Driven to Insanity

My son is 16 years old.

For those of you who do not have children, this number may mean nothing to you.  It may not strike fear into your heart.  It may not ignite inside your soul the devastating fear, the agonizing terror that lives in the heart of every parent.

My son is nearly ready to get his driver’s license.

I stalled the inevitable by making the boy take Driver’s Education.  That gets you a break of approximately $0.00000004 on insurance.  (Incidentally, I think it is crap that insurance is more for a boy than for a girl.  So much for equality, right?) However, in spite of my many attempts to pretend that my children are still small, the boy is nearly ready to get his driver’s license.

He will be able, according to the law of our great state, to operate a motor vehicle on his own.

(Who made these laws? Someone without children, I guarantee.)

I consider myself a very adaptable person.  In fact, it is one of my strong suits.  I’m not one of these people who get bogged down by the fear of change.  I laugh at those people.  Ha!  But someone I find myself ill prepared for my son to drive.  It isn’t just him–all of his buddies are also driving.  A few of them are older than my son and have already received their operators license.  A couple of them drive themselves to school every day. I still visualize these kids as the same ones who couldn’t tie their shoes without assistance, and they are out on the same roads as you and me, with no adult supervision, in vehicles capable of many thousands of dollars of personal property damage.

God help us.

The worst part of it all is that I’m not sure if I’m upset because my son is 16 years old and driving (and he is a good driver, very cautious and law-abiding) or if I’m upset because this is just another reminder of my own impending geezer-hood.

I am not ready for this.  I myself identify as a cool young person.  I listen to cool music and drive too fast (in a minivan) and have tattoos and all of the other stuff that makes people cool.  But how can I be a cool young person when a human being that I grew inside of my own body is now old enough to operate a motor vehicle?

Okay, I’ll tell you the truth.  I’ve been sly about it and pretended like it was about so many things that it wasn’t.  It isn’t really about my son.  It isn’t about him driving.

It’s about the fact that I’ll be 40 in a couple of days.

You read that right.  I will be forty years old.  Conceivably half way through my whole entire life.  If I’m lucky, that is.

I cannot stand to hear about people having midlife crises, especially men with the sports cars and the blonde mistresses and such.  But honestly, I have to seriously ask myself if I’m not in the throes of a midlife crisis right now.  Why else would all of this be hitting me so hard?  What other explanation is there that the contemplation of my life and the life of my son and his friends should cause me such distress?

I’m sure the wine has nothing to do with it.

Regardless, my son is sixteen years old, and getting ready to get his license.  No matter how much I piss and moan (and drink), time just keeps on slipping by.  I thought I had lots of time.  I used to complain about how slowly time passed.

I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry.  I didn’t know.  I take it back.  Just please, please slow down a little.  They can drive now, so let’s just take a breath.  Let’s take a minute to get our bearings.

Let’s realize how precious our time is, and how much we take it for granted, okay? I swear, we’ll do better from here on out.

Okay?


 

(not so) Happy

I have unlocked the secret to happiness.

Now hold on a minute.  Don’t just roll your eyes and walk off. Come back here! I’m serious.  I know the secret to happiness.

Are you ready to know the secret? Okay, wherever you are, go to a mirror. Close your eyes.  Stand in front of the mirror.  Take a deep breath.

Now, open your eyes.

See it?

You are looking at the secret of happiness.

For those of you who cheated and did not go to a mirror, I will give you the answer.

It’s you.

You are the secret to happiness.

Now, before you feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility, don’t misunderstand.  You are not the secret to everyone’s happiness.  Just your own.  Do you follow? I’ll say it plainly, with bold font, so you can get it.

You are the secret to your own happiness.

In my never-ending observation of people, I see everyone constantly searching for happiness.  They look for it in people and places and things.  They want happy lives and happy relationships and happy jobs, but they are let down over and over.

I spent more years than I am willing to count trying to find my own happiness in other people.  I was continually disappointed.  I was chronically disappointed.  Why? Because I thought someone else had the key to my happiness..  I placed impossible expectations on the people around me, and then held it against them when they couldn’t deliver.

I’m not sure what finally clued me in.  I can’t pinpoint one big “ah-ha” moment when I realized I had it wrong.  I think I just got tired of being such a drag.

Every morning I get up, and I don’t have what  people would  consider  a “fun” schedule.  I have to get my people out of bed and feed them and medicate them.  The daughter can be down right uncooperative.  Sometimes I have to hold her arms down with my leg so I can get her medicine in her.  That is not fun.  But I make jokes about it and laugh and accuse her of trying to kill me.  I sing songs and make faces to try to keep her from getting too mad.  When it’s finished, I make a big show of wiping my brow and then that’s that.  When she has a seizure, we sit together and bitch about it for a while.  It makes us feel better.  Then it’s over.

What if I wanted to make a different choice?  What if I decided to lament the difficulty of my life? What if I fussed at my daughter for her extreme hard-headed-ness (which she gets from her father) and started my whole day off on a sour, negative note?  What if I wanted to look at all of the things wrong with my life, all of the hard things that just don’t seem fair, and what if was mad or sad about them? Well, life around here would certainly be different, wouldn’t it?

No one can make those choices but me.  I can blame who I want.  Is it fair that things are the way they are?  Maybe not.  But guess what?  There’s not one damn thing I can do to change things, fair or not, and how in the hell does me being miserable help anyone?

Misery loves company–we’ve all heard it.  It’s true.  Misery is catching.  The beautiful thing, though, is that happiness is catching, too!

In our marriages, our relationships with our children, our jobs, every single aspect of our lives, we make the decision of how we are going to live our lives.  It breaks my heart to think of how much of my life I have lost being miserable.

Laughter is such a part of our lives now.  We have to laugh at ourselves and our lives–we just have to.  I don’t think we could survive day-to-day if we didn’t.  Look around yourself.  If you are with people, or, God forbid, if you are a person who can’t laugh at yourself, seek help immediately.  Put your head between your knees.  Call 911, something.  Just bail out.  You’re drowning.

You’re drowning in our society’s notion that happiness is something that is owed to us, that it is something therapy and medication can provide.  We have convinced ourselves that others should mold themselves into the shapes that make us happy.

We are deluded, and what’s worse, we are miserable.

If only everyone could decide to be happy.  If only everyone could see that each life, each relationship, each job, each person, can be a part of what our happiness is all about.  There is so much that is beautiful in even our hardest moments, so much that we should celebrate.  Even when things are hard, we can deal with them and move on.  There is so much to be thankful for, so much to appreciate.

So much to be happy about.

Go back to that mirror.  Look yourself directly in the eye.  Don’t take any bullshit.  Who is standing in the way of your happiness? Can you see them?

Now, what are you going to do about it?


 

 

 

 

 

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