Published: Mar 27, 2012 07:04 PM
Modified: Mar 27, 2012 07:06 PM
For the last few years, I have made one wish always as I blow out my birthday candles:
“I wish I were a better mother.”
It’s the same wish as I send the fluff of a dandelion flying or blow away the eyelashes my daughters hold out for me.
“Make a wish!” they urge after carefully lifting an eyelash from my cheek.
Sometimes, though, I let them wish on my lashes. They are quiet for a longer moment than I think possible, carefully choosing the exact wish they want to make. I wonder what they wish for, but they never tell me. “The wish won’t come true then,” they say.
I know some of their wishes are impossible wishes – like the wish for a beautiful, white pony that my younger daughter used to wish aloud for before her older sister revealed to her the secret nature of wishes.
My wish, too, is an impossible wish, some self-help authors say. It’s too abstract. I can’t possibly ever achieve the goal because I have nothing specific to achieve. How will I know when my goal is reached? When will I be satisfied?
Lately, the idea of happiness has been on my mind. Maybe it’s what I’m reading or that I’ve entered an age of more reflection. But as I drive to meet a friend briefly for a long-talked-about cup of coffee, I think, “Is this what my life is?”
In 45 minutes, I have to be back at the church in Chapel Hill where I just dropped my children off for classes. I’ll pick them up and we’ll grab lunch out because I’ve forgotten to make time to pack food and we don’t have the time to head back home before our next class in Durham. I’m thinking about the work that I need to get done, and I am restless even as I spend time at this coffee shop nestled in bamboo and art. When our school day ends around 4:30, we’ll head home to start our weekend. But for me, it will be a too-short weekend fitting in writing, editing and planning for our next school week.
It’s not that I am unhappy. I am happy. I am grateful to spend so much time with my children. I am challenged by my work. And after nearly 19 years of married life, I am still in love with my husband. But I feel hurried. I want to pause time. I want to savor the moments that bring me bliss.
It must be a common wish. As my women’s book club discussed our latest random selection this month, “The Geography of Bliss,” we ended up talking a lot about our own happiness. Gretchen Rubin’s best-selling self-help memoir “The Happiness Project” came up and ignited a whole discussion of starting our own project. I plan to, but I want my family to do it with me.
Flipping through the book, I already see that a lot of the goals the author set for herself are goals my husband and I have talked about. We know going to bed earlier will make us happier. We’ll be rested and less snippy with each other. I’ll be more patient when my daughters make never-ending, off-topic comments that I suspect are well-planned tactics to avoid schoolwork. Yet I still haven’t met the 10 p.m. bedtime we agreed to. A friend says Rubin’s book offers a vehicle for commitment and accountability. Perhaps she’s right. I know my husband’s right.
I know my happiness is tied to the structure and organization of our lives, and I know it starts with the basics. If I got more sleep, I’d have more time, I’d be more efficient, I’d be a better mom.
Catherine Wright homeschools, works part time for the Town of Hillsborough and does freelance writing and editing. She’s working now on a little more bliss too. Write to her at email@example.com.