“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” ~ Aristotle

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So, what does it mean to be happy?  Really think about it.  Everyone says that all they want from life is to be happy…but what is it?  Contentment?  Security?  Being loved?  Having a family?  Enjoying your career?  A minimization of stresses?  Is happiness the addition of good things/feelings, or a subtraction of the bad?  Is it a concept like ‘love’ that has a different meaning for everyone?

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I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately for a variety of reasons.  I used to think that my happiness stemmed around having a family.  The white picket fence, “Leave it to Beaver” type family I always wanted for myself, and I pretty much had that when O was a little guy and his dad and I were raising him for the 13 years we were together.  I can honestly say that was the ‘happiest’ time in my life since being a mama and wife meant so much to me.  It was also then that I was hired as an adjunct instructor, got a full-time position, and then was rising up the ranks to being a professor.  It was almost like the stars were aligned just right and everything that I had ever wanted came together.

Fast forward to my life now, single and living alone, and I ask myself if I’m happy like this.  I never thought I’d be because here’s a secret for you:  I was always VERY scared to be alone.  VERY.

Even when others were at home with me, but I was upstairs while they were downstairs, I’d still be scared!  Sometimes sissy would spend the night with someone and my parents would get me in bed before they went down to watch TV.  I would lay in bed shaking…literally.  My family used to laugh at how I’d sleep with all of my stuffed animals in my bed to where they surrounded me like a fence, but it was my safety net, so to speak.  If anything could scare off a monster or axe murder, it was my pink bunny with the ears pulled off.  I don’t think they know this or not, but I often snuck out of my room and would sit on the steps for a time just so I could hear them talk and the TV playing.  I felt much safer then.

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Ted Bundy…Seattle Times.

Then, it was around the time I was in the 6th grade or so that ma started working outside the home full-time (and yes, I used to roll my eyes at that expression but after raising a son, I’m here to tell you that professoring is a freaking breeze compared to the work load of mommying) and my sissy was in High School.  Ma would drop her off and I’d get myself off to school.  No biggie…right?  I had 2 blocks to walk and I was only home for a half hour or so before leaving.  But I was petrified every single morning (which is why I often called T in sick to school so her friends could come over for a skip day, courtesy of my excellent imitation of mom’s voice that the school secretary never questioned) and having T at home for that 1/2 hour before I tottered off to school made me so much more comfortable.  If anyone could stave off a Ted Bundy wannabe, it was T!

Even as an adult, I was scared.  When M (Hubby 1) and I were married, he often had to work 3rd shift and I was alone in our green trailer (if I never see a toilet the color of a rotten avocado, I’ll die content).  I’d pack up Scooter (my first ever dog), Sheldon (my parakeet) and myself and traipse over to ma’s to spend the night in my old room.  She was married to R at the time (get ready for it…the fucking bastard) but even spending the night in the same house as him was preferable to being by myself.  That, my sweet peeps, says a lot.

When O’s dad and I got married, we moved a couple of states away and sometimes he’d have to go on 2 day trips around Kansas (very exciting stuff) while I stayed at home with my baby.  I couldn’t go to moms unless I wanted to drive 14 hours, so I’d barricade me and O in my bedroom with my German Shepherd posted outside the door (God bless you, Tessie) and would count the hours until morning.  Hubby never understood why I was so freaking tired when he got home since O could sleep through the night by that time.

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The real Bloody Mary – First Queen of England

I don’t know what did it, but being alone started to change for me when I was married to Hubby 3.  He spent his summers riding with his motorcycle club (gang 😳) and I was alone for 3 day weekends all through the season, as well as during his  4-5 day trips.  I hated it at first, but then started savoring more and more of the aloneness (is that even a word?).  I liked having the time to do whatever it was I wanted to do, but yes, I was still really scared at night.  Do you remember the game “Bloody Mary”, where you look in a mirror, chant that phrase, and then you’ll actually see her ghost appear?  Because of that damn ‘game’, I couldn’t sleep in a room with a mirror for ages.  So, when Hubby was gone, I’d put a blanket over my dresser mirror that faced the bed, and hoped for the best.  Eventually, I took it down…believe it or not, that was a huge step for me!  (P.S.  She never appeared…go figure 🙄).

