Postponing Happiness

Could it be true?

LifeThe other day, I spent some time with a friend of mine who just happens to be a psychology intern at the local hospital. We talked at length about some of the things I’ve gone through in the past few years. Recent events have left me concerned that I might be suffering from PTSD from something seriously weird that happened to me when I worked at the Grand Canyon in 2004. My friend has been helping me work through those concerns, as well as the pain I still feel, over a year later, from my ex-husband’s betrayal and subsequent abuse.

My friend seems to think that I changed after the June 10, 2004 event. She thinks it affected my personality. But although that was a long time ago and my memory isn’t too clear, I disagree. While I admit that I thought about the event every single day for years afterward, I don’t think it made me a different person — at least not on the outside. It didn’t change my dreams and goals; it just made me angry. (Apparently, more angry than I realized.) Sadly, the only person I could talk to about a possible personality change back then — my wasband — isn’t allowed to talk to me anymore. (His new mommy won’t let him. Either that or he’s simply too ashamed of what he’s done to our lives to face me.)

What did change my personality, however, was the illness and subsequent death of my friend Erik. Erik’s sudden illness hit my hard; it made me realize that life can be taken from you at any time and that it was important to do what you wanted to do as soon as you could. Waiting for retirement was idiotic — I knew that better than ever before.

Meanwhile…

As I shed debt, my wasband accumulated it. He bought a condo in Phoenix with a huge monthly maintenance fee as the housing market went into decline; the monthly payments on that were more than our house mortgage payments. He bought a Mercedes sedan he didn’t need. He used the home equity line of credit for overdraft protection on his own personal checking account for years, thus increasing its balance by thousands of dollars while I was paying it down. He was a slave to his job — which he hated — because of the debt he kept building. In the 20-20 vision of hindsight, I realize that he resented me because I had more free time to do the things I wanted to. He didn’t understand that I had that freedom because I simply didn’t have such a huge debt burden forcing me to work harder or longer than I wanted to.

As for his promise to join me on the road…well, that was one of his many empty promises, something he told me to give me hope without actually doing anything to make a positive change in our lives. His 55th birthday came and went; my reminders of his promise were met with new promises that were also broken. I think the broken promises hurt almost as much as the lying and cheating that came later.

I explained all this to my friend, telling her about how the sudden urgency I felt about living my life changed what I did. At the time, I was working two careers — as a writer and a pilot — and was struggling in both, working harder than I ever wanted to and having little time off. I explained how I realized that debt ties us to jobs we don’t really like or want — or, in my situation as a freelancer and business owner, working harder than we want to on jobs we do like — making us slaves. The solution was easy: get out of debt. I stopped buying expensive things I didn’t need, concentrated on investing in my business, and paid all credit card balances in full every month. I made extra payments toward our mortgage and the home equity line of credit to pay them off quicker.

I also told her about the promise my husband had made to me back in 2006, right around the time we married after 23 years together: that when he turned 55, he’d leave his job and join me on the road half the year, spending the summer doing work with my helicopter in a place we could avoid Arizona’s brutal summer heat. One of my business investments had been for a 5th wheel RV, the “mobile mansion,” that was big enough for both of us and our dog. We’d work together and play together all summer long. He’d be able to chase down some of his dreams with the free time we had every winter back in Arizona.

Out of the blue, my friend suggested that I was postponing my happiness.

Of course, I denied it — a knee-jerk reaction to the suggestion. Postponing my happiness? How could I be? After all, I’m happy now. I’m living in a beautiful place I love, surrounded by friends. My business is doing surprisingly well — even in this economy at this time of year — and I have plenty of free time to enjoy the activities I like: hiking, wine tasting, writing, making a new home on a blank slate of 10 acres of my own land.

But then she reminded me about how I’d worked so hard to get my finances in order. Had I been happy then? I thought about it. I told her I was laying the ground work for the future. Besides, I was waiting for my husband to join me.

“Exactly,” she said. “Postponing happiness.”

There was nothing I could say to deny that.

“What about now?” she asked me. “What are you doing to postpone your happiness?”

I could think of just one thing: delaying the construction of my new home. But there were reasons for that and there was nothing I could do to change them. I had to wait.

In the meantime, I was working on my land, settling in my bees, making a pathway, prepping for next season’s garden, planting wildflower seeds. I had friends over for dinner at least once or twice a week. And I did lots of other things that made me happy, including getting out with friends and traveling.

I knew that I wasn’t happy when I was married. I knew that my wasband was part of that problem — during that last year we were together, he was never happy and he seemed to constantly disapprove of anything I wanted to do. I knew that in that last year, my happiest times were the times I was away from home, in Washington, free to do the things I wanted to do when I wanted to do them. Free from the man who seemed to try so hard to make me feel guilty about my life decisions and the happiness they gave me.

I’d never thought of my marriage as something that was postponing my happiness, but it so obviously was.

So the question remains: am I still postponing my happiness? I don’t think I am. But her suggestion has planted a seed in my mind. You can bet I’ll be thinking about it in the months to come.

2 thoughts on “Postponing Happiness

    • I’m pretty much in agreement with all except the “higher power.” WE are the higher power. We have control over our lives. When we give control to someone else or trust it to a “higher power,” we’re the ones who lose.

What do you think?