Happiness Is A State of Mind

Jacqueline - Chevy Chase, Maryland
Entered on February 27, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe that happiness is a state of mind. It is not a conclusion I have come to easily– it took me 39 years and a little seasoning to realize this. We Arrowsmiths are not naturally half full kind of people.

I first realized that I was a half-empty kind of gal when I was preparing for my Bat Mitzvah. That’s when the Cantor asked me what I saw when I looked at a glass – was it half full or half empty? There was never any question: the glass was half-empty. At that moment, the cantor knew that I should read my Torah portion instead of trying to chant it. I would not feel good if I tried to chant: all I would hear were the millions of places that I could not get it quite right.

Fast forward to January 2007, when I learned that I was pregnant. I was euphoric. It didn’t matter how off the charts my stress level was – whether I was worrying about my fiancé or work — I was happy – almost sickeningly so. I had always heard that being pregnant makes women feel off balance – it had the opposite effect on me. It stabilized my mood more than the pills I had been taking for years. Maybe “normal” women feel off balance when they’re pregnant and the rest of us actually feel more balanced.

I will never forget the moment when my fiancé told me that he thought I was pregnant. I assumed there was NO way it could happen so easily. I was 39. He was 53. I was sure that I had developed some type of infertility syndrome by watching the frustration and pain of close friends who had been unable to conceive. I did not think my fiancé would adopt if it turned out that we had fertility problems, but I also knew that, as a couple, neither of us could handle the ups and downs of fertility treatment. But we weren’t married yet. Would he be happy if I got pregnant? I worried about what would happen if and when we conceived, and/or what would happen if we failed to conceive. Then I worried some more.

With some exceptions, we are all ultimately responsible for our own happy state of mind. I now realize that the obstacle preventing me from being happy was letting go of my expectations–of my close friends, my family, and of my career. But what enabled my on-and-off-again romance to become a marriage and what has allowed me to be happy is that I no longer hold my husband responsible for my happiness and I really try to savor good times. While I do everything I can to make my husband and young son happy, and to make everyone around me feel cared for, ultimately everyone is responsible for his or her own feelings. Just as I now believe that my being happy is mostly up to me.