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Everyone Happy All at Once

I recently read Amy Poeppel’s Small Admissions, and I really loved this sentiment towards the end of the book (on page 356). It’s about a group of friends and family trying to help one of their own through a difficult life change, and this thought comes after the storm, when the crisis has passed for the main character:

Happiness is not a zero-sum game. It’s the only case in which the resources are limitless, and in which the rich can get richer at no expense to anyone else. That day in the park, I found it remarkably easy to own my happiness and celebrate Kate’s as well.

It’s a strange thing, though, how rare, maybe impossible, it is to have everyone you care about thriving at the same time. For a short spell, life seems certain and stable, until something shifts and redistributes, randomly, unpredictably, and when you look around at the new landscape, you see that it’s someone else’s turn now. You redirect your attention to focus on the friend in need. You hope — you know — they will do the same for you, when your turn comes.

It’s incredibly fitting for our particular community; where people are simultaneously navigating their own happiness/unhappiness at the same time as other people’s opposite happiness/unhappiness.  Which, in the end, is maybe the universe’s way of making sure everyone potentially has their emotional needs met.

If we were all sad at the same time, no one would have the emotional reserves to dedicate their energy to others.  We need this imbalance, then, even if it’s hard to navigate in the moment; to have the happiness have to stand next to the sadness and vice versa.


1 Raven { 07.18.17 at 8:57 am }

This is so true…it is much easier to support others, when you are not also nursing your own wounds.

2 Beth { 07.18.17 at 11:01 am }

Yes. This is so true. My good friend was just matched with a birth mother and is agonizing over some decisions that need to be made immediately. A year ago she lost a baby through a failed adoption and is having many mixed emotions. 3 years and 6 years out from my own experiences, I feel like I can be a solid support to her. I have my happy endings and my own sad experiences are far enough in the past. And when she has her happy, she will be able to support another.

3 Lori Lavender Luz { 07.18.17 at 4:31 pm }

I think this feast/famine construct is applicable in other ways, too. For example, a guy cut me off in traffic the other day, kind of a boneheaded move rather than a jerk move. My kids were incensed and wanted me to honk and make sure he knew I busted him being stupid. But I remember that once in awhile I’m the boneheaded one. If I want grace, I must give grace.

So yes, over time we find ourselves on both sides of the balance. When on one side, we can remember what we needed when on the other.

4 Mali { 07.19.17 at 12:16 am }

I’m in two minds about this. The old phrase “misery loves company” is there for a reason. This community, for example, is established through a shared sadness – the inability to conceive or carry a baby easily. We support each other in a common sadness, in pursuit of a common goal. Yes, those who are less sad or stressed at a particular time (between cycles, or immersed in hope, for eg) may be able to help those going through intense sadness (at negative test results or during loss), but the uniting factor is that shared experience and sadness.

It perhaps starts to fray when some get their happy result, and leave the community. Their happiness is either not welcome (perhaps simply because it intensifies another’s pain), or is smug or condescending, or they move away from providing support for whatever reason (too busy, or they don’t want to remember the hard times, or they don’t want their happiness to cause pain, as a few examples). So I wonder if our community really does do a very good job of supporting each other in our varying times of happy/sad.

5 Jamie { 07.19.17 at 1:45 am }

Good post. I really like what you pulled from the book. It is something that I struggle with, in that I want that place of happy, contentment and peace to be experienced at the same time for me and my loved ones. It takes a lot to accept that something will always be off balance and it is more in how you deal with it.

6 Cristy { 07.19.17 at 7:57 am }

I agree with Mali and Lori. Your observation about being a better support when you’re not deeply suffering is very true. But I’ve also still recovering from wounds of being abandoned in my time of need. As I suffered, I was minimized and criticized over something that wasn’t my fault, but I was lend to believe was. Which is why this community was (and still is) such a lifesaver as here I felt heard and understood.

I agree the resources for support are limited, but so is the way those resources are given. Some are seen as more “worthy” than others.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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