I watched a documentary last night called Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak. And it both made me both sad and, more importantly, determined. One of the saddest things that I have witnessed is seeing people that were so disappointed with what life gave them that they were miserable to the smaller blessings in it. They dwelled in a constant sense that they had been cheated in some overarching way. Sendak is unhappy and angry, he was at the end of his life and I think in a way wanted things to be over. At the time of filming he was a year out of losing his partner of the last 50 years to cancer. He would both speak of being angry and not liking anything or anyone and yet would stop and speak with lingering love of those who had brought joy to his life, and his immense sadness at them not being at his side any longer. He has moments of appreciation for the good in his life, but it seems far outstripped by his anger and disappointment.
I am in a new place in my life. After making every effort while I was married, I have divorced. I am a parent. I am navigating being in a relationship. I have lived much of my life vicariously through the happiness of others, of feeling my successes through the smoothness of the running of my family life, at the joy and happiness of my child and partner. I have joked that I was trained as a child to do this, everyone was more important than me.
But I have made some changes. I know what I offer in my friendships, my relationships, and as a mother. I know the quality of me. I have changed how I interact with those in my life. I am a demanding friend, lover, and parent. I can think back on many times that I have broached conversations with my young daughter on how I expect her to treat me and that she will always receive the same levels of love and respect back.
I ask a lot now in my relationship, because I have lived a life of unhappy thankless concessions and I will never do that again. I look around my life and I am happy. I am happy with where I am and what I have. I am happy to be in a process of my happiness, and realization that continuing to be happy will require work, negotiation, and sometimes agreeable concessions to those I love.
I never want to look back on the end of things and ask “Is this it? Is this all there is?”
I want to know and take comfort that my life is a happy collection of moments, experiences, and love.
And to throw out a quote that I have referenced a million time and never stops being appropriate, “Yes! Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
But it is more than making life an event and squeezing excitement from it. It is pausing and reflecting and appreciating the quiet moments of happiness and appreciating every single person in your life that brings you joy. It is never being the person that limits the happiness in your own life. Never throw yourself under someone else’s wheels in a hope that they will remember your sacrifice lovingly as they happily move on in their life. Choose you, relish in it, and live.