Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The Pursuit of Happiness
"Yeah, it makes it hard to tell what you're really feeling."
Sometimes the way my fourteen year old son is able to just say things - astute things - blows me away.
"That's an interesting observation. You know, I'm reading a book about women and happiness and the author goes into how Americans, especially American women, are programmed to be cheerful."
"I didn't say you were cheerful. You just smile alot. Like at that intersection. You smiled at that guy and he smiled back."
"Did that bother you?"
"No. I just realized you do that a lot. Doesn't matter if it's a man or woman driving the other car. You just smile."
"So when I smile, it doesn't necessarily mean I'm happy."
He's right. My smile has no connection to what's going on inside. I haven't shared this with you guys, but I'm back on the appetite suppressant, aka The Mean Pill. When I'm taking it, it works. I lose weight (8lbs gone!). But I also become a bit of a powder keg with a short fuse. My mean mouth, otherwise held back on oh so many occasions, is given free reign and instead of just letting things slide, I become hell-bent on pointing out all the petty grievances I have with my family.
I become yelly. Chloe, who coined the phrase The Mean Pill, also had another way to describe my behavior when I'm taking this drug. Raging around. Lovely, right? There she goes, raging around like an angry elephant. A pack of hyenas. A wild-haired woman brandishing a jug of bleach and a toilet brush.
Then I hear myself and I stop. Take a breath. I come through with quick apologies. Remind myself that next time - filter, filter, filter!
After I've been on the meds for a bit, it smooths out, but in the transition, I become the pill. I guess you could say that, even if you can't tell when I'm happy, you certainly won't have any trouble knowing when I'm angry. I broadcast it loudly and colorfully. My mother would die of shame if she could hear me. Heck, I die a little of shame right before I apologize to the most recent victim of my verbal assaults.
I suppose the best thing you can say about this is that at least I don't fake smile while I'm shredding my loved ones. The remedy for now is for me to stay locked in the basement or to keep the duct tape over my mouth when everyone is around. Because no matter how many times I do tell them what sends me over the edge, they still do and don't do the things that turn push that rage button.
"So what do you think, Nate? Should I stop smiling when I'm not happy?"
"Nah. I don't think it's a bad thing."
"But the book suggests that maybe it is. It keeps us from being more aware of our emotions."
"Mom? We're Americans. We don't have emotions."
"That's what the book says!"
"Okay, now be quiet. We've reached our talking limit. Here listen to this."
So what about you? Do you wear your emotions on your sleeve? Cram it all down until it's an unrecognizable nugget? Okay, who besides me are the phony smilers? And are there any other rageaholics or is it just me?