Saying 'I'm Happy' Out Loud

Would you believe that just writing those five words made my stomach clench? Years ago, the leader of my women's group in Los Angeles suggested that it was easier to talk about our problems than our joys, even with our closest friends, because most of us are more comfortable with unhappiness. That shocked me, and I vowed to pay attention and try to 'share' in a different way.

For a while I was more balanced in what and how I shared, but eventually life intruded: divorce, problems with kids, work issues, the death of my parents, illness. Wait a minute! Where were the joyous subjects? Did I even think about them most of the time, let alone talk about them?

Yesterday I found myself gushing in my own mind about all the bounty in my life and Iimmediately became uncomfortable. Because of that women's group, I refused to let go of my overflowing sense of well-being. I was happy! There were lots of reasons for my good cheer. My partner of almost seven years had come back from a trip to see his family in Santa Barbara, California. Most of the time he was gone I enjoyed my time alone: I could get more work done; I could see some of the friends I frequently didn't have time for; I could eat whatever I wanted to eat without worrying about what he might want or like and I could just hang out with myself. But the last two days my demons took hold, and I began to think that he might come home and tell me he had to move back to California because that was 'his place.' He is part native-American, and that part of his heritage has informed his adult life. Nevertheless, my fear was a bit overboard. A close friend suggested I share with him how wigged out I had become because I am generally pretty well put together. He might not realize how frightened I am of being abandoned. Though it didn't feel comfortable, share I did. And he was surprised, touched and totally reassuring. He loved me and his life was good. Why would he leave? Sharing my vulnerability with him deepened our intimacy.

What else was making me feel so content? My two grown daughters call me a few times a week. We don't always talk about deep, serious or intense personal issues, but we talk with regularity and we like one another. They both urge me to visit, though one lives over eight hours away. Each of them calls me when they are facing a difficult choice or situation, which tells me that they trust me. What a boon. I know many women my age could not say the same thing about their relationships with their grown children. Of course, my grandchildren contribute to my happiness, too. They both have broad smiles on their faces when my car pulls up in front of their house and the older child, who is talking up a storm at age 4, yells, "Gramma!' with absolute delight when he sees my car.

Although a life-long friend has turned away from our friendship for a variety of reasons and that has been very painful, my newer friends have rallied around me. Mutual support counts for us all. They are an active, lively, engaged group who greatly enrich my life. I have come to accept that though some people fade away over time, others take their place.

There is one final piece to my surprising state of mind. In July, I was honored by a national women's group with over 200,000 members for the memoir/workbook I wrote several years ago, and I have been asked to speak about it at several women's organizations. Book sales are at an increase, as well as interest in my work. Might I add, knock on wood, I am healthy, and I work at that, too.

I do have to resist the urge to add some problems to this piece so I won't sound prideful, but I won't. Life this day, this week, this month is good, and I want to feel it. I'm old enough to enjoy all that has come my way and old enough to say so out loud. Why wait? Maybe admitting it to myself and to you will help these feelings last. One final thought: I call myself fortunate rather than lucky because I have been an active participant in working on the relationships that sustain me and the life I envisioned for myself. Today I'm relishing the rewards that have followed.