Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chasing "Happy"

For many years, I felt like the key to "happy" was financial security.

My first husband and I had a friend who was the sole heir to the Sutro Baths fortune. He was a wealthy young man, but I'd have to say, he was not happy.

Because my husband and I were a struggling young married couple, we could not believe this guy was as sad as he was.

When I was 24, I got divorced. I got two important things out of the marriage, my son, John, age 3, and my daughter, Sheila, age 3 months. We did own a home and I got some proceeds from that, and a modest amount of child support.

I got a poorly paying job at Chevron USA, and struggled to make ends meet. The role of a single working mother is not an easy one. Fortunately, I was too young and stupid to realize it would be a really rough road.

By the time I had paid rent for my funky San Francisco apartment, utilities, and childcare, we were pretty much broke all of the time. I worried about money a lot. Still, I can say that this was the happiest time of my life.

Somehow, I managed to take the kids out for pizza every Friday night. There was a place that showed old movies and had lovely management. The kids and I would sit, me sipping a glass of cheap red wine, for hours while we devoured our small cheese pizza and watched some old black and white movie on a projection screen.

Friday nights were special because the kids shared my bed. We watched something called "Creature Features" while eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate. (Of course, letting my 4 year old son watch "Night of the Living Dead" could have earned me a visit from CPS, but it didn't.)

I remember feeling real joy in our lives. We didn't have much, but we were very happy. Money was always an issue, but somehow, it was not really something that brought me down. (Except on those rare occasions when I thought it would be great if the world would end before the Macy's credit card came due.)

I was not much of a cook. My kids and I lived on beans, rice and noodles, along with fruit and vegetables. (Actually, that was probably better for us than I ever imagined. Meat was a once a month luxury.)

I was able to keep a roof over our heads, and clothing on our backs, and food in our bellies. So I thought I was doing great. It wasn't easy, but it was fun. I remember going to free concerts, opera and ballet in the parks. The kids loved it and I did too.

Today, I am comfortable. I can afford to buy what I want. We live in a nice house. We have nice cars. We have savings. But where is the joy? I'm not unhappy, but I'm not "striving or struggling". Was it better when I was?

Alex talks about getting a teaching position at the college on the Navajo Rez. We could get a double wide and have a satellite dish and a pick up truck. You know, that might be fun.

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