So here I am now…alone.  Everything I didn’t want to be but suddenly the situation I find myself in.  Surprisingly though, I don’t hate it and in fact, sometimes I really love it!  You see, I used to depend on others to make me feel secure.  Safe.  And to go even further with it validated…important…needed…and yes, happy too.  I sought these things from everyone I had been in a relationship with.  I wanted them to be the one stop shop where I could get all I needed just from them.  I wanted them to be responsible for the things that made me ‘happy’ and as you well know by now, those situations didn’t last.

You know, I used to hate it when people would say:  “You are responsible for your own happiness.”  OK…I’ll jot that down in my little book of advice.  But actually, it’s true.  I think I turned away from the gist of that phrase because I didn’t want the responsibility of my own happiness.  I didn’t want to learn to depend on me.  Feel safe with me.  Feel secure with me.  That sounded like a crap load of work, and it was so much easier to put that onus on someone else and then blame them when I wasn’t happy.  Right?  Why take on a job when you can pass it along to another?  (By the way sis, you still owe me a vacuuming from 1980 when I did it for you that one afternoon before ma got home…just sayin’).

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So, I’ve been put in a situation where I’m having to depend only on me.  If I want to feel secure, I am the one to make that happen.  If I want to feel safe, I have to understand I can take care of myself.  If I want to feel content…fulfilled…’happy’…then it’s up to me to create that environment to do so.  Period.  Me.  Just good old (cough cough) me.

And guess what?  I’m doing it!  Over these past months, I’ve learned so much about myself.  I’ve learned how much stronger I am.  How much more capable.  I’ve learned to take care of me…by myself.  I’ve come to understand I can weather storms with just me, Eddie, and Little Dot and it’s empowering every time.  I have finally come to see that depending on me is something I’ve needed for a long long time.  I’ve also learned something so so important:  that being with someone who creates unhappiness for you is so much worse than simply being alone.  I don’t NEED anyone to fulfill my needs now (although having one of those fulfilled…ahem…would be sorta nice), I’m doing just fine on my own.

So, back to my original question:  is this what happiness is…at least for me?  Yes.  I think it is.  I know when I wake up, I smile.  I know doing things around my house to make it exactly the way I want it makes me proud.  I know that watching Eddie and Dottie play out in the yard makes me laugh.  I know that watching stupid movies and eating dinner on the couch with Eddie’s head on my lap makes me feel a sense of contentment.  Maybe this wouldn’t be enough for someone else.  Maybe it’s too ‘little’…after all, I’m not traveling the world or jumping out of a plane, but it’s what I like.  And for me…that seems to be my happiness.

I still cry.  I still deal with issues relating to being bipolar.  I still get scared at times…lonely…sad.  I still miss having a partner at times.  I still want a picket fence family again.  Right now, I’m cycling through a bit of a manic stage but with some depression in the mix (it’s such a weird feeling to be on top of the world while crying at times), and the other day, I was really struggling.  I reached out to a friend and asked if they could come over for even just a few minutes to give me a hug and reassure me I was going to be OK.  They couldn’t so I weathered the storm on my own, and came out just fine.  By myself.  All by myself.  And…I was so proud.

For me, this is all happiness.  Knowing that no matter what happens to me in life, I’ll always have myself.  I’m happy with being ‘just’ me.  I’m happy with how I’m living right now and what I’m doing.  Maybe happiness is different for everyone, but sometimes I think people seek it too much in things…or in other people…or in constantly striving for that ‘something’ else that will miraculously fulfill them and make them believe they have finally reached the nirvana they sought.  I’m thinking it’s a little more than that…and a little less.  I’m thinking that it really does come from within…that it’s not money or cars or houses or others.  It’s you, and being content with who you are.  That, grasshoppers, is enough…at least for me.

