“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it's all that matters.” — Audrey Hepburn
Ah, happiness. The stuff of legend, self help books, debated meanings, and more. I could write a lot here but I'm going to keep it short. Mostly because it's back to reality today and "real" work awaits. While I am an Audrey Hepburn fan, when I first read the quote, I thought, "no it's not." And then I thought, what is the most important thing? And what does it mean to be happy? And maybe it is. Or maybe there is no "most important thing."
But if I think about it more as being fulfilled - filled up with joy, happiness, satisfaction, contentment, I do think those things are often what I'm aiming for, but I don't know if I should be. And, the trying to be happy, the goal of happiness, while I definitely want it, I think may be what makes it elude me. My internal monologue tells me to live life, one foot in front of the other, without happiness goals in mind, but rather that whole eating, sleeping, taking care of myself and others at the forefront.
Professional pursuits seem to complicate this happiness thing for me. Because there's so much tied in to them. I have been lucky enough to mostly enjoy the work I have done over the years. I think that much of that has to do with the choices I've made to do work in service - or work that helps other people in service to others. So, on the bad days, on the tired days, on the "why am I doing this?" days, there's a pretty solid answer that helps me keep going. Before having children, I mostly kept my head down and worked long hours to accomplish the projects, the tasks, the improvements to the systems. I got paid enough to not worry about things and married someone who was even more driven about work than I was. I definitely had moments where I questioned the kind of work I was doing or the kind of life we were leading, but for the most part it was working.
A lot of thought went in to having kids, trying to time it, understanding from the minute we began down that path, that my life, especially, would never, ever be the same. No matter what decision I made about working and not working. And since then, it's been a bit of a roller coaster. Some days I try to ride it, and some days I try to get it shut down, and some days I watch it go around and around and around again trying to become less afraid of it, to figure out how it works. This all begins for me with having the financial luxury of choosing whether I work or not, which makes me feel whiny and ridiculous for obsessing the way I do about it. But, here we are.
Most of the time, I want to be with my kids. And, most of the time I think that I am the best person for the job of being with them. But, not all of the time. And, I think it's better for all of us that we're not together 100% of the time. So, I've mostly done some configuration of part-time work since they were born. It's been tricky and changed many times because, as flexible as the people I've worked with and for have been, part-time is always sort of a mess, both with meeting expectations at work and with figuring out childcare. There is a long list of ways that I've made it logistically more difficult in attempts to make it easier in other emotional, quality ways, but who knows if I've succeeded. I do feel like I've been in transition for six plus years at this point and think with each experience I learn something that helps me do it better the next time in the next iteration. But, as I've mentioned, I'm tired.
I've been lucky to be highly valued by those I work with and consistently had partners at work and home that help me make it work for them and for me. I don't take this support and collaboration lightly.
On the home front, I couldn't feel more lucky (most of the time) with my husband and two children. And our parents/grandparents and aunts, uncles, both close in proximity and with strong and growing relationships. We've got issues and problems, but it's a good life. But sometimes I create drama where it doesn't exist. That drives us all nuts. I make it seem like there are choices where there are none and vice versa.
Am I happy? Most of the time. I think so. Do I always strive for better? Most of the time. Do I sometimes chase an imaginary, romatic notion of the perfect life of birds chirping and no fighting and no logistics to figure out? More often than I should. When we have those "moments" do I see them and revel in them for a few seconds? I think so. Do I need to get over the striving? Yes. Do I think I'm making progress? Today. A tiny bit.