I was asked yesterday, “Are you Happy?” “What makes you happy?”
My immediate response was, “Oh my, that is a difficult question to answer!”
All my life the most difficult and scariest questions to answer have been: What do you want? What do you like? How do you feel? What do you want to eat? What do you want for Christmas or for your birthday?
I thought about it for a few seconds and realized something very deep for me. It is connection that makes me happy. It is also what makes me unhappy.
I do not have an attachment to things and I mean this in a very unusual sense. This is something that often drives my husband nuts about me. I can buy clothes or something that I may have really wanted and let the bag or package sit for days. He doesn’t understand this about me. He is like a kid and can’t wait to open a package or use something we just bought.
I know we all have a need for connection. It is a human need we all share.
But when I answered this question, I don’t think my friend even realized how serious I was. Neither of us paused to process my answer. The fact that I could answer it at all was huge for me. It was a revelation for me.
From this answer, it is as if I have been able to watch my whole life unfold before me. And truly the happiness and sorrows of my life are experienced and felt from the peaks and deep valleys of each. I think this was so profound for me because, while my soul, my gifts and talents are directly related to connection with others, I have had very, very few deep lasting connections in my life. As far back as I can remember, I have been lonely. I don’t mean lonely in the respect of not liking being alone. I am a very private person and need my alone time. I am talking about a feeling of being alone that pierces deep into my very existence.
I don’t like people who play games with other people’s hearts. For some reason people who play games love having people who need connection in their lives. They too love connection, but for different reasons. They love having other people feel connected to them and then they come close and pull away and are always hurting you. I used to think this was a deliberate act. And for many it is. But for some people, I believe it may even be done unconsciously. Their need for connection is for others to need them, to look up to them. They always have more than one “special” person in their lives so that no one feels too special. And everyone’s feelings are all about them. They talk about connection, but their fear of it causes them to use other people in ways that makes life painful for everyone but them. Are they afraid to lose you? Yes, but not for the same reasons you are. They don’t want to lose the attention which they view as connection. They are there for you, but only to an extent. They are always withholding love, affection, attention, encouragement in some form or another. In other words, what they say and what they do never matches. It leaves you confused and hurt a lot!
When you have been sexually abused, your sense of self is gone! Did you hear what I just said? It is gone! Gone! Not only does your abuser not care about you, you lose connection with everyone else in this world. Unless someone rescues you or loves you back to life.
Unfortunately for many of us, this is not the case.
And when this has been done to you, connections are difficult enough without having to deal with halfhearted commitments and carelessness. It is cruel and unusual punishment. My life has been riddled with people like this.
When my father died when I was eight, with the sexual abuse still going on, and my mother disappeared out of my life, I lived a very alone existence. It is hard to laugh or smile or enjoy anything in life. So no, I have not spent my life being happy. I found joy in my children, in the connection I thought I would always have with them. For the first time in my life, I had someone that was mine. That I could love and nurture and never lose. Unfortunately, I lost three of them before I ever got to know them. And because of being married to a psychopath and the effect they inevitably had on all of us, I have lost too much from the children who lived.
I long for connection. I am not so sure this hasn’t worked against me in life. Needing to be connected has just let people hurt me more and deeper. I don’t have the means do deal with people’s harshness, their insensitivity, their carelessness, their ignorance.
While I never try to hurt anyone, I am extremely tolerant of others, probably to a fault. So while connection is what I long for, responding appropriately to hurt is probably the bigger issue: knowing how to say no, to push back, to even just say ouch, and knowing when to just walk away. While I stay way too long in these situations, I have managed to always eventually walk away. I just need to learn to do it sooner.
Since seeing Lucy, I have come to realize that when someone genuinely supports you it is very obvious. It is something that is hard to fake. I have been sharing with her my poetry and writing as a means for her to get to know me. And it has been very helpful to her. What has really taken me by surprise is her genuine support of my writing. It is consistent and real. I can see it in her face and feel it in her words. Other than my husband, she has been the only person to genuinely support me in this area of my life. I never have to question what either of them truly think or feel about it. They are consistent and always supportive. They don’t fear my success and they accept me just the way I am.
Maybe this is what has been missing in my life. I have needed enough wholehearted people in my life in order to have something to compare all the halfhearted insincere people who have been in my life. You cannot fake support. Our true intentions always come through. And when they are insincere, it always hurts others. But when it is genuine, there is clarity and joy.
I just heard a short talk by Brené Brown this morning, she mentioned how some people often take advantage of the closest people in their lives, those who would always be there for them. Instead they are willing to ignore them to seek the attention of others. These are what you would call not good friends and certainly not people we should share our story with.
This question has left a deep impression on me. What makes me happy is what also hurts me, connection! The withholding of affection or connection in any relationship is cruel for whatever reason we do it. You never know the connection that person has with you may be the only one they have, or one of only a few they have ever had.
The real connection that has been missing is my connection to myself. And hopefully the more connected I become to myself, the easier it will be to disconnect from those who don’t really have my best interest at heart.
What makes me happy? Sincerity, honesty, kindness, loyalty, love, consistency, real genuine lasting connection!
I love the following quote:
The way you make someone feel is what really determines the degree of mutual lasting connection. And actions speak much louder than words!