Kristi xoxo

“You could get used to anything if you had to. She knew that now.” ~ Stephen King (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon)

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So, I was talking to a guy from high school and we were getting close when we had a couple of arguments, which ended in him breaking things off.  Later, he messaged me and said it was my fault since I have so many issues I won’t face, but that he got a message from another gal (DD boobs…he included that information to make me feel bad about my own physique which isn’t quite as big as this 😐), who is also bipolar (what’s the chance since only about 2.8% of the population has the actual diagnosis as determined by a professional), and miraculously issue free and ‘normal’.  Okey dokey.  Good to know that a well endowed woman with a serious mental illness is fine and dandy.  Kudos to her. 😳

Now, are you fucking kidding me?  I DON’T face my issues?  Don’t fess up that I have things going on because of being bipolar as well as experiences I have had?  Then what, in hells name, am I writing about?  OMG (please say that in a Valley Girl voice).  I fess up to everything, including a lot of things that aren’t even my fault, per se.  My goodness… I’ve taken blame for the whole shebang of  anything that’s ever happened to me in this world.  Yeesh.  (Note, I don’t take blame for this pandemic and I had nothing to do with the quarantine.  I’m an extrovert…quarantines are very difficult for us.  Just sayin’).

Anyhoot, these last 8 months of being partner free has shown me there are actually a lot of advantages to being single, and I have come to realize that being alone and healthy is so much better than being with someone and unhealthy.  I wish I would have had this epiphany earlier in life.

Let me tell you, even the little advantages living single has are pretty peachy:  like putting something down and having it there waiting for me in the same place when I need it again.  Unless of course, I put something down and forget where the damn thing is because my memory sucks balls.

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I LOVE filling my fridge with what I want!  I get to go down the aisles of the grocery store (Aldi’s…it rocks) and toss in anything and everything that sounds good to me.  Then, when I get home and unload, with Dottie and Eddie looking on expectantly for more goodies, no one is there to say “Why are you buying so much of this?  Why in the heck did you get that stuff again?”  “We’re having chicken again this week?”  (Yes, we are having chicken ‘again’ because it’s the only thing I know how to make half way decently).  I get any food I want, and then eat what I feel like while watching bad auditions on America’s Got Talent, without worrying if I have a piece of spinach caught in my front teeth (which is common…my teeth are magnets for globs)…it’s bliss.

Showering is a biggie too: my shampoos and conditioners and face washes and body gels and shaving cream, etc. are all organized in my caddy and they stay that way.  Plus, when I pick up my favorite conditioner and squeeze, it’s not empty.  And my razor?  The blade is how I left it…it’s not been used on a scratchy beard and neck which causes it to be dull and therefore shreds my already old lady legs.  That, my dear peeps, is absolutely wonderful.

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If I want to start a load of laundry at midnight…OK.  If I want to stack up my dishes until after I finish my macrame project (I’m on a macrame kick…my entire house is being decorated with cotton cording and no one is rolling their eyes), I will.  If I want to wash my windows, again, OK…no one is bitching about how I already did it 3 years ago and therefore, they don’t want to help.  If I want to vacuum and admire the blob of hair, fur, dust, yarn bits, and beads while emptying my shark, I will without someone saying how gross that is.  If I set my mower blade too low and cut my grass to within an inch of it’s life so I don’t have my pooches dragging in so much, by golly, I’ll be naughty and do it.  The yard is all mine….muahahaha.  If I want the dogs on the couch and cuddled up next to me, there’s no one looking at them jealously and telling me dogs belong on the floor (well Mister, you belong out the door, so there).  If I want to skip the deodorant, not wash my hair everyday, postpone the shaving for another week, and wear a blue nightie with red Crocs at night, I can.  And hells bells, if I want to watch 90 Day Fiance’ and yell advice to the screen (because we all know what a relationship expert I am 🙄), I’ll do it.  Like the song says, little things mean a lot, peeps.

