It took me 51 3/4 years and a little bit of journaling to come to a major realization about myself:
I have spent most of my life trying to make other people happy.
I spent the first 50-something years of my life trying to please my mother, trying earn her approval, her praise, her acceptance. For whatever reasons, I always felt like I failed at that. I felt like I always fell short, did something wrong, never had a good or a clever idea, never lived up to her expectations.
Now for the past year I have tried to please my mother-in-law. I've made her comfortable, given her a room in my house, a comfortable chair, a bed, closet space, a big screen TV, food, table service, health care and transportation, all in an effort to make her happy.
And I have failed miserably. Nothing -- and I do mean nothing -- I do makes her happy. She hates my house (too old), our routines (not set enough), our lifestyles (no routines), my husband's job (gone all the time), my freelancing (you go upstairs to work), my parenting (too much to list), my refrigerator, (can't open it), my cooking (too much to list), the pool (it's outside) and my living room (too bright. She has to wear sunglasses).
She also has pretty much hated every attempt I have made to make her life easier, from the way I arrange her room to the way I try to organize her chair-side table.
Along the way in my life's journey I have to please lots of other people -- other family members, teachers, friends, lovers, coaches, bosses, editors, newspaper readers, blog readers, my few book readers, my neighbors, my fellow citizens, and even complete strangers.
I've probably failed them too.
I shared this new discovery of mine with my snarky soon-to-be-teenager (Wait. WHAT??) this afternoon, and said, "I need to stop worrying about everybody else and just worry about making myself happy."
To which my snarky soon-to-be-teenager replied: "What makes you happy, mom?"
"What makes you happy?"
Her. When she sings. When she draws beautiful pictures. When she writes. When she laughs. When she hugs me. When she kisses me. When she sits in my lap. When she crawls into bed and snuggles with me.
My husband. When he's home. When he's not snoring. When he's curled up next to me in bed. When he's washing the dishes. When he's cleaning the pool. When he remembers. When he goes to the grocery. When he fills my car up with gas. When he's in his uniform and coaching third. When he doesn't lose.
My step kids. When they acknowledge me as one of their parents. When they include me in their lives.
My dogs. Lola when she's fighting with her toys or the pillows we gave up and let her have. When she's curled up in my lap all warm and adorable. Leigheaux, when he's jumping up and down (literally) because he knows we're going for a walk.
Walking. When it's a gorgeous cold day. When it's a hot, muggy day. When the iPod gods shuffle my diverse library of music and give me a great playlist that makes me dance. When people wave at me as they go by. When the local cop tells my husband he things I'm hardcore because I do it every day. When people tell me they wish they had my dedication.
My pool. When it's crystal clear and a perfect blue and all the plants are in bloom. When day turns to dusk and all my solar lights start to light up as the sun sets in the back yard.
My hammock ... Naps in my hammock ... Boiled crabs ... Bailey's Irish Cream ... Margarita daiquiris ... Lemon drop martinis ... Pensacola Beach ... The color of the water in Pensacola Beach ... Playing the piano ... Christmas music ... 80s music ... Roses ... Chocolate covered cherries ... Birthdays ... Birthday cake... A good steak ... A good hamburger ... A good book ... My DVR ... The Norco Christmas parade ... My home office ... Dragonflies ... A song I haven't heard in forever ... Singing it ... Good hair days ... A clean house ... Cool sheets ... Family dinners ... Having everybody home ... Good friends ... Laughing... Crying ... Writing something really good ... Seeing my book on a shelf ... Having someone tell me they enjoyed it ...
And yes, making other people happy makes me happy.
So does Taco Bell.. But, like Taco Bell, making other people happy seems to be bad for me. I have to give it up. It simply can't be done. Not anymore.
I now know that I can't make my mom happy. She has to make herself happy.
I can't make my mother-in-law happy. She has to make herself happy..
I can't make my husband happy. I just seem to do that naturally (and well).
The rest of you are on your own too.
I hope you're happy.