The Infuriating Search for Happiness

This business of searching for beauty is a dangerous one. There are many battles to be fought along this path. One gets weary after a long haul. I totally understand why people give up and choose instead to dwell in a place of misery drowning in a sea of complaint. It is so much easier to just give up. This has been a painful experience. My tale is a cautionary tale; One which will serve to caution you against attempting to open your heart to joy. “Do you think it is easy to be happy?” If it was so then everybody would be happy. You must battle the dragon of dark thoughts and slay the monster of your inner critic. These are no ordinary beasts, these were blessed with a drink from the immortality cup. The minute you kill one, it comes back in a transformed form. Your battle will only infuriate them into calling upon their friends. They play unfair and bring into the fight the dragons and monsters of other people around you. They start with your friends, then people you care about dearly and when things get desperate your family gets involved. Even the best warrior gets exhausted. So I am telling you. Don’t believe all the snake oil peddlers out there. You know who I am talking about, the ones that tell you: “Live your best life”, “Be the best version of yourself”, “Live a life you love, “Don’t worry be happy”,” Follow your dreams” … blah, blah, blah. O it sounds so nice and dandy, why wouldn’t you want to live your best life?, “sign me up for that” you might innocently think to yourself unaware of the dangers lurking right around the corner. But what all those shysters don’t tell you is the price that you will pay in the process. It is vicious conspiracy to make people believe in the power of positive thinking. What do you think happens to all the negative thinking when you begin having positive thoughts? Do you think they will just go away without a fight? O they come back alright, multiplied, fortified and bam! in your face. Where once they resided in muted tones in your subconscious, resistance only makes them show up in a dazzling rainbow multicolour form of your daily awareness. And there is nothing to get you ready for that. So listen to my wise advice, read my story and be sure to avoid the path I have taken.

I had a long talk with my father after I separated from Zaatarah. My father wanted an explanation to why I was breaking up the family. I spent over an hour going through my list of grievances, illustrating each one with an example, or two, or three or more. I will not go into that list here, because it would invade the privacy of another person. Furthermore there is no way for me to attempt to be objective in a matter that is so intertwined with inner working of my mind. God knows I have my own issues and I am not the easiest person to live with. My father listened patiently to my endless rambling as only a parent can. When I was finished he assured me that I was justified in feeling aggrieved by my list of complaints. In fact he frequently noticed them himself but didn’t say anything for fear of being accused of interference. He validated all my feelings of distress and then he said:” But, Elen, you have a strong personality. You always ignored Zaatarah and did whatever it is you were going to do anyway. So why now? what is different?” My father’s observation was all too accurate. He hit the crux of the subject matter. This was not about a list of complaints, this was about something else. I responded by saying “I am exhausted by the effort it takes to constantly ignore the person I am sharing my life with. I ran out of strength.”

The failure was entirely mine and when it came knocking on my door is came with a capital F to compensate for all those years where it’s option was not considered. Failure, failure, failure, the word stung inside my mind. I might as well had worn a big scarlet F on my chest to indicated the state I was in and the proper shame I was experiencing about it. There is no way around it, divorce is a form of failure. As if one failure wasn’t enough to break my heart. A whole bunch of them congregated together and decided to drop on top of my head in a luxurious shower that didn’t want to end. A few months before the breakup of my marriage I lost my job and for the first time ever faced difficulty finding a new job. Therefore facing the shame of being an unemployed person after 20 years of high employment. Added to my delightful situation was that my eldest daughter became a teenager and as if a switch was flicked, in her eyes, I turned from her loving mother to the source of all evil and the most stupid person in the world. Forcing me to question my qualification in an area I deeply cared about –motherhood. So now I was a failed wife and a woman, failed mother and sitting on top of a failed career. Wonderful! just to complete the picture my creative writing juices dried up and everything I wrote during that phase was trash, furthermore my dancing was suffering as well. Instead of improving in my dancing abilities I was deteriorating. I tried to run away from it all, I thought if I drown myself in a new job it would help me get away from the big F. However no job interview yielded a job offer despite all my best efforts.

As if the whole universe was pointing a finger at me and saying you will experience failure in all areas of life all at once. And you can’t do anything to distract yourself from it. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I had plenty of spare time so that the thundering echoes of failure could ricochet freely in an endless loop inside my rip cage. O! how I wished I could do what the author of “Eat. Pray. Love” did and leave everything behind and go travelling for a year. It would have been such a relief. To travel to Italy and spend time eating pistachio gelato. I don’t think I would want to travel to India to spend months in an ashram chanting. Seems a bit intense for me. I wouldn’t travel to Indonesia either. I would instead spend the whole year in Seville Spain, taking flamenco dance classes, attending flamenco shows and hopefully find some sort of a gelato place there. Then I would write a book about the experience called Eat. Dance and Dance some more, or perhaps Eat. Dance and Eat Again. The book would go on to being on the best seller list and I would make tons of money and live happily ever after in Vancouver where I become the most renowned flamenco dance due to my intensive training in Spain. This lovely fantasy was totally doable with just one tiny itsy little hitch – three children who are school age. I knew that my children would not react favourably to being moved to a foreign country with a foreign language. Although I admire what Elizabeth Gilbert did, my personal circumstances prevented me from following in her footsteps. Every morning, for a couple of months, I woke up bright and early. Prepared breakfast and lunches and made sure all three children got to school on time. Then I would go home and lay in bed and allow myself to fall apart . When it was getting close to picking up kids from school, I would get up , take a shower, pull myself together, put on my brave face and go get the kids from school. Once at home I attempted to resume normal routines, making dinner, checking over homework and such.

As I laid in bed all alone staring at the ceiling, day after day, awful feelings came. Sadness, loneliness, shame, guilt, regret and judgement. I lacked the strength to do what I usually did in similar circumstances in the past. Fight, slam the door in their face, kick them out and move on with business as usual. And so I decided that I would do something else this time. I welcomed each feeling as an honoured guest. I opened the door and welcomed the guest into my house. Made it a cup of coffee and sat down for a chat. I listened attentively to what it had to say. I sorta hoped that each one of my visitors would eventually get tired of talking and move on to go visit somebody’s else house.

I got married for the right reason. I was madly in love. Once married, I threw my heart and soul into it and sincerely did the best I knew to be a loving and faithful wife. I made lots of mistakes in the process, but I can genuinely say that I tried hard to do well on that front. Now I was faced with a new challenge – Let go well. Would I be able to achieve that?

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