In Pursuit of Happiness

The last time I talked to my dad, he kept telling me that he just wanted me to be happy.  We were talking on the phone, and I was trying to explain to him how difficult life has been in the past five years, and that mom was making things worse with her tongue lashings.  So it got me thinking, what is happiness?

Everyone has a different answer.  If this question was posed to my cats, they would reply that happiness is tuna, cat treats, cuddles (only when they want it), tuna, sunbathing, watching birds on the porch, tuna (yes, they love tuna this much XD), and playing with cat toys or each other.

If I were to answer this question about happiness five years ago it would be different than what it is now. Before my health took a steep decline five years ago, I thought that a big house, fashionable clothes/accessories, traveling, dancing ballet, being attractive, having a nice car, and a successful career would make me happy.  These things would definitely bring happiness, some of it only short-term, but how do you find happiness when you are bed-bound for several years with debilitating chronic pain?  Granted, I am well aware there are people much sicker than me because I see them every day in the health forums, but that doesn’t negate my personal struggles.

I actually think I am as happy as a person can be given my circumstances. I was diagnosed with a relatively rare genetic disorder earlier this year, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which means I produce defective collagen. Collagen is in basically in every structure of your body. There are several different types of collagen and they are present in different amounts in your body, so there’s a huge range of symptoms and severity with EDS.   I have had three hip surgeries (two hip scopes and an open surgical dislocation) in the past five years, and I’m not even 30. My whole spine is degenerating, and I’m dealing with a shoulder injury right now.  I also have a mildly enlarged right ventricle and several other health issues due to EDS.  I was in so much pain over the past three years that I was pretty much bed-bound.  Not only that, but I would cover my body in icepacks several times a day and lay on a heating pad.  My hip was partially dislocating several times a month for the past year, and afterwards it felt like there was a fire burning in my hip joint for several days.  It usually popped out when I got up from a chair, so I learned to stick my butt out when getting up from a sitting position and waddle like a duck to get it to go back in.  Sounds fun, huh?

The best part is that every time I told myself things couldn’t get worse it did. I suppose fate felt he was being challenged, and I needed to be punished accordingly.  Things are better now since I had my last hip surgery, and I’m in the process of reclaiming my life.  I’m also writing and reading again, and as soon as I get off crutches I will apply for a job.  My husband joked that he was ready for me to be his sugar mommy because my earning potential is greater than 100k/year XD  Anyway, I made a list of things that make me happy, and I spend most of my time trying to focus on the positive aspects of life instead of the negative.

1.  Cats, lots and lots of cats. I’m not even sure why I love cats, but I just do.  They are so cute, and I love their cattitude :3  I have two cats that mean the world to me, and they are a daily reminder to stop and smile, at least once a day.

2. Chatting with friends and/or my husband. Most of my friends are actually online, but I don’t consider them exclusively online friends. They have provided more love and emotional support that my parents combined over the past five years. I feel very lucky to have such amazing friends.  I have been able to meet some of them, and when my health improves I’d like to meet a few others. A few of them are in Europe, one is in Australia, and the rest are in the United States.  I enjoy spending time with my husband as well, playing video games, cooking, watching a movie, eating out, etc.

3.  Watching or playing video games. I acquired a bad case of rotator cuff tendinitis in Dec. 2012, so I couldn’t play any video games in 2013.  Instead, I watched people play video games online. My favorite Youtube video-gamer is Harshly Critical.  He’s fairly intelligent and has a great sense of humor.  I have been playing video games since I was a little kid, and I love the way you can immerse yourself in their world, and then your problems temporarily fade into the background.  The last video game I played was Tales of Xillia, and I really enjoyed it.  I’m anxiously awaiting Final Fantasy 15, assuming it isn’t vaporware u_u

4.  Cooking for my husband. This is something that I made a real effort to do in 2013. I actually love to bake and cook, but I relapsed into anorexia and shut down five years ago.  I’m now okay weight wise, but anorexia always lingers on the edge of consciousness so I have to be vigilant to prevent it from resurfacing.  My husband is Japanese, and they definitely have a strong food culture. Cooking symbolizes love for my husband, and I enjoy making him happy, especially since he has made so many sacrifices due to my health issues.

5. Writing also makes me happy, but it takes an inordinate amount of emotional and mental energy. Blog posts don’t but writing fiction does.  So unfortunately I wasn’t able to write last year.  It took all the strength I had to keep myself together and not fall apart.  I started writing again a few months ago when I felt strong enough.

6. Reading is another thing that makes me happy, but I did very little of it in 2013 because it takes a lot of focus and concentration to read a book. And I didn’t want to read anything sad because that would only accentuate my own sorrow.

7. A friend of mine got me into nail polish.  A bonus is that it actually doesn’t cost that much money.  When it comes to nail polishes I love holographs, sparkles, and duochromes.  Bright, sparkly colors lift my spirit on bad days.  I think I have 100 nail polishes, which my husband thinks is 99 too many XD  I tried to explain to him that other nail polish bloggers have like 1000+, but that didn’t change his perspective.

