Thursday, June 05, 2008

Happiness

Ever taken a wild hair to go looking for something you know you have somewhere, but can't remember where you put it so you wouldn't forget what you did with it?

Somewhere around this house is a lengthy cross stitched proverb about how to live a happier life. I wanted to quote it and blog about it, but where ever it is, it's safe from me. You'll have to make due with the story about it.

I took up cross stitching briefly and under duress. It was the summer of 1991 and I'd just had a miscarriage at twelve weeks and was grieving. A friend came over one day and found me alone with eighteen month old Jeremiah while Gary was at work. I was having a difficult day. She was pregnant and just staring to show,(it seemed like all my friends were--and if you've ever been through this you know what I mean). It was hard to have her around and I really wanted her to go home. But once she made up her mind she was going to help, the recipient didn't get much choice. God bless Donna, where ever she is.

So she announced that I needed to learn to cross stitch. I objected. I can sew, crochet, etc, but just don't enjoy it enough to do so more than very occasionally. It just doesn't satisfy my need to create. Before I knew what was happening, she'd thrust a small square of canvas in my hands, selected a small pattern for me, and taught me how to count the squares and make the Xs. I decided I'd make just one thing to get her off my back.

A few days later I went to WalMart and bought my own cross stitching kit, not long after, I was making my own patterns and, after that, freehanding it. It was easy, it was addictive, and it gave my hands something to do in the evenings and on rainy days when I couldn't garden. I made Christmas ornaments, and cup towels and cutsey things to hang on the walls. This was unique to this period of time in my life. I am anything but artsy-craftsy. I can only tell you that it satisfied a need at the time and it helped me to heal.

Near Christmas, I ran across that proverb (the one that I can't find at present) and it captured the essence of what I discovered during those early sad weeks. That life is best lived simply and cultivating a taste for the simple joys is the best way to be happy. If loss (on any level) has a benefit, it teaches you to appreciate what you have left. Seventeen years later, I can honestly say that, in a strange way, it save Gary and I from our young selves, permanently altering what we saw as important. We became all about each other, our son, family, and friends and I am pleased to say, this hasn't changed. So the very last cross stitching project I took on before I put it all away for good was to stitch that proverb on a large piece of cross stitching canvas and hung it up.

This has stayed on the wall in our home for nearly sixteen years. As the boys came along I stuck small photos of them behind the frame with it to remind myself that they were a part of the equation. I never looked at it without remembering Donna, our huge garden that summer, all that cross stitching, the loss of that child who remains in my mind a little girl with blonde hair, and what I learned from it all.

I took it down a few months ago to clean it and it's gone where ever it's gone. When it surfaces again, I'll scan it and post it here.

Meanwhile--I did find a quote that is almost as good. I've known people who were doing exactly this--waiting until later to live their lives, spend time with their kids, spend time with friends, pursue their dreams. I've always felt a little sorry for them. I'll never forget the time one over-worked friend said, "Maybe someday I can afford to quit work and stay home with the kids." She and her husband were never home and their kids were being raised in daycares and by neighbors. They had all kinds of "toys" and money, but saw very little of each other. I remember looking at her and thinking, "Just how long do you think childhood lasts?" and I wondered just exactly when she planned to start living her life. (Two years later they had a huge wake up call when her husband fell apart emotionally. The last time we saw them, they were taking their kids camping--happier, peaceful people). Sadly too many people just never learn this lesson.

The quote:

So many of us had parts of our childhood that were painful and unpleasant. In order to escape, we often lived in our imaginations and dreamed of days in the future when life would be different, when it would finally be the way that we wanted it to be. This was the only way we thought we could have any control of our lives...when we grew up...when we could be in charge. As long as we continue to think we will be happy in the future, we will never be happy in the moment, and that is the same as saying that we will never be happy. If we think that our lives will be better when we get that better job or retire, stay or go, gain or lose weight, or when our children grow and leave or come back, we are putting off the happiness that there is in today. - Anonymous

4 comments:

jeanie said...

Well, its a good thing you didn't have to cross-stitch that whole quote!!

Happiness is definitely something to seek and appreciate each day.

Mary Paddock said...

The proverb I cross-stitched was longer.

I wasn't trying to write a book in those days. :)

Decidedly Bookish said...

Cross stitch = love. I'm working on a picture of Belle from Beauty and the Beast at the moment.

Fantastic quote. xxx

Mary Paddock said...

Hi DB. Good to see you and thanks.