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Sunday, October 27, 2013

because happiness is like an ice cream cone

"What if you never get it back?" she asked. "What if you never, ever get your happy back?"

On Thursday night I met someone who asked me: When things went to hell all at once, had I considered the fact that I might never be happy again?

This thought stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to be honest with her. I owed her that. I owe you that.

The answer is yes. Yes, I did think about the fact that I would never be happy again after all the losses that happened all at once:  losing the baby (and almost losing my life in the process), losing my job as a celebrity reporter for MSN, along with the loss of my identity, stability and paycheck. It was the worst of times. There were dizzying weeks when I stayed in bed and couldn't bear to see the light of day. I could not imagine ever being happy again. How could I when I didn't even recognize what my life had become?

One day, however, several months later in late summer I was eating a strawberry out on the deck in the sunshine and that single strawberry was the tastiest, strawberriest berry in the history of strawberries and I smiled because it was just so good. I hadn't smiled in so long that the simple act just felt so foreign. It was the first happy moment I had following the six months of hellfire.

And I felt guilty because I was happy.

Just a little tingle of happy.

I thought "I can't allow myself to be happy. Look what I lost. My daughter should be here enjoying this strawberry with me. What kind of person can be happy after what I've been through?"

It was only after talking this through with a therapist and my priest that I understood that by letting myself enjoy moments of happiness that I wasn't forgetting about Grace. Instead I was honoring her by living my life, by trying to be the best person I knew how to be.

As we talked about losing your happy I said "I think happiness is like an ice cream cone. Let's say you love Chocolate Cake Batter ice cream. It's your favorite. It makes you happy. Nothing makes you happier than a Chocolate Cake Batter ice cream cone. Then one day you step up to the counter at your favorite little ice cream store and they have discontinued Chocolate Cake Batter ice cream. What do you do?"

She looked at me "I don't know. What do I do?"

I smiled at her and said "You order another flavor. Strawberry Butterscotch Swirl. And you're not sure at first but then the new taste settles in and you're happy. You like it.  In fact, it might even be better than Chocolate Cake Batter."

I may never be with George Clooney again at the Hotel Du Cap in the South of France. I will never know the bliss of holding Grayson in her pajamas after a bath. That happiness is gone BUT there are other flavors of happiness. There was an unforgettable, perfect evening this summer with my best friends enjoying dinner by candlelight at the Cape Cod beach house. I've spent time with my nieces just relaxing by the lake, laughing and splashing. My husband and I survived an impossible loss but we have each other and sometimes we laugh so hard that we can't breathe. I'd like to think Grace sees us happy and that it tickles her soul. It takes time but you do find a new flavor of ice cream, a new happiness. It won't be exactly the same but it's ice cream, right? You just have to be open to liking something new.

As I was talking I saw it register across her face. She smiled at me. We talked a little more about her life and that moving forward takes guts. It takes energy to plow through the sadness. As we parted she said "Do you think I could like Strawberry Butterscotch Swirl?"

"I do," I replied. "I think you could like it very much." We hugged.

I turned to leave. As I walked towards the door I looked back at her still sitting in the shoe section. She was smiling wide.

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