8. I love TV, and I watched a lot of it last year to drown out my negative thoughts. I got Hulu on my phone as well, so that I could listen to it while I was doing chores around the house.  My favorite shows are probably “Law and Order: SVU,” and the “Twilight Zone”.  One of my friends is trying to get me into, “Hannibal,” so we can fangirl together, lol.

9. Music also greatly affects me. Sometimes I like to listen to sad music and cry along whereas other times I enjoy happy and upbeat music.  I listen to several genres: pop, Kpop, Jpop, Jrock, heavy metal, alternative, rock, indie, etc.  Music helped me get through many nights when my pain was so debilitating I couldn’t eat or sleep.

10. I also enjoy helping others and making people happy.  I used to post a ton of reviews on fanfiction.net because I knew how much it meant to authors, and I would make them long and detailed. I also like getting nice gifts for friends. I start collecting gifts at the beginning of the year. If I see something that reminds me of a certain friend, I buy it and then hold onto it till their birthday or Christmas.  I spend a lot of time on hip preservation support forums to help others with hip issues because I know quite a bit after going through 3 hip surgeries.  I want to help people so that they don’t have a failed hip surgery like me.

11.  I love to garden.  We live in a ground floor apartment, and it has ample space for a patio garden.  I have 4 roses, a hanging fuchsia, lots of petunias, a bushy flower plant (don’t know what it is as we inherited it from a neighbor), and dahlias.  Flowers just make me happy, and it is therapeutic caring for plants and watching them grow.

12. I’m Christian, and God gives me a certain sense of tranquility.  I have hardly been to church in the past five years due to the fact I can’t sit for long periods, and if I lay out on the bench or floor people would stare at me.  I should listen to online sermons, but I haven’t.

13.  Another key component of happiness was liberating myself from toxic relationships. I mentioned the problem with my parents in an earlier blog entry. Growing up my mom was emotionally abusive, and my dad was verbally abusive.  My father just told me the other day that he resented me my whole life because I was born out of wedlock, and then he felt he had to marry my mother.  He was also very young at the time.  It wasn’t a big surprise because I already knew. Maybe he told me to absolve his own guilt.  He and my mom almost got divorced last year, and I don’t want to get into the specifics because that is not my story to tell.  But my dad has asked for forgiveness, and he’s making a sincere attempt at returning to God, so I feel like I should forgive him because he’s trying to change. My mother is not trying to change, and she is not sorry for the things she has said, so the past will keep repeating itself.  I don’t deserve her judgement and criticism, so it’s best for me to take a temporary (perhaps permanent) break from her.

If anyone out there is still reading I applaud your efforts XD  I didn’t anticipate this post to be so long.  I think my dad doesn’t have an interest in most of the things I listed, so it’s hard for him to understand that I am happy most of the time.  If anyone cares to share, what makes you happy?

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4 thoughts on “In Pursuit of Happiness

  1. Ahhhhh happiness is really relative, no? You got me thinking about what makes me happy, and you are oh so true; 5 years ago, it would be so different from today.

    So, my dear friend, let’s see if I can make my own list:

    1. peace. Ive grown up with people who screamed or fought, and these people are those that I love. Ive learned to become a bit detached now (which may not be necessarily good), but when I was younger it was devastating to have that conflict. Moments of peace with those I love and care about make me so happy.

    2. Forgiveness. This is relatively new actually. Most of my life, I was one to be horribly judgemental and one to hold a grudge. Ive seen people do horrible things. Ive come to realize that if I judge and grudge, that helps no one and pushes people far. When I forgive, it givea me the opportunity to help those who need it the most and in the end that makes me incredibly happy 🙂

    3. Listening. I learn by listening, and am a ver attentive listener. I may not talk much, but by listening to people, I am able to learn about them and be all I can be for them.

    4. Other people’s happiness. Honestly, if I could take everyone’s pain and make it my own I would. It makes me so happy to see those (especially those close to me) happy. Perhaps it is why I love giving so much 🙂

    5. Kids. They remind me that the world really is a great place. I sometimes can get a bit cynical and when I do, it reminds me think more like a kid. Plus, I find them so much easier to be around and talk to. No judgment, no preconceptions. ..

    6. Music. One of my favorite things in this world. I don’t know what I would do without it. In music we can express ideas, thoughts, stories, emotions, among hundreds of other things. Whenever I would have a hard time, I remember I woulx listen to music and it would whisk me away and mentally bring me to a new place. I also love creating it 🙂

    7. Stories. Any kind of story. Books, video games, personal experiences, tv, fanfiction, elaborate stories I create in my mind. I am nothing if not a daydreamer and stories fuel my creative mind.

