Unhappy for seven decades or Be Happy

Unhappy for seven decades or Be Happy (a nicer title for this post)

It's terrible to discover someone who is nearly 70 and is unhappy. It's almost enough to make you feel sad, even unhappy.

Speaking with my MIL yesterday, I realized what a miserable existence she has created for herself.

She is intensely unhappy and unhappy with her life. Among the things she said was that she has had to "settle all her life". Another thing of note was that her house (currently on the market) was her "dream house", and it was what she always wanted out of life. She said she has "no interests, nothing (she) likes to do". And then she bemoaned that she can't afford what she wants to do: sew, garden and bake. Here is a woman so wrapped up in being unhappy that she can't find or make pleasure in what she supposedly likes.

Then after endlessly talking about how bad her life is and how unhappy she is, she says that she has no one who understands and no real friends. Is she kidding? Would you want to hang out with someone so miserable?

Then she started to vent how it was everyone else's fault. How she always tried to make other people happy. How she always had to be the giver. How (again) she had to settle.

Well, let me tell you what: It was all pretty depressing to hear. But here I am the next morning, happy with life.

So a few words about happiness and life in general. To start with, the only person you are responsible for "making happy" is yourself. Happiness boils down to finding contentment where you are, doing things you enjoy, and expressing that in the place you call home.

Happiness doesn't mean you're bouncing, bubbly all the time. It's okay to get mad, even pissed, and vent it. There are legitimate reasons for sadness: death, pain, disappointment. Happiness is a general assessment of your life, not always reflective of the immediate situation in which you find yourself. It is hard to be happy at someone's deathbed, for example. But even then I have thought about the good things that dying person experienced.

Happiness, I believe, has to do with contentment primarily. Some might say it includes making the most of a bad situation. I say it means working with the situation you are in. I have been in spots where a soft pillow and a hard night's sleep have been the best thing in that bad situation.

Some people say happiness is living for today. I say that another day is coming. Time heals a lot of wounds and time also gives perspective to any situation. With time, a situation changes, and eventually you will move beyond it into something different.

I have lived out of a bag before, a 60 LB duffel. My life was been reduced to 60 LBS of basic stuff, having given away all my things, to move abroad. My car was placed in storage, too expensive to give away. What I took were the essentials and ME. And that's what it boils down to. Can you live with yourself? After all, it's essentially all we have entering this world and leaving it. So it is within yourself that you find contentment and happiness, because that's all we actually have.

When my MIL talked about the dream house she is selling because she can't afford it, she was heartbroken because it defined her. She saw herself as the house. The house was the cumulative work of her life. But this was a house that was her dream alone. When it was built, her husband didn't want it. It wasn't his dream. That house represented a long road of discontentment his wife had always traveled on. Never satisfied with what she had. Always wanting something bigger, something better; it was never enough.

And now the house is too much. Her husband (my FIL) left her for a woman content with her life, happy with what she has, happy in and of herself.

I tried to explain that my house didn't define me. My home that I created within the walls of my modest home expressed my life that I had created and reflected the happiness I have. It's not even the people inside the home, whom I love and enjoy being with. I am at home where ever I am because I am happy with my life, I am happy with me.

When my MIL spoke of how she had no interests, and then spoke of how she couldn't do what she wanted because it cost too much, I was flabbergasted by her explanation. She said a cake would cost $25 to make. Since when?? But if you don't blink when you shell out $60 for a shirt, maybe you don't make cakes from scratch like the rest of us.

She bitched about how much garden equipment costs. What did people do on the frontier, or just 50 years ago without a Lowes 10 miles away? I thought of my grandmother pinching leaves from annuals to make cuttings. Those Coleus cuttings sat in old prescription bottles on the window sill all winter awaiting planting in the spring.

Then my MIL complained about how much it costs to sew. I remember when she decided to try quilting. She complained it cost $80 to make a quilt because she had bought the batting and matching squares from the fabric store. Recently, my dad gave me some old photos of his parents. In one picture, my grandparents were courting and Granny was wearing a dress with a very distinctive pattern. Three children and at least 10 years later, there's a picture of her in a different outfit, but it's that same distinctive patterned cloth. Granny made her own clothes and she quilted too. Granny was part of a quilting bee. Everyone brought scraps to contribute to those community quilts.

It seems some people are never satisfied with life, always finding something wrong. Well, how the hell can you be happy with that attitude? It makes me wonder if there is anything that will "make" you happy, if you can't find contentment on your own.

And then there are her complaints about others: How she always tried to make other people happy. How she always had to be the giver. How she had to settle.

First, you can not depend on others to make you happy. Only you can do that. It's not your job to make anyone happy. Make peace, sure. Help others, okay. You can create positive experiences. You can be a pleasure to be around. But as for happiness, that's an individual thing that everyone has to find on their own.

Second, if you are of the opinion that you are always the giver, stop playing the martyr. A lot of people give of themselves. Sometimes, it's a small thing like listening to you bitch about your life. Sometimes, it's a lifelong commitment like being a parent, and that's what being a parent is about. So suck it up and join those who aren't walking around with a cross strapped to their backs.

And third, so sorry you had to "settle". Unless you're a Rockefeller or Rothschild, you will have to "settle". (And even those wealthy families came up against trust busting and the Holocaust.) No one gets the best life has to offer but you can make the best out of what you get.

My MIL says she won't settle this time. Well good luck with that. You just hold firm to your selling price on your dream home. It hasn't sold in 3 and 1/2 years and this was the only offer you've had. You live in a poor county, with little zoning, and terrible schools, in the middle of chicken shit country. When a buyer offers $40K less than your asking price, don't get personally offended. It's the way the game works.

As for your new "dream house" that will cost $200 K, you think that if you hold to your asking price, you can pay the $65K off on the old mortgage and have this new "dream house" with no mortgage, look at the bigger picture. The cost-of-living is higher. Higher taxes, higher groceries, higher utility costs. And then there's the annual association dues which will go up. And all the maintenance-free stuff isn't free. There will be associated and non-associated costs (things not covered in the contract). You'll also need a new Cadillac soon. And then there will be something else- another new sofa, new paint, new counter tops- because you're not happy. You seem to equate happiness with stuff, after all. And let's not forget the cost of keeping up with the Jones.

But you don't want to settle, do you? If you settled, you could buy a nice used or bank owned property for a lot less. Sure, you might have to pay for upkeep, but it's the same as those association and maintenance fees. But the easiest answer would be if you had "settled" a long time ago. I imagine one of the five homes you've owned could have made other people a nice home, a happy home. And you wouldn't have to worry about a mortgage now, in past years, or in years to come. And you would have a nice little nest egg. Perhaps you could have spent it on those things you can't afford now, like $25 cakes and more $80 make-your-own-quilts.

I know my $55K home isn't what you would have "settled" for, ever. But somehow, I have made a home for myself. The outside may make a house, but it's what is inside that makes a home. And it's a happy home, with happy people inside, filled with things we enjoy doing both separately and together. Life is what you make it. Find happiness, it's all around.