Over the pass few months I've been in the presence of mothers who are in the midst of life altering transitions. Some of these mothers are in my close circle and some are extended. Although each scenario is as unique as the human being living these experiences, there are a few common denominators amongst them.
The first common denominator is that they are fortunate enough to have opted to enter this transitional phase versus it being forced down their throats via illness, injury, global recession, death and all other ways life can kick your butt. As a woman and mother who experienced both transition and transformation as a personal decision and as a result of circumstance, there is a huge difference. Without placing value on one over the other, saying “I did this because I chose to” is different than saying “I did this because I had to.” These women desired change internally and actively pursued it externally.
The second common denominator amongst these mothers is that they have all stated that the catalyst for entering the transitional phase was the pursuit of happiness. Each one had discovered that they were unhappy and through deep reflection, 'round the kitchen table sister-talk, relentless prayer and snot running tear sessions decided to change their current circumstance and go forth in the search (and hopefully, eventually the acquisition) of happiness. It is a mighty courageous and revolutionary act to disrupt the familiar and known for the “I have no idea what is out there, but I’m about to go find out.”
Of course, my experience is far from universal, but I do think that parallel journeys yield moments of similarity. I know what the dark scary days of transition looks, smells and tastes like. Given that everyday living is a roller coaster ride, I fully expected my friends’ journey to happiness to include great days of clarity and inspiration, as well as deleterious days of poor decisions, fear and mass confusion. My expectations were met. Hey, as my friend Colin always says, “Everyday ain’t Christmas”, but in the cases where the bad days seemed to outnumber the good, I became concerned. I am a firm believer that God is not the author of confusion.
So this leads me to the third common denominator, which is a troublesome one, for me. I like to ask questions. It’s how I learn. When asked, none of the women who I directly spoke to could clearly define or paint a picture of what happiness for them would look like. They could tell me everything that they weren’t happy with, but could not define happiness for themselves beyond the notion of “more”. More time, more stuff, more appreciation, more respect, more accolades, more recognition, more money and more more. I began to wonder, if you cannot succinctly define what your happiness is, how will you know it when you find it? Over the months of continued observation and conversation, I realized that my sister-friends were looking for their happiness through their rearview mirror with regret for decisions made, time passed, roads not taken, sacrifices made, weight gained, words unspoken and dreams deferred while seated in their early model minivans in their driveway next to their lawns with the grass that is closer to brown than the green of their neighbor’s.
On more than one occasion, I have heard a few of these sister-friends yell the battle cry, ‘If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s gonna be happy.” Mama’s search for happiness is directly correlated to the wellness of her children. That’s not shocking. Children tend to look to their parents for guidance on how they should act during, feel about, process and respond to change. However there is something about “If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s gonna be happy” that doesn’t sit well in my soul, as I reflect on these sister-friends. Regrets over the past in conjunction with the quest for an ill defined, poorly visualized notion of happiness can have huge negative implications on our children. As those words hit my ears, after bearing witness to the aftermath of the bad days associated with their search for happiness, “If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s gonna be happy” sounded more like “Misery loves company.”
If Mama’s well-being is truly the guide for the emotional stability of the entire family unit, then Mama owes it to herself and her offspring to recognize, in the words of C.P Snow that “The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase, if you pursue happiness you'll never find it.” Dear sweet Mama, don’t you see that if your only working definition of happiness is essentially a deficit model based on what you don’t have, is it even possible for you to find the beauty in what you do have? Maybe, just maybe, happiness is not to be sought, chased after, lusted for and stalked. Maybe, just maybe, happiness is a gift from God placed inside each of us waiting only to be recognized and in fact, if you pay close attention, you will see that happiness has actively been pursuing you.
Yours In Struggle and Strength,
Yours In Struggle and Strength,