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Life is full of gorgeous moments that take my breath away — the sky at sunset, my children’s laughter, my mother’s smile, the sight of my husband cleaning. When I find myself in the midst of one of these soul-satisfying experiences, I suck every last ounce of happiness out of it like the inside of a jelly doughnut.
The question is, do we really need hard times in life to appreciate the marvelous ones? Because I’m pretty sure if we missed out on all of the awful things, we would still be grateful for greatness. Does anybody really take greatness for granted?
For argument’s sake, let’s say I was living on a yacht like Beyonce, sailing around Saint Tropez, popping out twins and looking fabulous. I’m fairly confident I’d be thankful. I would know I had it good ’cause everybody around me would call me “Queen Bey,” and I’d be married to Jay-Z. I would not need the yacht to break down or some tropical storm intervening to remind me to enjoy life on the upper-deck.
I would appreciate the wind and how it ruffles my amazing hair, every, damn, day.
But I’m not Queen Bey. The real question is, how do the rest of us mere mortals reconcile these moments of breathtaking beauty with our normal, humdrum, it’s Tuesday, time to take the trash out kind of lives? Whether we’re living the dream or just living, we’re still here. Still taking the trash out, still baking a casserole and doing the dishes afterward. Still harping on our kids to clean their rooms and put away their laundry.
So what is it that keeps us feeling like that next moment of gorgeous happiness is right around the corner?
Maybe we’re happiness camels, and we store these precious moments of felicity in our hump while making the long trek across the desert, searching out one blessed water stop after another. You know, camels always look so cool, even when it’s hot with lots of hair and that awful hump, maybe two, on their backs.
You never hear a camel complaining.
They take the heat, the sand, the lack of water and the weight of the world on their hump like champs. They keep the bit in their mouth, a saddle or something like a bag on their back and they just keep walking through the sandstorm like there’s nothing to see here (probably because they can’t see anything in a sandstorm).
I want to be more like a camel and less like a donkey. No offense to Eeyore, but I’m tired of hearing people say, “End of the road, nothing to do, and no hope of things gettin better. Sounds like Saturday night at my house.” An unhappy donkey is bad news. They’ll chew stuff (fences, barns, trees) and they can be quite mouthy. Apparently, two camels are much easier to live with than one sad donkey.
My kids laugh at me because my inner Eeyore comes out with one person in my life. No matter what kind of day I’ve had, when I talk to my mom on the phone, I always sound like I’ve been through the wringer. I could’ve had a phenomenal day, but when I hear the sympathy in my mother’s voice, I tell her the one thing that went wrong.
Why do I do that?
Maybe my mom is my water stop, and I feel like I can tell her what bothers me. Maybe that’s it, that’s the key that helps people transition from donkeys to camels. We all need a safe person — a cool, watery oasis. We need someone to remind us that happiness is just around the corner. When we give ourselves a moment to be Eeyore with someone, we can actually turn the corner and head back into the sandstorm.
People help us find a way to move through it and keep going. Whether we need hard times or not, we’re all going to have them. When we keep trekking, rather than hemming and hawing at everyone we meet, we choose to be like the camel. Me, I’m going to embrace the hump on my back and accessorize with some cool saddlebags.
This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s November 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.