Fearing Happiness

I consider myself a "happy" person, most days. I've learned to find happiness in the little things -- my 3-legged cat chasing her tail, a sunny day in Austin, getting to be "Aunt Tatum" or "Auntie Taters" to the kids I love. Those all bring me immense joy, and they are all passing moments. I have come to peace with the idea that happiness comes in waves, and have learned to enjoy it while it's here then patiently await its return when it's gone.

Recently my life has started to feel like everything is exactly as it's supposed to be. I'm happy with the direction of my business, my relationships, my body, my home, my future... I am genuinely content with the way life is unfolding. Yet, I repeatedly catch myself sabotaging my happiness by distracting myself with things that don't bring me joy and don't align with my goals. It's like "happy" is a bright light that I can't look at for too long because it starts to hurt my eyes.

The moments of feeling happy are often followed by a feeling of intense anxiety that I can't quite pinpoint. And, I don't know why, but I want to crawl under the covers for awhile like a scared child, and make the world go away.

I've discussed this frustrating cycle with a therapist, a life coach, close friends and my big sister looking for insight. We chatted about maybe fear of success, possibly fear of failure, fear of money, feelings of being unworthy, a simple need to retreat and recharge, etc.

There is possibly a grain of truth to the feelings of worthiness or need for quiet time, but to be completely honest, there is absolutely nothing in this world that I fear anymore. Seriously. After 8 years in the military, a crazy childhood and adventurous adulthood, there is really not one thing I can think of that scares me. Even death or public speaking. So, what the hell?! Why all the self sabotage and anxiety?!

Last night at dinner, I was involved in a relatively deep conversation, and got asked when I was the happiest. Hmm. I didn't have an answer. I have moments of feeling extremely happy all of the time, but overall happy? Maybe never. So, we moved on and finished dinner. Then, as we were leaving it hit me. This time 12 years ago was the last, and maybe only time I've felt completely happy. I remember it very clearly.
Happy family a few months before our mom passed away.
There was about a few month window when I was 19 and remember wanting to pinch myself because life seemed surreal. After a childhood full of nasty custody battles, tension, competition, and intense fighting between me and my mom and sister, we were all friends for the first time ever. My sister and I got an apartment together in a fancy Scottsdale neighborhood, I had finished 6 months of military training which gave me a new confidence and maturity, I got hired as a personal trainer at a prestigious gym, my college journey had just begun and after a lifetime of being a skinny tomboy I finally had boobs. Boys who had never noticed me in high school were now wanting to take me out and I loved every second of this new attention. 

I remember standing in the kitchen of my new apartment having a conversation with my mom and her telling me how proud and inspired she was by all I had accomplished already. She was excited to see what was to come and knew that I was going to go far in life -- first and last time to ever have a conversation like that with her. Within weeks of that phone call she found out that she had terminal cancer. 

I dropped many of my classes at school to help take care of her during the day, then would put on a brave face at work in the afternoons. She soon went to hospice, so after school and work during the day I'd stay up with her at night. My sister and I broke our lease to move into her home and take care of her affairs. It was all very sudden and there was no updated will so we had to talk to lawyers and bankers and nurses and doctors and eventually morticians to get things sorted out. She was dead within two months. Our old family dog died just days later, so we had a joint funeral for both of them. 

My relationship with my sister became volatile under the stress. The job that I loved so much quickly went sour after my much older boss came onto me, then became very cold after I turned down his advances. He called me into his office one afternoon a couple months after she died, saying that he had recently lost his mom too, so he knew exactly what I was going through, and that I had to move on. He wondered when he could expect me to get back to being one of his top sales performers.

Unable to deal, I began throwing giant parties in my childhood home and drinking until I passed out. I woke up many times fully clothed in the front yard or on the floor not remembering how I got there. My life had gone from perfection to hell in a matter of months. I knew that I was way off course and something had to change. I woke up one morning, grabbed the phone from the side of my bed, and called my best friend in Dallas. I told her I was moving there. I then called to rent an apartment, packed up my car, and left with my cat, "Picky." 

Fast forward 12 years, after lots of life lessons, good therapists and amazing friends, I am at peace with everything both good and bad. I'm confident and driven, and on the brink of being blissfully happy once again... And, that scares the hell out of me.