I was talking to my Mom this morning on the phone. My Mom is not a happy woman. She is filled with bitterness and anger. She is nice if it is to her benefit . . . knowing how to manipulate things to work for her good, but she is NOT happy. So today, she was laughing at and making fun of a blog post I did on a separate blog I do, about happiness. In my blog, I mentioned that I have only ever known three people that I would call "truly happy" . . . I was not talking about a shallow, temporary happiness, but more of a deep-seeded joy. I believe this happiness only comes from living a life that is focused on the Lord and not ourselves.
She kept giving me examples of why she is such a happy person . . . examples of teasing my Dad or playing a joke on someone. No examples of a joy that perseveres through any and all circumstances . . . not because of where we are in life, but because of WHOSE we are in life. I certainly did not want to get in a fight about whether or not she is happy, for crying out loud! But she is only happy when she is the center of attention. When things are going her way. And, since her expectations are greater than any of us can ever meet, she is rarely "happy". Most of our lives growing up were about trying to please and appease Mom. Trying to keep her from exploding and going on a tirade about something. She was very explosive and we grew up with threats such as "I should just kill myself" on a regular basis.
My Mom wants to be seen in a certain light . . . she wants people to see her as some kind of amazing saint . . . someone who always puts others before herself, someone full of love and compassion. She wants to be seen as beautiful, fun and exciting. And, she truly acts like that is how she sees herself.
At 73, she still flirts with waiters and even men in our church, that don't remember her on the rare occasion she attends with me. She tells us about neighbors and various other people that "made moves" on her. She is aged and a bit overweight. Not necessarily ugly for a woman of her age, but certainly no one who will still turn heads. But in her mind she still is.
She tells me on a regular basis how "kind and loving" she is. The people that I have known in my life that are truly kind and loving, do not have to brag about it. In fact they never do. Because their motives are pure and they are not seeking anything in return. My Mom still uses an example of helping her neighbors. This was for a short period of time she went down and visited a few times. When the neighbors passed away, she befriended their children and had them believing she had been Mother Teresa to their parents. For many years to come, they would give my parents free access to their ocean home for a couple of weeks each year. They did this as repaying my Mom's great service to their parents. But in truth, she had only stopped by to visit a few times.
The day in, day out woman I have known for my entire life is a bitter woman. She makes fun of her children for having any dreams or desires of their own. She can occasionally say something sweet to one of us . . . but only as a way of manipulation. I look at her and I see a woman who is very unhappy. In fact, after thinking about this, I do not believe a true narcissist, such as my Mom, can ever be happy.
Our happiness comes from God . . . He is the giver of any and all peace we have in this life. While we may have fleeting moments of happiness based on circumstances, true deep-seeded happiness . . . or joy . . . can only come from the Lord.
Currently, my life, from a human standpoint, does not make me very happy. I have happy things in my life . . . a wonderful caring husband, a beautiful setting that I am privileged to live in everyday, three beautiful children and even pets and chickens that make me "happy". But I also have a child in rebellion (perhaps I will share about that a bit more in the future), and another one who is kind of "sitting on the fence" . . . kind of playing out the Romans 7 dilemma . . . knowing what he needs to do, but doing the wrong thing instead. On top of that, we are dealing with my Dad's dementia . . . it is in the later stages and he is requiring more and more care . . . which means my Mom is expecting more and more of me. Melissa lives a couple of thousand miles away, my older brother lives across the state and my little brother, though he helps out a bit from time to time, has never really taken on the responsibility at the level I have. I am not sure if it is because he is a boy or if it is because he has the "youngest child" mentality or maybe, he has just learned to set better boundaries. But anyway, on a day-in-day-out basis, I am the child she depends on and expects from. I have no problem taking them shopping, to Dr. visits, etc. every week. When Dad had an aortic aneurysm three years ago, I was there every day for three weeks straight . . . trading off 12 hour shifts with my brother. If there are true needs to be done around the house for her, my husband and I are there. But her expectations go well beyond need and into want. Sometimes frivolous or unnecessary wants. Their home was brand new when they moved in six years ago, so it is by no means a fixer upper. Yet she tells me often how she "needs" me to paint an accent wall for her, how she needs yet another rose or tree planted, etc. I really don't mind sometimes doing the extras if there is time, but I do hate when it is expected and not appreciated and when I am made to feel guilty for not making her home the priority over my own. But, that is another post for another day . . . my point is, I feel pressure from Mom that makes a "happy life" challenging to say the least.
