sibling to graduate high school and while she had opportunities, her father forbade her to take them. So, she married the first boy that looked at her funny and nine months later had a baby girl with colic so bad, Mom couldn't put her down for two years. By then that boy had started beating both my mother and my sister.

Mom eventually got away from him...he'd cheated on her too many times and she'd put him in the hospital too many times when dared raise a hand to her or her daughter. Husband number two was a cheater and just weird. He'd hide in a closet to hear what Mom or Sis would say about him. They never talked about him so he'd hide for hours and then just pop out and scare the crap out them. When it became obvious that he would never straighten up and fly right, Mom had his base commander deploy him to Alaska.

My dad, while the love of her life, never belonged to her. I was a shocking surprise seven years into an 18 year affair that ended only when he died. She lost her job after I was born and was the talk of our small town, but she held her head high.

Husband #3 = more of the same. These stories only scratch the surface of my mother's tumultuous life. But she saved every penny she could - paid cash for my education. Helped buy cars and houses for my sister and I. And through it all, we have loved her - worshiped her. And I can honestly say out of our 19 other cousins, none of them are as good to their parents as my sister and I are. But it is not enough.

We have spent our lives to see the light in her just make Mother happy. We've heard over and over, "I could be happy if ya'll would just do right."

"Do right" could mean anything from just simply agreeing with her to letting her run roughshod over our lives.

Which brings me to why that sentence in Carmon's blog hit such a nerve. The biggest fight I've ever had with my mother was when I said to her very quietly, "Mom, why can't you just be happy?"

From her reaction, you would have thought I had called her a liar and a thief and a murderer. She ranted and raved and cried for hours on end. OH THE DRAMA! I was in a wheelchair at the time. She was here to help me through some surgeries. I would wheel into my office and call the BFF a/k/a my "Shiny Happy One."

She would tell me over and over, she's a child; approach her as if she were one. Tell her you love her. I did. Mother picked up the phone to call the airline to book her flight home. She was going to leave me here all alone in a wheelchair with surgery impending! I called the Shiny Happy One again....lather, rinse, repeat.

As I wheeled into the living room one last time to again tell my mother how sorry I was, I came to a decision. I was going to do what I had to to make sure I got through the next month even if that meant kowtowing to my mother. And after that, I was going to be happy, dammit!

I had spent over 40 years on this planet, never being enough, never being right, hating myself for being born. And as I rolled down that hall one more time, I knew I was done with all that.

I told my mother I loved her. I told her that I was sorry that I wanted to see her happy. I told her that of all the people I know, she deserved happiness, but that she needed to want that for herself, no matter what my sister and I do. I had to fall out of my wheelchair and crawl past the coffee table to hug her, but I did.

To hear her tell it, I begged her for forgiveness for the way I talked to her (!!???!!). Whatever Mom. That day, I stood up (O.K. I knelled UP) for my happiness. That being said, it's still been a helluva hard row to hoe.


Anonymous said...

Holly - I've always admired how you seem to keep up your spirits no matter what is going on in your head for the creek with your pup and come back restored! Now I know you've made a choice about it too. Thank you for sharing your story. Carmon

Anonymous said...

You keep me going!

Snowbrush said...

I'm from south Mississippi--Brookhaven. I've been in Oregon a long time though....

About your topic. A blogger I follow wrote about choosing happiness....oh, my god, I see that she was the next to last person (Life at Star's Rest) to respond to your blog (it's a small world as they say). Anyway, please see her entry for April 18.

Linda@VS said...

I'm days late getting here but glad I came. I agree with you and Carmon that happiness is a choice, but I think choosing happiness sometimes depends on a willingness to identify and eliminate obstacles to happiness, and that's a hard thing to do sometimes. Then again, some people manage to be happy in spite of situations others might find unbearable, so maybe attitude is everything.