    8. My kitty. Whats better than a fur ball curled up on your head purring and kneading you? XD

    9. Airports. XD a bit funny this one lol. But I love the feeling of being at an airport knowing that you are going somewhere to create a new memory, to create your own story. Do I need to even mention traveling?

    10. The people I love. Probably guessed that from what ivr written already :). My close friends (in which i include you :))and family are the most important thing in the world to me. They make me happy 🙂

    I could think of a million more things, however, my eyes keep closing, and sleep beckons. Your post got me thinking though and I had to write 🙂

    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment on my blog 😀 I am always trying to be less judgmental. It’s a very difficult thing to let go. In the hip forums I sometimes see someone who has a labral tear, and they think their whole life is over. And it’s difficult from where I’m sitting to offer compassion, but I tell myself that I was that person five years ago. They deserve compassion just as I did five years ago. It’s difficult when there are chaotic situations that you can’t control. It reminds me of this prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” Kitties make the world a better place, definitely :3 And Ned has so much purrsonality (see what I did there XD). I think my favorite memory of him is when we were talking on Skype for a long time, and he was like, “That’s enough! Time to cuddle kitty,” and he proceeds to knock stuff over X3 We have a lot of the same music tastes, lol. Omg, 30 Seconds to Mars is having a concert in the summer, but we may have missed it :/ We weren’t sure if I would be healthy enough to go. You are definitely one of the friends I was referring to, and I’m grateful for your love and compassion ❤ You are a good listener. I am working on that skill because I tend to talk so much I forget to listen :$

  2. “Things are better now since I had my last hip surgery, and I’m in the process of reclaiming my life.” Yay!! This is fantastic news. Focusing on what makes you happy is a great idea. Your #13 is an example of how life is messy, but you just gotta do the best you can. I’m 36, and I feel like it wasn’t until my hip issues and surgeries that I finally was forced to slow down and truly understand what it means to face yourself. Chronic physical pain is good fertilizer for personal growth.
    I’m going to chime in with a few things that make me happy:
    1) Shared time with small groups of friends.. being silly, sharing a meal, watching So You Think You Can Dance, sitting in the park together, going for a walk together, etc.
    2) Unicorns — My Reiki healer told me that she had a vision of my as a unicorn rider spreading joy around like pixie dust. I find this imagery very helpful.
    3) Minerals/crystals — I studied Geology, and I’m also kind of a new age Sedona-type hippie 😉
    4) Brightly colored clothes/accessories/fashions. I have an old sewing machine that I want to start experimenting with.
    5) Writing. Random stuff like blog posts and emails. My friend wants me to write descriptions for her online jewelry store, so that will be a fun challenge.
    6) Being my authentic self and working on communication skills so that I can deepen my existing friendships and attract in to my life people (and maybe a romantic relationship) that is grounded in emotional intimacy and connection.

    Cheers!
    Juice

  3. Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply Juicer 🙂 Yes, I think the past five years have made me a better person as well. My marriage is better overall too. I got married when I was 22, so I was pretty young, and there were lots of things about myself I didn’t understand. My husband was pretty young too, but we have been married for 7 years now, lol. It’s been hard for him because he married me when I was healthy and at 24 my health took a nose dive. But I didn’t know that was going to happen :/ It’s been hard for me too, but that’s life I suppose. A series of ups and downs.

    I love So You Think You Can Dance 😀 My husband doesn’t like it so much because Mary screams all the time, lol I love bright colors. A friend of mine got me into makeup, and I have a cool complexion, so I can wear the bright pinks 8D I love bright eyeshadows too, and bright clothes. My favorite coat is a bright pink Juicy Couture coat. I love it so much * -* There’s a lot you can do with a sewing machine. I don’t really know much about how to use one. I mean I guess it’s kind of self-explanatory if you start with an easy project and a pattern. I had some awesome pajama pants that my mom helped me make, but I don’t know what happened to them 😦 They were made out of this blue material and had different colored shooting stars everywhere. I’m super tall, so I made these pants with a 37″ inseam XD Before my shoulder injury I used to crochet. I love bright colors 😀 I have so much yarn XD I’m a yarn hoarder :$ Maybe later this year I’ll be able to crochet again.

    I think you would be great at writing descriptions for jewelry because you are both creative and clever 🙂 I could definitely see you riding a unicorn and spreading joy like pixie dust :3 I think if you are having fun doing your own thing, love will fall into place 🙂 I think it is always important to be your authentic self, and people that don’t accept you as you really are are not deserving of your awesomeness. Never sacrifice who you are to be with another person. I feel that is key in any kind of healthy relationship. It sounds like you have strengthened the bond between many of your friends, which is awesome. I think bad things either bring people closer together or push them apart. At least, I have noticed that in my own life.

    I’m glad you were able to find positive things in your life in spite of such a difficult hardship. You’ll be ready for pretty much anything after this 😀

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