Do you, like me, feel the need to make everyone happy? I keep pestering my girlfriends with my pearls of wisdom on this one, so sorry guys if you’ve heard it all before. I just think it’s pretty important.
When I walked out of my oncologist’s office the day I found out I was terminally ill, my first thought was about the irony. All I had ever wanted to do was bring happiness to other people’s lives, and here I was causing the most misery I possibly could, especially for my family. But I undertook extensive research that very night and found out, interestingly, that the children will probably be okay. At least they are no more likely to suffer a mental disorder in later life – for example, they are no more likely than anyone else to be depressed or anxious. In fact, provided there are no complications, children who experience the death of a parent tend to do rather well in life. This was obviously a great relief to me and I hope it is to any other parent out there who is terminally ill.
For a while I couldn’t listen to One Direction’s ‘Story of my Life’ without crying – ha ha, no comments about their lack of talent, please! I cried because my children’s story would include their mum dying while they were still young. I don’t want this to be their story. It’s too sad. But my psychologist pointed out to me that the story was all alright. Of course the children will be sad when I die but they won’t be sad forever, and they will move on with their lives and live them fully, as I have taught them to do. That’s okay. We are meant to experience the whole range of human emotions.
I can’t say it often enough to myself: it is not my job to make other people happy. Other people are responsible for their own happiness. In fact, what we should be doing is pursuing our own happiness. I had forgotten to do so over the years of trying to live a worthy life but I now think it’s our duty to be as happy as we can be. I don’t think it’s selfish because other people benefit. Happy people are great to be around – just think about those you most like spending time with. I remember something my daughter, Romy, said to me in the run up to Christmas some years ago. She was only eight, I think, but she had the wisdom to point out that she and her siblings didn’t really care about Christmas being ‘perfect’; they just wanted their mum to be relaxed and happy. I am usually very FAR from relaxed and happy when I am running around trying to find the ideal presents, decorating the house tastefully, preparing lavish meals from scratch and generally chasing that White Company catalogue idyllic image of Christmas. I now try to remember at every big family event that my children just want me to be laid-back and fun.
So pursue what makes you happy! What do you love and enjoy? I envy Bart loving sport so much because pretty much every weekend he has something to look forward to. I have expensive leisure pursuits: I love spending time in beautiful environments and designing new ones. I have to admit I do watch a lot of TV, especially the True Movies Channel – my guilty pleasure! And I relish a good novel – as long as it’s undemanding. I know many of you enjoy a workout, a run or a brisk walk in the countryside. I’m sure we can all think of something we enjoy that can be incorporated into everyday life. Of course there are many other ways of pursuing our own happiness, for example by giving to others, but I’ll save those for future posts.
I still hate saying ‘no’ to the kids and I’m at my best when everyone around me is happy, but I’m getting better at thinking of myself. Let’s make a pledge to find joy in life, wherever that may lie.