Are you Happy?
I mean on a day like today, were you happy?
Key once asked me this, in 1996. Key was…well it’s complicated. The easiest way to explain him…he was my boyfriend from high school…but that doesn’t really do it.
Key was a change agent in my life. He came into my life at a time when I really, really, really needed to catch a break…and I caught it because he gave it to me. He pushed me onto an entirely different life path, and I wrote a book about it, entitled The Way Through, Lessons Learned on Life, Love and tHe Journey.
Key, bless his heart, pushed me into a life that was filled with a lot more love…but that is this whole other story, that I can’t get into right now. It’s a love story. A pretty unique one at that, but there’s no time for it here, because this story about is about happiness.
So, there I was, only twenty-four years old, and Key has the audacity to ask if I was happy. This was the first time in my entire life anyone had ever asked me such a question, and I was floored.
Initially what he had asked me was simply, “Are you happy?”
I couldn’t answer him and; I was really annoyed by the question, because at that time in my life, if I had dared to answer truthfully the answer would have been a loud and resounding no. Not only was it a no, it was more like a:
“Hell no, I am not happy! I don’t even know what happy is or what it looks like, so never mind what it feels like! Who would ask such a rude question? Only you! It’s such a freaking Key thing to do!”
But…I didn’t know how to be that honest. Not at twenty-four. So instead I snapped at him,
“Why are you asking me this! What is happy? Are you happy?”
So then he clarified the question.
“I mean…on a day like today, were you happy?”
And he was being so completely sincere and genuine, (unusual for him) that I honestly wished that I could be that way also and honestly answer the question. But I couldn’t. I was utterly freaked, and hung up the phone, instead. (That was rude.)
Hear me out. The communication between us was really awkward because…well…he was dead.
Key had been murdered earlier that year, and I know that you’re now wondering, well how in the hell was she talking to a dead man? Again, that is this whole other story, (no time to tell here, which is why I wrote a book.) If you’re truly all that curious, buy the book and read all about it.
The point is, he was dead, and this question…well it must have been a really important question, since he had to cut through all that time and space (or at least the illusion of it) that separates the living from the dead, just to ask me.
Anyway, fast-forward many, many years, to Thanksgiving 2007.
I was at my mom’s house when my husband, took a picture of me as I was stuffing the turkey. He forwarded the picture to everyone on his email list. (This was before Facebook had jumped of in a major way, and email was the way us old schoolers shared such things. Fellow Gen-xers, can you even remember those days pre-FB?) About three minutes after that one of my oldest and dearest friends responded,
“You look happy!”
And it was then that I realized, that I was. In that time, in those moments, on that day, I was happy.
And…I had lived long enough to know that happiness is like that. Happiness comes to us in moments. It is not this state of being that you can cultivate, for an extended period of time. (Well, you can try, but depending on your personality type, you may find this incredibly frustrating.)
Happiness sprinkles in and out of our days and hours and months and years through connections, contentments, accomplishments, experiences and things. But in all of that, happiness is usually fleeting.
Which is why it is so important to embrace and cherish and feel, really feel those moments, because they don’t last forever. In some ways, you will never get those moments back. Never ever. Let’s go back in time, again.
Two Thanksgivings before that one, Thanksgiving 2005, actually, I was at my mom’s house and once again, I was happy. In fact, we were all happy. My whole entire family was in attendance and all happy together! (This rarely happens, us all being together and happy.) But miraculously, in 2005, it happened. All together, all happy, including my stepfather Steve, which was odd, because he was not someone who I would describe as being especially happy, ever.
My sister described Steve as a “miserable soul.” I wouldn’t say that about him exactly, but happiness just never seemed to be really high on his list of priorities. Anyway, for whatever reason Thanksgiving of 2005, Steve was happy, really, really happy.
I thought is was the freakiest thing! But..I enjoyed it, nevertheless. I was happy that Steve was finally happy.
Thanksgiving 2006 rolls around and Steve was diagnosed with an incurable case of cancer. (Seriously, he got the news on Thanksgiving day…damn. Can you beleive it? It happened.)
On December 10, 2006, at age 56, Steve was dead. Now this just blew my mind.
Before the diagnosis, it never occurred to anyone, that Steve was going to die anytime soon. Steve was this really, reliable, stand-up kind of guy. If something needed to be done, Steve was your man. He would do it. If there was an event to be attended, Steve would be there. He might not be happy about it, but he would be there and he would do whatever needed to be done to make the event go smoother.
As for me, I took him for granted. I always imagined that he would always be there. It never occurred to me that Steve would die so young. Steve, I figured, would be puttering around, albeit somberly, at age ninety.
But, no. Steve is gone, but his death taught me a lot. Steve’s death taught me that I have to enjoy my life NOW. I can and I should be happy, NOW…and when it happens, in those moments, and those hours on those days, I should savor and cherish the feeling, because there just really is no way of knowing when it is all going to be over. We never know when this particular type of happiness that we’ve shared with the ones we’ve loved, can be no more, because we are no more, or they are no more…at least not in this time and space.
And so okay…I get it. I know. The world is going to hell in a hand-basket. Nobody can seem to get along with anyone else. At least 50% (or more) of the country is really pissed off about our new President. The economy sucks.
But yet and still. These are the days of our lives…and who knows how many of them are left, so, if only for a moment, be happy this holiday season.