15. What is Happiness?

I have a lot of book ideas floating in my head and one day, if I’m fortunate enough to get discovered, I would love to put them down on paper.  “Her City of One” is my first attempt at writing a full length novel, and it has been slow going.  I’m about 1/4 of the way through, and writer’s block has plagued me, which is why I started this blog.  The story of my relationship with my husband provides endless streams of material to keep me writing in a very light and casual manner, whereas my novel is very heavy and, well, not casual.

One of the book ideas is about a mother/daughter relationship somewhat based on the history between my mother and me.  It traces the paths of the two women who grew up in different times and countries but have remarkably similar histories, and the daughter is completely unaware of this until it is too late.  Just as she feels that she can finally understand her mother, and see the reasons behind her behavior, she…

Anyway, that’s a story for another time…

My mother’s worst fear for me is to follow in her footsteps.  She has had a very hard life, and all she has really ever wanted for me was what she never had: an easy life.  So when she found that I was married to an illegal alien without a solid career, she of course imagined that not only was I headed down a path of destruction, but that I was destined for heartache, hardships, and financial struggle.  She wasn’t incorrect.  But one thing that she had not permitted to enter her calculations was happiness.  Ironically, she only thought of my happiness when she avidly objected to my relationship with Fred and my pregnancy with our first child.  But her definition of happiness and my definition of happiness are so vastly different, she couldn’t comprehend, and still can’t, how I could be happy without money or security.  She was so adamant about ensuring my future happiness that she strove to make my present circumstance as unhappy as possible… hmmm…  In fact, she is so closed-minded to any form of happiness that falls outside of her definition of happiness, that she not only rejects the possibility, but makes an effort to squash it.

To set the record clear: I am happy!  These past few years in Japan have been the happiest of my life in fact.  Yes, Fred and I hit a rough spot in our relationship in the beginning of our time in Japan, but after our second baby was born, or to be more precise, after my mother left from her visit after my second baby was born, we hit our stride and now are closer and more in love than ever in our relationship.  We truly enjoy eachother’s company, friendship, and touch.  But unfortunately my mother is still unconvinced.  She feels that I am putting up a strong front in this difficult time in our lives so that I don’t make others feel sorry for me.  She always refers to me as “my poor daughter” or “my miserable daughter.”  And whenever I try to explain how utterly happy, stress-free, and content I am, she rebutts with “how can you be so happy when your lonely mother is so miserable” or, “good and fine that you are happy, but how about your lonely mother?”  But more frequently she tells me that I don’t know what true happiness is and that my happiness is only short-lived and sooner or later my husband will break my heart just like all men in the world.  *sigh*  If I am unhappy, it is because my mother makes me unhappy… I wish she would stop…

To illustrate how my mother’s idea of happiness and my idea of happiness are so vastly different, and how she refuses to accept any version of happiness that falls outside her guidelines, I’d like to talk about pets.

Fred and I love animals.  They make us smile.  They make us fulfilled.  They make us happy.  When in America we had two dogs and two cats.  I have not gone a single day in Japan without thinking about our lost pets.  Sparky, Kaos, Sosa, and Caster all have found lovely new homes and are well taken care of and I am sure they are loved.  But, there is a part of me that hopes that when I return to America next week, that I can somehow get them back… but I know it is next to impossible.  My mother was there when I gave up my pets.  She knew how hard it was for me.  She saw the tears streaming down my face.  And secretly she was ecstatic.  She had never approved of my having pets because she hates animals.  So when she found that we had a cat in Japan, she was less than enthusiastic.

My mother was well-informed of our cat’s existence well before she made the trip out to visit us to meet our new baby, but she somehow never processed the information.  And when she came to Japan for her two-week visit to supposedly alleviate any burden I might be feeling, and of course to coo over the new baby, she made it abundantly clear what her priorities were.  Never mind the fact that this was supposed to be a chance for us to mend our relationship after the abomination that happened between us during my first pregnancy.  Never mind that I had just given birth to a baby that was born very underweight with an unopened heart valve (it opened up a week later and luckily no complications!), and in a foreign country to boot.  And of course never mind my happiness.  She was only concerned with her ideas of happiness and was trying to force them on me.  And in my condition, I did not have the patience for it.  I did not have the strength to put up with it.  I did not have the presence of mind or the will to put up with her antics, and her trip ended in three days.

All of the memories of the past pregnancy, all of the fighting that we had went through throughout my relationship with Fred, all of the things that happened in my home that made me want to escape into Fred’s arms — they swept me away in my small Hokkaido town in Japan.  And all of a sudden the cat represented my way of life versus hers, and we were left at a standstill that continues today…

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3 thoughts on “15. What is Happiness?

  1. I read every entry and have just finished with the latest. I have bookmarked this page and can’t wait to read more. I love your writing as much as I do Sara’s! I’m glad I found you on her DWD page. I’m glad to see you and Fred are happy now! Keep writing and I’ll keep reading!

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