Grabbing Happy

This week was a good week for us.  Despite a few run ins that upon reflection seem more normal than not, I think we had a good week.  We had fun.  We laughed.  We did high school orientation.  We managed Yappy, who has managed to break out of every containment system I have dreamt up for him; he’s a little Houdini.  We’ve had a good week.

So I wasn’t ready for yesterday, which was my own fault.

Hope said how depressed she was, how things seemed despairing, how having hope and a positive outlook was not a useful endeavor because happiness was fleeting. Hope is happy to have been adopted, and she loves me and our little family, but this is probably the last great thing that will happen to her and it’s already happened.  The adoption is in the past and now we’re just living, so the happy event passed and while it created a permanent situation, the happy surrounding it is not sustainable and in fact, it also has passed.

And just like that I was forced to pick apart the real meaning of happiness.  I mean, I had to think about what it meant to me and what I want it to mean for Hope.

I have to regularly sit down, take a moment and consider my own happiness. Am I happy?  Some hours of each day I am happy.  Some days of each month I am happy.  Some months of each year I am happy, and some years in each decade I am happy.

I would like to think I am more happy than not.

I do take a few breaths these days and ask am I happy.  I have just about everything I ever thought I wanted.  I have nice list of accomplishments professionally and academically.  I have great friends and family.  I am a mom.  I have someone in my life who loves me and whom I love very much.  I’m comfortable, even with the challenges.  Yeah, I’m happy.

But you know when you’re slugging through heavy stuff, you know during the thick of it, it’s easy to say you’re not happy and you maybe really aren’t happy.  And with good reason.

But you still tend to have hope that happy comes back right?

Apparently Hope doesn’t have hope that happy comes back.

To hear her tell it, she has tried that brand of hope and “maybe next time it will be different,” but for so many next times it wasn’t different.  Bad things happened and more bad things followed. Imagining it sounds so spirit crushing to know that there is no faith there.  I’m not even talking about churchy faith, but just faith that there’s something different out there.

It’s also hard hearing that having permanence hasn’t challenged that thinking at all.  More good things than bad things have happened in the last year.  But there’s 12 years of crap to contend with; 12 years of data that show it doesn’t pay to have hope that happy will show up.

It’s going to take a long, long time to help her learn to create happy.  I tried to explain that considering happy as things always go well, that you always get your way or whatever you want will not get you there.  It’s the collection of experiences, memories, and the value that you assign them in the grand scheme of things that help you reframe and refocus on happy.  It’s not easy to learn that.

I am afraid that I will fail to teach her, but I can’t imagine a life without hope that happy is within striking distance.

Despite the fear of failure, I see her setting goals.  I see her caring.  I see her enjoying things.  I know that happy is right there if she chooses to see it and chooses to grab it.


About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted my now adult daughter in 2014, and this blog chronicles my journey. Feel free to contact me at, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©, 2013-2022. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

7 responses to “Grabbing Happy

  • Belladonna Took

    Argh … that’s a tough one. I don’t know if semantics would help – you never know with teenagers – but … maybe tell her that what she’s missing is actually called “excitement”? And “happy” is just the plain ordinary everyday yeah, this life is good even through the ups and downs.

    The point being that excitement, which also sometimes can be called “fun”, is really just happy-on-a-high. It’s like, happy is knowing that breakfast/lunch/dinner will be there and have been there and reliably taste good, and every now and then there’s cake, and the cake is what’s fun. If the cake has exploding candles, it’s exciting.

    Unlike happiness, excitement and fun are situation-dependent. Sometimes the situations are outside our control – she probably didn’t have a lot of control over being adopted, any more than she had control over the bad things that have happened in her past. But she CAN control some situations – I mean, she and/or you and/or other people in her life CAN create situations that generate fun/excitement.

    These definitions, which I have just sucked out of my thumb for your personal benefit, probably bear little relation to anything in any dictionary and may very well be no use to you or Hope at all. But maybe they’ll help, so I’m going to go ahead and post this comment and trust that you don’t think I’m a complete moron… 🙂

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      You’re so sweet!

      For a kid who still has trouble simply asking for a stick of gum, Hope is remarkably clear when she talks about emotion. She’s talking about sustainable, reflective happy. She gets excited and she has fun, but like you note, she finds those moments to be highly temporal; she doesn’t link them together to reflect on whether she can count on those things happening again or if they make her happy to even think about the collection of experiences later.

      She also doesn’t associate happy with permanence or with the normalcy and reliability having three squares a day. It’s not that she’s not grateful for them, but she has survived with less, so why should she be happy with what’s normal and what she deserves to have?

      What we’re struggling with is really re-framing the way she sees her life. Some of it is just teen stuff, but a lot of it isn’t. She’s really pessimistic and that didn’t happen overnight. It’s gonna take some time–much more than the year we’ve spent it seems. :S

      • Belladonna Took

        And, as you say, so hard to know how much is teen drama and how much is damaged spirit. It’s so good to read what you write about her, though – so much love, without maundering sentimentality.

  • AdoptiveNYMomma

    I wish you well in teaching that, it is hard for sure. I think with time and your personal examples to her it will come!!

  • My Perfect Breakdown

    I think the very fact that you are contemplating all of this, means that you will impart the knowledge and hopefully with enough repetition she will learn it and eventually feel that she too “can’t imagine a life without hope that happy is within striking distance”.

  • ana

    Hello, reading from afar. As somebody who has experienced clinical depression, I would suggest for you guys to get into the habit of writing down things that you are greatful for at the end of your day. Perhaps you can share them with each other. It will help her see the good that is around her everyday. Just a thought. Much love to you.

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