My Dad has taken a definite turn for the worst in the last few weeks. His brain seems to have difficulty telling him how to do the most basic of things . . . such as walking, going to the bathroom, etc. I truly believe he is down to his last year, if not only months to live. I want to be there for him and my Mom. But it is so hard. Mom has such unfair expectations and says such mean things. I understand that she is going through a hard time right now, so while yes I can give her some grace because of it, her meanness and unfair expectations existed long before this trial.
But what keeps me struggling to tread water . . . and to find peace and happiness . . . is my fears. As Melissa just shared in her last post, we grew up with many fears . . . fears of never being good enough to please our mother . . . or others, as she made us feel so very inadequate. With the days until crisis with my Dad, drawing nearer and nearer, I have lately been experiencing what I guess are panic attacks . . . my heart starts racing and I am overwhelmed with a feeling of dread. It is not a dread of losing Dad, as terrible as that seems. I think I have been grieving the loss of my Dad for several years now . . . the man remaining is just a shell of what he used to be . . . his mind ravaged by the terrible disease of dementia. No, my panic comes from thinking of the days, months and years to come in dealing with my Mom. I am 50, Mom is 73. Realistically she will have a good ten years or more left here on earth. Can I deal with her making my life hell for another 10 years? Should I have to give up my "good years" for her? Will she ever let me experience joy with my own family in the years to come . . . when we someday welcome daughter-in-laws and grand babies into the future, will she allow us to bask in the joy of that, or will she have to continually pull me down and make me feel guilty for choosing to be happy?
My panic is actually keeping me up at night now . . . in fact, I am typing this at 4:00 a.m because I am unable to sleep. I want peace. My only goal for 2014 is to live a life of peace and to eliminate as much stress as I can. So far, at day 5, I am failing miserably.
So what is happiness? It certainly isn't what my Mom seeks. It has nothing to do with the things you have or even the things people do for you. It isn't even about having the perfect life or perfect family. One of the women I shared about in my other blog, was a sweet woman who lived a life that by most human accounts would be considered miserable. She lost her husband while in her 40's to a genetic disease. A few years later that same disease took her one and only son. She lived in poverty in one of the worst neighborhoods in town. She was riddled with arthritus that twisted her joints and bones and caused her extreme pain. Yet there was a happiness . . . a deep joy . . . in that woman that went so deep . . . something I have rarely found here on earth. Everytime I saw her, even in her last days while in a wheelchair and extreme pain, she would declare, "God is good! I am so blessed!" Because to her, being a child of God was enough. Knowing God created and loved her gave her happiness. Having been allowed to be the wife of her beloved husband and the Mama of her only child, she counted as a blessing. She was thankful for the little she did have . . . thankful not to be hungry and to have a roof over her head. And when it was time to go, she was happy to know it was all worth it. She is in heaven now, reunited with her precious loved ones and I believe being rewarded for a life well lived.
So maybe I need to rethink my goal for 2014 . . . and for always. Maybe it isn't so much about being stress free, as it is about finding true peace and happiness. I know peace comes from the Lord. I know only He can give me the true joy I desire. I say I am his child. I believe in Him . . . now I need to truly believe. Believe that He loves me beyond measure. Believe that he wants me to live in peace and that He will walk with me through my fears of the months and years to come.
So today I choose peace . . . I choose to believe. I do not believe living a Christian life is simply a matter of going to the alter one day while the choir sings "Just as I am". I believe it is a daily walk . . . a daily choosing to consecrate everything . . . give it all . . . to God each day. So I give my fears to the Lord today, I give my guilt and my anxiety, my resentment and anger all to the Lord. I can't control the future . . . in fact I can't even see the future. But God knows all my hours and minutes. So this fear . . . that has taken such a stronghold in my life and the life of my sister Melissa, is not only keeping us in a place of anxiety and unrest, it is also keeping us from truly being happy. From truly finding joy. As Melissa shared, fear is not of God (you will soon come to see she is the smart one who is able to share all the Bible verses relating to these subjects. . . . I just know they are there but have a hard time remembering the addresses as well). So if we are truly focused on God . . . on letting Him be in control of our lives, fear can not rein. And if fear is gone, what replaces it . . . peace . . . joy . . . happiness.
Go in the Lord . . . in peace, joy and happiness!
With love and blessings,