In terms of biggies, I think one of the best things I’m experiencing, which is a very different feeling for me, is that I’m no longer walking on eggs.  Look, it’s no secret in the study of marriage and family (which my M.S. is in…shutty the mouthy) that men tend to set the emotional tone in a relationship, good or bad (there are exceptions of course, but overall this holds true).  Think about it:  a dad has a bad day at work and mama says:  “Kids…keep it down tonight, your dad has had a bad day at work.”  But when mama has a bad day, who the fuck cares just so dinner is on the table, the laundry is done, and bills have been paid (P.S.  I had to take a quick break…I forgot to make my Jeep payment 🙄).

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I’ve walked on eggs for most of my life.  R, the asswipe that abused my mom for so many years, made anyone and everyone in my mom’s life step lightly and carefully.  The consequence of not doing so was mom getting hurt which was a far too great of risk to take.  If he got upset that person was yelled at, but my mom was ultimately the physical scapegoat for his anger.  I couldn’t bear to let that happen, so I learned fairly early on to smile, nod, agree, and tread as softly as I could.  With Hubby 1 and 2?  Not quite as bad, but still felt I was often  balancing on a tightrope, and one slip could mean the end of things.  Then, with Hubby 3 (shutty…one of these days I’ll make y’all a freaking chart) and J?  Eggs were all over the place.  Actually, landmines might be a more accurate description.   The nerves this wrought showed themselves physically (I aged a LOT in 13 years…more than probably necessary and thank you Lady Clairol for your help now) as well as psychosomatically:  tummy aches, tension headaches, backaches, tightness in neck and shoulders, etc.  And the mind?  Feeling that I couldn’t express myself…speak assertively for myself…actually be myself.  And now?  None of that.  I never knew how much those freaking eggs affected me, until I was on firm ground again.

And talk about people pleasing.  No matter how much I tried to please my exes, it was never enough.  Never.  I always felt like I should be giving more, doing more, and expecting less.  But I now have someone else to put that energy into pleasing (besides Eddie and Dottie), and that’s me.  And goodness gracious, I’m very appreciative of the spoiling 😍.

Finally, I am so relieved of not always being scrutinized in terms of having bipolar.  Look, if I’m experiencing a bad day, you don’t have to bring up the fact that I’m mentally ill…I tend to remember I am.  If I’m angry, sad, elated, hyper, depressed, whatever yes, I know I have bipolar; please don’t ask me if I took my meds 😬 and then tell me life would be easier if I just put more effort into it (heh?  I’ll work on changing my brain physiology asap).  You know, when I was married to O’s dad and was in a bad mood (hard to believe, huh?), here’s what he would say: “So, ya got PMS…right?”  Wrong, buddy.  Sometimes women can be in bad moods because of things other than Aunt Flow visiting.  Like, for example, you missing a dinner it took me an hour to make because you were working on a car and forgot there was a phone 3 feet from your face (just pulled that out of my ass 🙄).  Yes, bipolar has lots of fun symptoms, but I’m not ‘just’ bipolar.  I’m actually so much more than that, and not having it thrown in my face at convenient times (like, when someone doesn’t want to take responsibility for their own actions), is relieving.  Truly.

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You know, I used to be anxious about ‘being’ single because of a divorce/break-up, but over the last few months I’ve learned how freeing it really is.  I’m now making a conscious choice to stay single for a time (or forever knowing the prospects out there) because I’m finally living life on my terms….in my own way.  I’m discovering more and more about myself everyday, and am liking what I see.  I’m happy.  Strong.  Capable.  Content.  Proud.  And grasshoppers, if that’s not an advantage to living alone, I don’t know what is.

Kristi xoxo