Somebody recently told me that because I’d been married and divorced three times, I had been afforded adequate opportunities for happiness in my life and did not deserve any more. The person’s words shocked me. When I expressed my chagrin, the speaker uttered the last defense of the offensive, “I was just kidding.” You know they’re not. They intend every word of whatever insult they’ve levied on you. They don’t mind hurting you, but they hate like hell getting caught looking mean-spirited.
I went about my business after getting this news. I did laundry. I made a poster for our next community dinner. I engaged in pleasant conversation with my neighbors and petted a few puppies strolling past my tiny house with their humans. All the while, the glib pronouncement of my disenfranchisement from the potential of happiness rotted in my craw.
This afternoon, Chrome wouldn’t start on my laptop. I began to cry. My head fell into my hands as I struggled to understand technical gibberish in a forum which I found through another browser. Then I stopped. I asked myself why this stupid issue prompted me to sob. What is wrong with you, I said, out loud, to no one. It’s just a computer. It’s not even the only one here.
The conversation about happiness and my lack of entitlement to any more of it slammed back into my consciousness. I gave myself a mental hug. I reminded myself that the person had no control over the events of my life. The senseless joke should not derail my cheerfulness. I knew what the person had meant. We’re contemporaries, but I’ve had three marriages compared to this person’s one. I shouldn’t get another chance at romance, the person meant. The smugness of this person’s voice echoes in my mind.
Maybe I’ll never meet anyone else. I felt that way ten years ago. Then I came to believe that the the tide had turned. Later, I found myself bitterly disappointed. Now I’m sixty-three. I’m not in good health. I’m not as attractive on any level as I might have been a decade ago. It’s easy to understand why someone would prefer a younger, more able-bodied person with a better earning potential and fewer problems. I’m broken, and I’ve been told that I’m too broken. Nonetheless, I’d take a chance on love myself, though I understand why some would measure me and find me wanting.
I don’t think the universe distributes a finite number of tokens with which to gamble on happiness, whether in relationships or on one’s own. Maybe I’m naive. I harbor no illusions about my position on the Bell curve of lucky catches. I think there’s still as much possibility for happiness as there ever was, though, and not merely because happiness dwells inside my heart, though it certainly does. I feel the serendipity gods shine most brightly on those of us who limp as gamely through the scattered landmines as we do through a lovely garden.
I could be wrong about this. Perhaps I just want to wipe my tears and tell myself there’s still hope, even for me. I could be delusional. I’ve been guilty of unwarranted optimism before now. I’ll take that chance. I realize that some of you will squirm in discomfort when you read this. Few of us talk openly of the disappointing experiences we’ve had. It’s hard to hear someone else mention those sorrows. Others will hasten to remind me of my worth, of the need to seek happiness inside, and the value of solitude. I don’t dismiss any of that.
But the specific conversation which I reference focused on partnered happiness, and this person’s insistence that I’d squandered my share of opportunities for successful navigation of that particular path. I reject the notion that the universe lets you spin the wheel only a certain number of times or until a certain age. I’m not complaining, but I reject the pronouncement that a person loses their entitlement to lasting happiness with another person on the grounds that they haven’t yet found it. If that were true, we’d all be doomed before we started.
And just so you know, I rebooted my laptop, and Chrome opened immediately. I take that as a decent omen.
It’s the twenty-fourth day of the sixty-third month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.