Monday was a holiday. As luck would have it, three of my bestest friends from high school and university were in my city at the same time and were able to get together for brunch. They each live their lives in different cities across our vast country, and the city I live in isn’t even the town where we grew up, so it was incredible that we were able to meet all together.
There were nine of us sitting around that restaurant table. The four of us from high school, two husbands, one boyfriend, and my two babies. My heart was so full of joy as we hugged, caught up, and ate together. These people were my entire life for so long. And now that our lives have fanned out, we reconnect, bringing in those new parts of our lives to share.
This get-together was particularly exciting for me because I was able to introduce my friends to my new baby. They had each met Cameron before at least once, but now I was able to show off the newest addition to my growing clan. In fact, for what might have been the first time for some, my friends were able to witness me as I am now; a Mom. In the midst of showing off Cameron and Gavin, Dan and I were still on the hook for parenting. We had to speak firmly to Cameron a few times and there were a few fussy moments with Gavin. I breastfed Gavin and then stood up and bounced him on my shoulder until he fell asleep. We did what we do every day, just with a fancier breakfast, a little bit of makeup, and real clothes.
As brunch drew to completion and my companions began to leave the table to pay their bills, my friend Jocelyn turned to me and asked “Are you happy?”
I remembered back to a class that each of us took in high school. It was a class about living life and it was a favorite of grade eleven and twelve students. One day, the teacher mentioned that happiness should be the ultimate goal in life. No, I argued. Not happiness. If happiness is the ultimate goal, then life will undoubtedly be a failure. We can’t control everything that happens to us, and sometimes emotional reactions other than happiness are completely legitimate. Happiness is a feeling and feelings are fleeting.*
My life took such a different course from my other three friends sitting around that breakfast table. Although we were all high achievers when our friendship began, my university degree pales in comparison to the education that they can each boast. And their jobs are much more prestigious than any I have ever held. They will all hit levels of success in their lives that I am unsure if I will ever attain.
But my life is different from theirs in other ways too. Out of the four of us, I am one of two who are married. And I am the only one (as of yet) who has babies.
How do I measure happiness? Is this what I wanted for my life? Absolutely. Is this how I thought life would turn out? I’m not quite sure. Have I attained all of the obvious levels of success that I dreamed for myself as I graduated from high school with my best friends? No.
Am I happy?
I have spent four years of my life growing a family with a man who loves me. I have two gorgeous little boys who love and need me. I spend my days trudging through the muck of parenting receiving the greatest blessings I have ever experienced. My job isn’t high paying, but it is important. My success is measured in little boy smiles. I get paid in hugs and kisses.
So when Jocelyn asked me if I was happy while I rocked my tired little newborn to sleep in the middle of a breakfast restaurant, I did not need to think about my answer.
“Yes,” I said. “So happy. So unbelievably happy.”
*I argued that the goal of life should instead be joy or contentedness, which can be attained even while unhappy. Joyfulness or contentedness are both attitude choices despite our situation, not a feeling reaction to our situation. They encompass gratitude and an awareness of the blessings in life that are sometimes hard to find. Alas, I could not get my teacher to concede.