Sometimes I wonder if I am really happy. I mean, often now I think that I am. I live in that state. I cultivate it. I feel grateful.....thankfulness. Thankful that I live where I do. Thankful Joe is my husband. Thankful for the health and robust personalities of Nick and Alex. Thankful for my job. My calling. My friends. Gratitude is a gift I have been given by Joseph and I touch it as often as possible. It is impossible to feel truly grateful and be bitter or angry. Gratitude in its very nature doesn't leave room for those things. Oh sure. There can be preferences. Hope...absolutely. There is hope in gratitude. Hope things can be different. Hope for a better world or life or situation. But despair? No. Anger? Nuh-uh. Bleakness? Nope. Those things cannot live inside true gratitude. And those feelings are so dark and sucking and all encompassing that I just refuse to entertain them often. Any time I do, I lose perspective on life. I start to believe things that aren't true. It feels so much better, so much more honest to be grateful.
Joseph's birthday is coming. He would be turning 24 this year. His brothers are 22 and 19 and are so neat. So interesting. So tall and handsome and full of life and ideas. It makes me wonder who he would be. It comes around every year, like clockwork, these musings. This ache. It feels like the opposite of gratitude, to wonder those things, but I just....I can't help it. I miss him. I could easily feel robbed, if I wished to feed that demon. I could majorly be angry. For a long time I was, and that emotion carried me through nursing school and slightly beyond. It did not take long, though, in doing patient care to learn it was a very thin veneer behind which hovered sorrow and loss and yearning. I've learned that sometimes the most painful of emotions are actually quite beautiful. I try hard not to feed anger.
There is a main thing I have learned, these ten years past since Joseph died. I have learned that it isn't abnormal to lose things. People. Homes. Possessions. Countries. Wars. Ideals. Respect. Security. Finances. Love. Hope. Faith. Jobs. Everyone is in some state of loss, every minute of every hour of every day. Everyone. Every. Single. Person. I am actually just a member of the human race. My loss doesn't make me different or special. I lost my little boy. His name was Joseph. The most painful emotion that has come from that loss is regret. Regret for the little things, like when I didn't read him another story or hug him because I was "touched out" for that day or didn't want to listen to his voice because quiet sounded like Nirvana right then. Regret for big things, like the time I got mad at him for breaking a lamp that I no longer can recall what it looked like and nursed that anger for the better part of a day. Regret for not holding him more. For not being everything he needed at every moment. For not cherishing the time as much as I could have. Should have. Regret is heavy. Regret is dark. However, Joseph's death has come with good emotions too, Sweet emotions, like joy. Sweetness. Poignancy. Awareness. I am awake, fully awake to life. That is a good thing. I know what I am gifted with now. I see the difference plainly, the Sheri before.....and the Sheri after.
We all are reaching for happiness. Sometimes when I reach for it, it feels really forced. It makes me tired. The approach of his birthday can make me feel this way. I have a great new job. I like it. I like the people, I like what I am doing, but sometimes during the day I start to notice these little wars people get in with one another and I wonder about them. I feel detached from them and they seem, without judgement of the people themselves, to be so pointless. It makes me wonder if we channel conflict sometimes just to remind ourselves that we are alive. But sometimes I get tired inside and I question my own happiness. I wonder if it is real or just something I tell myself. I try to put it down, like carrying it is yet another burden I have to bear....and in a way, at times, it is. Happiness can feel wrong when a piece of you is missing and you know it will never come back. Some part of you recognizes that happiness is a little bit of cognitive dissonance and that you just have to live with that, consciously knowing that the happiness created here all will go away. You won't ever understand it and learning not to feel guilty for it is a whole different blog post that I don't really want to tackle right now. It is work, this thing called happiness. You have to let it in for it to exist. You have to invite it. You have to accept it for what it is. It doesn't come in degrees. It just is. It doesn't wait for everything to be perfect to be something that can be claimed. In fact, it rarely happens that way. It actually requires you to LET GO. Let go of what you thought would be or what you wanted to be or how you imagined it "should" be. And then, it can feel like a sneaky trick, to steal it where you find it, when you didn't expect to find it at all. It isn't earned. It isn't something you have to deserve. You just have to let it in. That is what I am learning. So I am grateful. Every day. Not every moment, but certainly some slot of every day. And I am learning too, how to gracefully let it go when it is time. One thing is certain...life is cyclical. Everything always comes back around again eventually.
My new job has me driving over a lake to get to work. I go against the main flow of traffic and it feels like I have discovered some well kept secret, this beautiful drive. On the way to work, when the sun is coming up, the effect over the lake is dazzling. It literally fills me up with joy, it is so beautiful. Conversely, we had storms last week and there were white caps on the lake, with spray against the shoreline as waves slammed into the immovable earth. That too is beautiful. Every day I arrive at work refreshed, my bucket of gratitude topped off by something as timeless and inexplicable as the nature of sunlight on the water or wind against the waves. I work with good people and we try hard to do good work, sacred work. I could not ask for more. I work at a hospital, where people go to get better or go there to die. It is a place of upheaval and change. I am happy there. I am the immovable shore and sometimes, every once in a while, I get to be the sunlight. The water itself is just life, slamming into me or playing a dazzling counterpoint to the stronghold I have become. It just is, this dance between the waves and I. The waves will come, gently, harshly...and I, just being who I am, let them touch me as they are. I am neither the first nor the last of the shorelines that they touch. That really, really comforts me. Nothing is heavier than believing you carry the heaviest burden in the world. I gladly put that down.