The last week has been a turbulent time for me, emotion-wise. I’ve been excited about my first Christmas morning with just me and my children and without the inevitable stress and arguments that came with previous years. I’ve been content that our house is looking tidy, cosy and inviting. I’ve been anxious about how my relations will feel during our first Christmas without a beloved family member. I’ve been exhausted, caring for a sick child throughout the night for two nights running. I’ve been frustrated that when I asked for help from the person who should be first in line to share the care of my children, we did not feature as a high enough priority. I’ve been furious that J & L keep being let down, with me having to comfort them and deal with the fall-out. I’ve been sad at what this means in the long-term for J & L. I’ve been hurt that I have been spoken to aggressively and disrespectfully. Like I said – a whole lot of emotions to deal with. But mostly, this week, the excitement and contentedness have been overshadowed by anxiety, anger, sadness and hurt. This week I’ve cried a lot.
I’ve cried in frustration at another person’s selfishness. I’ve cried with worry and exhaustion as L spent 48 hours vomiting – and without the back-up and sounding board I needed and asked for. I’ve cried in despair as I have been completely unable to persuade another person to behave reasonably. I’ve cried with the hurt I felt at the mean, personal, unfair things that have been said to me. Each time I cried, I felt myself sink a little deeper into unhappiness, and a little less able to regain my usual positivity and optimism.
This week someone took my happiness.
Happiness is a valuable and tangible resource that each of us needs to be strong. The more of it we have, the better our own lives and the lives of those around us. And it’s a self-perpetuating commodity – happiness breeds happiness. The more you can find and the more you can keep within your grasp, the more you and your loved ones will have. Happiness is the ultimate goal for humankind … whatever we are striving for, be it love, wealth or fame, it is because we believe these things will bring us happiness.
Happiness is also transferable. One person can take another’s happiness and keep it as their own. When someone used carefully calculated words to hurt and defeat me this week, the aim was not only to reduce my happiness but to increase their own – through the feelings of power and importance they achieved from their unkindness. This left me feeling helpless – someone was continuing to eat away at my happiness piece by piece, and I felt powerless to stop them.
Until I realised. My happiness was not being taken. It was being given. Each time I cried, I was cleaving off a chunk of my own happiness, putting it in a box, wrapping it in sparkly paper and ribbons, and willingly handing it over to someone who could use it in any way they chose.
So from yesterday I stopped handing out my happiness and started to think about how to hold on to it tightly. My happiness is not up for grabs – it is mine, and it is up to me to find ways to safeguard it. So I stopped replying to provocative text messages. I told people what was happening so I could feel supported. I focused on positive things happening in my life. And, remembering that happiness breeds happiness, I put my energy into things that make me happy, like having a tidy home, spending time with friends, planning treats for my children and finishing my Christmas wrapping.
The pile of presents, ready and waiting for Tuesday, looks hugely inviting and appealing. I’m very excited to see the faces of my loved-ones as they unwrap my carefully-chosen gifts. This Christmas I’ll be giving more gifts than ever before, but my happiness will not be amongst them. That is mine to keep. You can share my happiness, but you can’t have it.